Changed Dining World

Image: Stanko Abadžic, “Curiosity” (Prague 2000).

Our D.C. Dining Guide’s Plan Going Forward

We would like to update you on what we have been doing with this site for the last couple months and our plans going forward.  Covid forced the restaurant industry to take stock and our plucky little site must adapt as well.  Other than our lists of ways to help out-of-work restaurant employees and our Gift/Card/Take-out and Delivery List of D.C. restaurants we largely were quiet since April.  With the city going into Phase 2, we have made some revisions and changes to match the times.

We started this site to help diners find great places to eat in what was an overwhelming landscape of choices.  We also wanted to highlight restaurants that we felt were getting overlooked or underrated by other media outlets.  Finally, there was a pleasure in documenting a dining renaissance in this city.  With the public health crisis and shutdown the landscape shifted.  What was difficult to navigate as a diner because there were so many great options has now become difficult because the open/closed status of restaurants constantly change.  We still hope to be a resource that helps diners and restaurants alike and with that in mind here is what we changed.

For the 300 or so recommended restaurants on our LIST (and MAP), we scrapped the ratings as a sorting function.  Ratings are just not applicable or helpful in this moment, and any prior rating is now obsolete.  In its place we put information about the current status of the restaurant, meaning is it offering dine-in (consistent with D.C. Government restrictions), take-out, and/or delivery?  We also flag those who are are acting like a market by selling grocery staples or other prepared products.  In both the LIST and MAP you can now sort by those categories along with neighborhood and cuisine.

Next we started adding Summary Pages.  Normally we do not do a page for a restaurant  with all the summary information unless we have done a review.  But reviews take multiple visits and there are many nuances to the status of a restaurant that we wanted to give like detasils of the current status, links for gift cards and employee relief funds, and other information to help you get a sense of the place – even if there is no full review.  Not all restaurants have summary pages, but we will add more in the coming months. Here is an example of a Summary Page for Arsenal/Bluejacket, here is a page with a review for All Purpose.

This month, for the first time since March, we started adding restaurants to the guide.  Some of these additions were in the queue before the shutdown, some we felt confident enough to recommend based on reputation waiving our previous requirement that each place be visited at least once before being added to our dining guide.  Places recently added include:

Albi – They opened just before all hell broke loose, but everyone says they are great.

Indigo – There are more notable Indian restaurants, but this is one of the most loved.

Fish Scale – The small storefront in Shaw serves healthy, fresh, sustainable fish sandwiches.  Einstein would approve of something so simple but elegant.

Sabydee – This tiny spot in Mt. Pleasant serves Thai, but it is the Lao food that people talk about.

Red Bear – Good beer, fun space, and a strong stand supporting justice.  Check them out.

Bistro Aracosia – Afghan homey-ness in the Palisades.

Cane – Another place that was just getting going when the shutdown hit. Go now before it gets too famous.

Bammy’s – The guys who used to cook over the open flames of Maydan open their own spot in the old Whaley’s.

Baan Siam – The team behind Baan Thai get new digs and open in the middle of a quarantine.  Go to rejoice in their return.

Officina Pop-up at Via Umbria – It looks like they have combined forces, maybe for good?

We will be adding more, so stay tuned.

We wanted to flag a few other important resources.  First, restaurants are opening, but not all employees are – or will be – rehired.  There is a still a need for relief.  you can find a list of places you can help on our post from a couple months ago (note that some efforts have discontinued).

Second, we have over 300 places listed, but there are many more in D.C.  Dining at a Distance did a list of nearly 600 places in the area for gift cards, take-out and delivery.  It has not been updated for dine-in options, but it might give you some more ideas.

Third, as we noted in our post yesterday, the public health crisis is not the only crisis we face as a country.  One small way you can make a difference is to support black-owned business and there are many other ways.

One final note.  There is a relief that so many restaurants managed to hang on to this point.  We lost a few that we were rooting for (Pom Pom and Dio immediately come to mind).  Nonetheless, there is an overwhelming sense of trepidation about continuing to update this list because the news will likely become grim in the coming weeks as rents pile up, PPP runs out, and table limitations  sap revenues.  We don’t encourage anyone to eat out that is not healthy or does not feel comfortable, and truth be told we are only doing take-out for the time being.  We do encourage you, however, to continue to support restaurants any way you can, because they are still fighting to survive.  Writing in Esquire a few weeks ago, Jeff Gordinier noted that it is exactly the restaurants most likely to be hit that meant so much to making communities vibrant, the “vigorously independent businesses, deeply personal businesses, places that tell us stories about culture and immigration and resiliency and nature.”  When he says, “Great restaurants turn sleepy corners into hubs of activity,” it is easy to think of places where that has been true in D.C., whether that be old-school spots that provide a gathering place for a community like Ben’s or quirky new places that can infuse new life like a Rose’s or a Ellē.  I think of that run of places up 14th Street from Thip Khao, to Tequila & Mezcal, to Mescalero, or the places that came up with Granville Moore and Toki Underground on H Street.  If Cheesecake Factory (note the work factory is literally in its name!) does not move in downtown it will be no great loss.  If Thamee or Cane, Anafre or Timber Pizza, Purple Patch or Mola, Queen’s English or Bad Saint, Fish Scale or Dukem, Emilie’s or Little Pearl, Keren or Lucky Buns, Judy or Seven Reasons don’t make it, then we will have lost something.

Which is why we will do our best to keep this guide going.  This city is a special place.  This is a special time and we are lucky to be part of it.

Tip Big.  Be Safe.  Wear a Mask.