Image: Bert Hardy. A young couple hold hands outside the Granada Cinema, 1st April 1957.
This week we added a local, mini-chain of pizza joints to our dining guide for D.C. and revisited a power dining spot. In news around town, POTUS dines out and the Post’s restaurant critic seems to not understand that he got made. Nationally, Grubstreet missteps, a restaurant critic steps out again, and an industry veteran steps away. How could you not be curious about all that? Well then, read on!
Updates to Recommended Restaurant List
Andy’s Pizza – NYC-style pizza (plus some other items) done well in multiple locations in D.C. and Va.
Bombay Club – The three-decade institution of downtown power dining gets a refresh. And we are reminded about how it is hard to get good pics of plates in dimly-lit restaurants.
D.C. Dining News
After the Bidens dined at Fiola Mare, The Washington Post spent 500 words explaining that we shouldn’t overthink it. So, when Paris Hilton dined there later in the week we did not give it a second thought – other than the guy she is with looks like he belongs on Succession.
Tom posted a review of the new, fine dining Mexican spot Maiz 64 in what seems like record time. The place opened, after several delays, on the 5th of October and the review posted on the 22nd. That means he paid multiple visits in the first 10-15 days it opened in order to have time to write up the review and get it through editing. So what did he ding them on? That the staff was very worried what he thought to the point of being cloying. Can’t imagine why? Perhaps it was because they just opened and really want to make a good impression. Or maybe because he was made and they knew he eviscerated the previous restaurant opened by the chef in the area and didn’t want a repeat. Or maybe it is because he is the single biggest restaurant critic in the city and he was made. One side effect of being having the job for two decades is that nearly every industry veteran knows what he looks like, which, to be fair, is something Tom is cognizant of. Coincidentally, we ate at Maiz 64 in the past week and only got the most polite and appropriate of inquiries from staff (and the food made a good impression too) – though it is clear they are very excited by the food they are putting out and hope their guests enjoy it. Hardly something to ding them for. All that said, it is somehow comforting to see that a pandemic did not dent Tom’s prose: “Extend a welcome to pan-roasted duck, three blushing bars of breast meat, its skin scored and audibly crisp.”
Eater DC has another entry of the category: Can someone please explain our economy?
Grubstreet posted an ad that is head-scratching. The ad is for a writer (not a critic!) to eat their way through the city for a year and write something weekly about it. The post is rooted in an idea of food as a hedonistic device – performance gluttony (“Ever considered ordering the mutton chop and the steak-and-lobster duo at Keens?”). The ad literally asks for someone to stuff their face and then regurgitate the meals in the form of 800 words. It is the exact opposite of everything we have recently learned (or thought we learned) about how to think about food. It’s a call for a job that combines the subtlety of Guy Fieri, the sensitivity of Andrew Zimmern, and the discerning palate of Joey Chestnut. There are many people trying to scrape out a living by writing passionately about food relying on newsletter income and Patreon donations. One, or perhaps a revolving group, of those writers would be a better use of the budget and precious real estate. To be fair, Grubstreet has been covering many of the important stories of the new dining world, but this is a misstep. It also stands in contrast to the recent decision by Washington City Paper to hire a take-out critic – taking seriously a category often maligned and overlooked as serious food. A thoughtful critic could do much to enlighten this segment of the dining world. And there are many other segments that could use thoughtful voices finding interesting stories.
Hanna Raskin at The Counter, takes a step toward returning to full reviews. She does a write-up of her visits to The Continental, one of a trio of new spots Sean Brock opened recently in Nashville. But Raskin is careful to note her words do not add up to a review: “This, by the way, is not a restaurant review. I know it looks like one, what with the words and all. But there’s a methodology to formal reviews: Namely, I make multiple anonymous and unannounced visits to a restaurant that’s been open for at least one month before putting up my assessment.” Raskin stopped writing reviews in early 2020, “Now, though, it’s time to get back to work on behalf of the eaters who deserve fantastic meals after so much turmoil and tragedy.”
For this site, we initially thought maybe reviews could start up again around Labor Day. But Delta Variant hit in August and it is clear life has yet to return to something stable enough to support a review that can stand up. So we continue to not rate, other than our threshold question of whether we would recommend a place.
A twenty-year veteran of the restaurant industry pens a break-up note that seems to encapsulate one key factor in the labor shortage. Workers were laid off, had time to think, and realized much of the industry is irredeemably broken. They are not coming back. This seems like an interesting story. I wonder if someone at Grubstreet would want to write about?
Thanks again for reading this far. Remember, if you are in or around D.C., our dining guide has 300 plus recommended restaurants that you can sort by cuisine, neighborhood, and current operating status (dine-in and/or take-out, etc.) in either LIST or MAP format.
Stay safe. Be kind. Get the jab, bring proof and a mask. Tip big.