Image: Izis Bidermanas, le Petit Pont à Paris.
As has often been the case in the last two years, the biggest news in the dining world is the public health issue. Other news includes shout-outs to local places from national outlets and two local businesses not clicking with segments of the local community. There are two additions to our dining guide, some more traditional news about restaurants, and serious consequences for somms. Thanks for joining us for the weekly recap of our site and other dining news!
Updates to Recommended Restaurant List
Pennyroyal Station – We finally made it to the new spot from some of the old Bar Pilar team. It was worth the trip to Maryland.
Fresh Baguette – You can go to Maryland, but you don’t have to, for classic French baked goods and sandwiches. They have a spot in Georgetown too!
The Mask Mandate for D.C. restaurants (and other businesses) lifts this week. In some ways it is a formality, as many restaurants only enforce when you walk in the door and maybe when you go to the restrooms. Otherwise tables are close again and masks are largely off during dining (not just when actually eating or drinking). We would not be opposed to restaurants doing greater vaccination requirements (which St. Vincent just did in response). To be honest we are most excited for the gym.
D.C. restaurants continue to garner national recognition. Esquire’s list of best new places came out and included Moon Rabbit, Oyster Oyster and Imperfecto (and we gently nudged DCist that they forgot one in their write up). It is an impressive list, and even more so when you realize D.C. had in its back pocket St. Vincent, Daru, Dauphine’s, and Pennyroyal Station as possible substitutes. This follows Albi being on the Eater national list for best new places, and several places getting Michelin stars.
There were a few stories of openings. Nick Steffanelli’s Greek restaurant which has been teased for a long time, is being teased with an actual opening on Philotimo’s IG account. Pineapple & Pearls is looking to reopen early 2022. Tom interviewed Aaron Silverman about where he is going with it and why it will be cheaper.
The suburban trend continues for D.C. fast-casual shops. This week it is Shouk’s Rockville location opened. The Bethesda one is coming. Related, from a couple weeks ago is the news that several spots will open in Anacostia as part of a development effort.
There were a couple stories on businessmen not ingratiating themselves with the local community. This guy was flagged by Laura Hayes on twitter. It is one thing to oppose using the initiative process to make policy changes. It is another to make no legislative progress and then use that as an excuse to stop an initiative, which is what Casten is doing. As Hayes notes, Casten, the owner of several places in D.C. including The Point, Tony & Joes, Nick’s Riverside Grill and the Ivy City Smokehouse, is disparaging crucial parts of his staff as not being worth a living wage because they are not “skilled.” We for one like to eat off clean dishes that have been cooked in clean kitchens. It is still stunning to see restaurant owners who believe that there is an indefinite supply of workers, so they did not have to adjust to meet demand. Casten seems to be fighting a rear guard action against an inevitable increase in wages in a long-suppressed industry. As an Esquire article from this week notes that times have changed, even if Matt Yglesias can’t seem to grasp how.
Eater DC had a great URL address this week: washington-dc-trump-international-hotel-sold-renamed-santa-rosa-taqueria-shouk-pines-of-florence. In fact, the current leaseholders of the historic Ben Franklin Post Office building have agreed to a deal to sell the rights. It will now be a Waldorf-Astoria, not a taco joint. And for those who waited until the building had new branding, the early word is Sushi Nakazawa will remain.
So you want to open a place in D.C.? Laura Hayes reports, that prospective business owners should be sure to plan for a long process. As we have pondered the crazy economics of the last two years with established places going under and glitzy new places opening, one factor in favor of new is that the investors were already prepared for it to take some time to open, so delaying a few months was factored in. Which makes the little places that could, like a Sharbat or St. Vincent, all the more impressive.
Hayes also has an early interview with the new Nightlife Mayor, Solana Vander Nat. D.C. also apparently has a shadow Nightlife Mayor. Imagine if Jack Abramoff had opened Signatures on top of the Kennedy Center?
Finally, a tragic accident in Adams Morgan touched the restaurant industry and seemed to resonate even wider. A server from Mintwood Place was struck by a driver while crossing Columbia Road. There is desire to have something good come out of this, and most realize that there are too many reckless drivers out there. But the important thing is a young life was lost and we send condolences to friends and family.
In a not totally unexpected, but still notable development, the American Court of Master Sommeliers has decided to expel six members and prohibit the return of a seventh after a sexual harassment investigation found they committed serious misdeeds, including using their position of authority. As is often the case, the investigation did not find just individual impropriety, it found a problem of culture: “The recurring themes that the CMS-A saw in the findings include the power of Master Sommeliers who were perceived to be untouchable, particularly when it came to unethical behavior or abuse of their titles; the male-dominated culture of the organization; the importance of trusted, professional mentorship by Master Sommeliers; perceptions of an unfair and secretive examination process; and the lack of a clear, trusted formal complaint process.”
We came across two pieces this week about the rise (or return) of plant-based food in the Black community. Yahoo News did a profile of 76 years old Balewa Bayete (hatip to soulphoodie for flagging), who is starting up a farm after his vegan business in Memphis closed during the pandemic. I also was listening to a month old podcast from Bon Appetit with Bryant Terry, who is a generation or two behind Bayete, but has written several books that focus on the issue, though his latest is not exclusively plant-based. The Post did a feature on him last month.
In our continuing series: Food Stories in the Post not in the Food Section, a fascinating look at an activist/entrepreneur who is seeking to cut the emissions of decaying apples post-harvest. She now monitors 15% of the U.S. crop.
Brett Anderson, formerly of the Times-Picayune now of the NY Times, marks the likely end of an institution in New Orleans. On our website we like to add art to the food mix, but we have nothing on Ms. Clevenger.
That’s it for this week. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and those who are traveling be safe. Should you find yourself in D.C. and in need of help finding a place to eat, remember that our dining guide has 300 recommended restaurants in our dining guide that you can sort by cuisine, neighborhood, and current operating status (dine-in and/or take-out, etc.) in either LIST or MAP format.