Image: Fredric March and Evelyn Venable in Death Takes a Holiday (1934).
Welcome back dear reader. We do a double issue this week to make up for skipping the Thanksgiving weekend. On our site we revisited a favorite pizza joint, a downtown lunch option, and added a glowing Caribbean spot. There is much news that flew under the radar that we tried to capture for you. So with that, let’s proceed with the recap of dining news and activity on our site!
Updates to D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
St. James – White walls and green accents add a glow to the sleek spot serving up food from Trinidad and elsewhere in the Caribbean.
Donburi – The downtown location soldiers on with Japanese rice bowls that are a good way to shake up your lunch routine.
Il Canale – The Georgetown mainstay serves up great pizza in a classic setting.
D.C. Dining News
A Notable Passing: Tefera Zewdie, the founder of Dukem on U Street passed away at the age of 66. “I didn’t have much money when I started my business,” Zewdie told DCist/WAMU in 2015. “My brother gave me a loan to start a carry-out. I was always cooking for my friends and they were always telling me that I should sell what I made.” Even the short story reads like a great tale.
Bus Service to be free and all night. A few years back there was a push for metro to stay open late, with service industry folks being one of the prime beneficiaries. The buses may not be has fast or far reaching, but it could be a giant help nonetheless. “The legislation announced Thursday would allow anyone to board a Metrobus in the District without a fare card starting in July. It also would allow for round-the-clock bus service on major routes while contributing $10 million annually to bus transit improvements.”
A Few Shoutouts: Tim Carman wrote up a review and backstory of Ghostburger. It includes some eye-popping numbers that the business did. “[T]he principals hoped Ghostburger might generate between $5,000 and $8,000 a week, enough to keep staff employed during those months when the weather would turn cold and patrons, still unvaccinated and wary of dining indoors, would turn to their mobile apps for sustenance. The first week of Ghostburger generated $26,000, Josh said. A month later, it was pulling down between $40,000 and $50,000 per week.” The same team is behind Las Gemelas and Destino. Whoever is doing their PR deserves an award.
The team from As You Are, who had to fight a battle with local officials to open, got an actual award of a $10,000 grant from Human Rights Campaign. The HRC initiative, Queer to Stay, “awarded grants to 30 different LGBTQ-owned businesses to help them remain afloat during economically troublesome times.”
History: In 1977, “A March gale sank the Claud W. Somers— and ended a tradition of Black skipjack captain-owners on the Chesapeake Bay.” But there is much more to the story.
Make a Note: Pre-pandemic the sandwich shop Bub and Pops started doing tasting menu dinners. The chef there, Jonathan Taub, is classically-trained and was starting to show off that side of his skill set. They apparently used the pandemic to make the space more accommodating for a proper sit-down dinner and are starting them up now.
Allegory of the Wine Cave: Asimov, having set aside Wine School, now ponders the philosophical question of what is the platonic form of a wine bar. He concludes by noting, “Great wine bars are neighborhood joints, places you can call your own.” Something to keep in mind when you get to the story of the end of the golden age of cities. The rise of the wine bar was a barometer of urban renewal.
Women of Wine: Tierney Plumb follows up on the burgeoning effort to turn a moment into a movement. “WOW’s three-pronged mission is to “create community” via social media and hosted events; “educate more women in wine” by funding scholarships for wine certifications and providing mentor-mentee opportunities; and “support industry career growth” with a job bank and connecting women to media and industry trips.”
The Netflix of Wine: Filed Chapter 11.
The Emerging Economy: Jobs numbers on Friday, for the month of November came in strong, which according to inflation hawks is bad. Restaurant jobs also remain robust, which may be a sign of weakness. It is almost as if the inflation numbers, which are going down, are not tied to employment and wages.
Employers had three years to create more WFH jobs. They didn’t. “Although there are nearly two job openings for each applicant when it comes to on-site work, the opposite is true for remote jobs: There are two active applicants for each available work-from-home job on LinkedIn.” It is clearly a structural shift, but how much? And how many corner sandwich shops per block will be necessary to feed the reduced number of officer workers? Which brings us to…
Stepping back from the basic macroeconomic trends, Thomas B. Edsall in the Times looked at the ongoing discussion about the future of cities. Some argue the golden age of the last 30 years has passed as work from home empties out city centers, which in turn hurts the businesses that paid a premium to be close to that dissipating population. One research paper put it this way: There is a “possibility of an ‘urban doom loop’ by which decline of work in the center business district results in less foot traffic and consumption, which adversely affects the urban core in a variety of ways (less eyes on the street, so more crime; less consumption; less commuting) thereby lowering municipal revenues and also making it more challenging to provide public goods and services absent tax increases.” One thing not discussed in the story is the rise of online shopping, depriving brick and mortar stores of their in-person customers. On the flip side, the golden age came immediately on the heels of the great flight to the suburbs, as the generation raised in the ‘burbs sought out the cities bringing gentrification and a housing crunch. Perhaps this time it will not take a decade to realize the inherent value of something that has been the center of settled life for thousands of years.
Sign of Hope for Humanity: This is about tremendous service, but it also about grace and humanity which have been in too short of supply. For two deaf customers, a chef in Dallas went the extra mile: “Chef Tatsuya Sekiguchi also learned how to sign the entire tasting menu. My sister said she saw a printout behind the bar of how to sign parts of the menu. It blew her away and nearly brought me to tears.”
Another hopeful sign, though more in the category of karma, is news that The Willows Inn will shut down. The restaurant, located on an island near Seattle, was subject to very serious charges of abuse and wage theft. The inn has been donated to a charity. Blaine Wetzel, the chef at the center of the accusations, and his wife are moving to Mexico where she (but apparently not he) will open a new restaurant.
Sign of Hope for Humans: Netherlands launched a food revolution. “The country has nearly 24,000 acres — almost twice the size of Manhattan — of crops growing in greenhouses. These greenhouses, with less fertilizer and water, can grow in a single acre what would take 10 acres of traditional dirt farming to achieve. Dutch farms use only a half-gallon of water to grow about a pound of tomatoes, while the global average is more than 28 gallons.”
The Times Talks Ice Cream: Two leaders in the gourmet ice cream market talk shop. “Ice cream is hard. The customer shouldn’t feel that when they walk into an ice cream shop. It should feel really fun and magical and like a really great experience at all times. But the ice cream industry is not for the faint of heart.” Read to the end for the correction that should make you feel better about any typo you’ve had.
Eggs in a Tortilla: Is it a burrito or taco? We’ve been tripped up by this (Baker’s Daughter?), but generally in D.C. it seems a big tortilla with at least one end closed is a breakfast burrito. Smaller tortilla, both ends open is a breakfast taco. And now that we are thinking of it, does anyone around here to a good breakfast chimichunga?
Thanks for reading. We hope you are all adjusting well to the seasonal change. As always, please keep us in mind if you are looking for a place to eat in D.C. We have 300+ recommended restaurants in our dining guide. You can sort by cuisine or neighborhood in either LIST or MAP format.