Image: Mario Carbone, All’Isola Tiberina (1956).
There is an insane amount of juicy, flavorful dining news this week, not just in D.C. but around the world. So grab an extra napkin and get ready to dig in. We start with updates to our D.C. dining guide.
Updates to D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
Obelisk – The Dupont Italian treasure is back from hiatus. The sunny, cozy dining room re-opened, but they did not bring back take-out.
Tonari – The Japanese Italian spot is back open for dinner two days a week.
DBGB – The D.C. outpost of the Boulud empire returns.
ABC Pony – The mix of Asian and Italian never quite got it legs underneath it before the pandemic hit. We wish the team the best. Look for them to do pop-ups with Cane and Hot Lola’s before bidding adieu.
D.C. Dining News
Fight Club: In an example of the pandemic taketh and giveth, Fight Club, the sandwich shop operated out of Beuchert’s Saloon while it was shut down has finalized plans to take over the Hank’s on the Hill spot down the street. Hank’s did not make it after the shutdowns of 2020, though other Hank’s locations are still here! Beuchert’s is back to being Beuchert’s and the team is also planing a new restaurant in the old Montmartre space.
Lucky Danger: Another pandemic era gift to D.C. was Lucky Danger that operated briefly out of the spot now held down by Bar Chinois before moving across the river. Now there is news that they will be opening a second location in the Western Market development.
Union Market: Barred in D.C. sleuthed out that a new brewery will be coming to Union Market. Crooked Run, which started in Leesburg will take over a spot across the parking lot. Presumably it will be a brew pub. There is also news that Starr Restaurant Group (Le Diplomate, St. Anselm) will be taking over a huge piece of the ground floor of a new glass and steel building in the Union Market area. The press release posted by PoPville implies it will be a single restaurant due to open in 2023. A few years back, Starr said he was looking to bring a version of Pastis, his French joint venture with Keith McNally, to D.C. Since then McNally has been floating the idea of a Minetta Tavern in D.C., which we think would be a misstep because it would lack the site-specific charm of the NYC original that would eventually be a mere tourist spot.
Barracks Row: Washington City Paper has a write-up of the continuing effort of the As You Are Bar to get to opening. This week it was an Alcohol Beverage Control Committee meeting.
Yuan and Carey Tang, the couple behind Rooster & Owl, are opening a casual cafe in Falls Church. They are aiming for the end of the year.
Also doing work in the suburbs is Bon Appétit, who did a round-up of the various cuisines found off the beltway. Oddly, for several reasons (including parking and driving), it recommends The Line hotel in Adams Morgan as a place to stay.
Speaking of Maryland, Captain White Seafood as found a new home there.
Watching the Detectives:
As we noted a few weeks ago, key positions are opening in D.C. food journalism. Eater DC has now posted its position for editor to replace Gabe Hiatt. Typo aside, this is a rare opportunity to promote a fresh voice from either outside D.C. or from within the current community of writers. Hiatt pushed Eater and a new editor can push it further. There are prominent examples of what a fresh voice can do, including the lawyer from Maryland who turned the wine world upside down. We started this site because we believed the prominent voices in D.C. were not sufficiently serving the dining community. We have yet to make a real dent, but the need for more diverse voices stands.
Tom Sietsema seemed surprised that a pro-Trump focus group member found his story on the then-president’s eating habits so grating they hadn’t let go years later. Meanwhile, this week he reviewed the new Lahlou spot Dolce Vita that uses an Italian name for a pan-Mediterranean spot – Mare Nostrum indeed. But he forgot to mention the giant “Love” mural was actually put up by the previous occupant, though Dolce Vita did give it a refresh.
In the Post online Food Section (though Style hardcopy), Tim Carman has a long piece about accusations of discrimination and harassment at FeedFeed – a network for those who cook. As in-depth and balanced as Carman’s reporting is, there is a sense that he just scratched the surface.
Alison Roman continues to march back. Following a New Yorker profile that asked the unspoken question, “Did Roman want a New Yorker profile more than New Yorker wanted to have a profile of Roman?” she has been picked up by CNN’s online video division.
Michael Stein in WCP takes a look at beer trends. It is through the local lens, but really a national story about the rise of better beer at lower ABVs.
The Business of the Industry:
A jobs report for November showed that record number of employees are quitting, though many are doing so for other jobs. As is always the case during the pandemic, labor numbers are really about the food and hospitality industry. The Post write up notes, “Openings did decrease in restaurants and bars, construction work and goods manufacturing.” However, “The numbers of resignations and job changes increased among restaurant and bar workers, health-care workers, and transportation, warehousing and utilities workers.” It is also important to note that labor issues were prevalent in this field prior to the pandemic, and then things got really bad. There is another thing that is taking people a long time to grasp. For so long we have thought about employment numbers as a simple X/Y graph – job openings against job seekers. This past year has added a third variable of job seekers who are picky or willing to quit a bad job. It is not just “job creation” it is the creation of better jobs amidst a host of other variables (school closures). We need to think of employees as having agency.
In the Post Business section, they have an interview with the CEO of Chipotle, who notes that despite all the problems with supply chain and staffing, there is no limit on their growth. “We are very fortunate to have a strong balance sheet, which gives us the ability to continue to invest in building new restaurants. The reality is, the economics of building new restaurants is still terrific, and we’re getting close to 60 percent returns on our capital.” Which is something to consider the next time you hear a big chain crying wolf over some cost of rules and taxes. He also offers insights on incorporating technology in the fast food world.
Chobani might not be a “feel good” purchase after all.
Also a curious investment, the man who founded and then was expelled by Uber started a “ghost kitchen” concept that was just valued at $15 billion. Investors seem to be betting that the world will not walk away from take-out once they can go out again.
Following up on the story last week about the Department of Agriculture going soft on GMOs, we noticed a piece in The New Republic (which seems to be back to trying to be smart) by two academics arguing that USDA should be replaced with a Department of Food. The list of issues they cite is long and many of them familiar, but it seems their argument is not with USDA but with the laws USDA must carry out.
Related, has no one noticed that the new USDA logo for GMOs seems to echo the logo of UNorth, the evil ag corporation in Michael Clayton (plus Obama 08)?
The Guardian does its take on the embrace of plant-based plates in high-end dining. We had forgotten that Atelier Crenn had moved away from meat and now only does seafood and plants.
A Cornell professor of philosophy ponders the way we talk about weight and how we create an unhealthy culture of dieting in the name of health. Dr. Kate Manne notes, “We are at a moment during the year when many people will try, and even regard themselves as duty bound, to go on a diet. But if dieting is a practice that causes a great deal of harm — in the form of pain, suffering, anxiety and sheer hunger — and rarely works to deliver the health or happiness it has long advertised, then it is a morally bad practice. It is plausibly not only permissible but obligatory for individuals to divest from it, to condemn it and not to teach it to our children, either explicitly or by example.”
Meanwhile, Taiwan has embraced Lithuanian food products as a show of appreciation for Lithuania’s support on the global stage.
Well that is a lot of food as symbols and symbols of food. If you are in our around D.C., keep in mind that our dining guide has 300 recommended restaurants that you can sort by cuisine, neighborhood, and current operating status (dine-in and/or take-out, etc. – though things are in flux currently so check before you go!) in either LIST or MAP format.
Be safe. Tip big.