The Dabney’s Jeremiah Langhorne Basks in Number-One Rating
By February 8, 2023 0 1962•
Fresh off his number-one spot in Washingtonian magazine’s 100 Best Restaurants issue, owner and chef Jeremiah Langhorne is speechless.
“I was shocked,” he told The Georgetowner about the honor. “We always try to do things because we think it’s the right way to do it, we don’t necessarily hunt for rewards, it’s a bonus when they happen.” He was hoping for a top-20 spot and said he would have been ecstatic about a top-10, but the number-one spot was “truly amazing and fantastic.”
Langhorne has cooked and traveled all over the world. He’s a James Beard Award winner for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic. His accolades include Eater’s “Young Guns Class of 2022,” and one of Gayot’s “Top Five Rising Chefs.” And the number-one spot in Washingtonian isn’t The Dabney’s first claim to fame — it got one of Food + Wine’s 2016 Restaurants of the Year and has a Michelin Star.
Having grown up in the region, Langhorne has put Mid-Atlantic cuisine and open-hearth cooking at the forefront of the food scene. He loves the flavors of the Chesapeake region, the Piedmont, the Appalachians and the delicious food that’s homegrown on the farmlands of Maryland and Pennsylvania.
The inspiration for The Dabney came from thoughts about where to take people visiting Washington, D.C. from far away. Sure, the region is a wonderful melting pot of different restaurants with cuisines from all over the world but there was nothing that represented the landscape specifically, Langhorne explained. So, The Dabney was born.
The restaurant boasts a small rooftop garden, growing delicious herbs and greens for (literally!) fresh-picked salads. A forager for over a decade, Langhorne doesn’t get a chance to do it as much now that his restaurant sits firmly at 122 Blagden Alley NW. The rooftop garden does help a bit. “When I was living in Charleston [S.C.] I could drive 20 minutes and be in the middle of nowhere,” said Langhorne. “In D.C., you can drive 20 minutes and be just four blocks away.”
Langhorne makes up for the little foraging he gets to do now with a huge network of purveyors, farmers, and foragers. They work with what he called a “wonderful group of people,” including those who raise pigs, catch fish, grow vegetables and even a person who provides a certain type of nut.
Given The Dabney’s Mid-Atlantic fare, Langhorne also loves paying homage to the seasons. He particularly enjoys when two seasons intersect, citing the upcoming spring crab season dovetailing with the back end of asparagus season. He cites a dish with jumbo lump Maryland crabmeat warmed up with cream and garlic chives from his garden, topped with grilled asparagus and garnished with a bit of yogurt, confit lemon puree and lemon balm (from the rooftop garden) as one of his favorites. “It’s a simple dish but the flavors go so well together,” he added. “Seasonal eating is a much better way to connect with food as a person.”
By eating seasonally, an act as simple as eating strawberries has become so much more exciting and fun for Langhorne. He mentioned how the average person has gotten so used to going to a grocery store and getting whatever they want whenever they want. “There’s a reason blackberries taste disgusting in December,” he laughed. Sometimes eating seasonally does have its difficulties, especially given how the commercial industry changes the way we look at the times of year. “Just look at Starbucks releasing pumpkin spice lattes when it’s 90 degrees outside,” Langhorne added. “We try to focus and reach out to purveyors, asking what vegetables, seafood and other things are thriving in that moment — it’s different from saying ‘I’m going to make a crab dish’ then going out and finding crabmeat.”
As far as advice for up-and-coming chefs eager for their own number-one restaurant, Langhorne advises to focus on learning the basics. “Allow things to happen naturally and don’t try to force anything,” he added. “It takes a long time to get good at cooking.”
Next up for Langhorne: the “imminent opening” of Petite Cerise, a French-inspired restaurant in Shaw.
Not bad for someone who first started in the food scene at a strip mall neighborhood pizzeria.