Image: News you can use (though maybe not today).
Dearest Gentle Reader, thank you for joining us for our weekly recap of dining news from D.C. and elsewhere. We think we have a pretty solid one this week. Some sad news and Michelin announcements locally, along with two posts from us. Some interesting wine news, lots of industry trends, and a throwback piece of food travel writing. Read to the end for the going whole hog thing. So shall we proceed with this week’s review? Let’s…
Updates to D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
District Rico – The District needs more Peruvian chicken spots. This one is really good.
Annabelle – A legendary chef in a legendary spot.
Comings & Goings:
Roofers Union, has gone through some changes but kept hanging on, until now. Having reached the 10 year mark, it is closing. Eater reports, “Springtime was busy across all floors, [General manager Dave Delaplaine] says, which signaled strong momentum coming out of the COVID slump. But like a lot of establishments reported around D.C., summer was unexpectedly slow.”
More surprising is Crazy Aunt Helen’s, which was only two years in and seemed to have made a connection to the community, yet they could not make it work. In the Washingtonian, founder Shane Mayson says he is looking beyond restaurants for his next job. He gave a hint a to the reasons. “I can go through all the obstacles like opening during Covid, our location challenges, staffing challenges, repair and maintenance costs associated with an older building and equipment… but those are things every restaurant owner experiences. What I would prefer to say is we gave it our best go.”
Rice drops delivery service. Is this the beginning of the shift away from restaurants trying to be both post-Covid and Covid-era in service?
D.C. Dining News
Michelin Bib Gourmand additions for North America came out this week. D.C. only secured two – compared to 11 for NYC and 5 for Chicago. The two that made the cut are well-deserving. The breakfast taco spot La Tejana and Yellow, though strangely only the Georgetown location. Michelin, when asked, explained that the Navy Yard location’s restricted hours bumped it from consideration. But it also may be that Michelin was not aware that Navy Yard re-opened because its entry for Yellow (pre-Bib announcement) did not mention the Navy Yard location either. Note: they also continue to list The Setting and Little Vietnam.
And a reminder that one of the most renowned food voices of today is a local. Congratulations to Pati Jinich for her nomination.
Lets hope the Bolivian pop-up Casa Kantuta finds another space.
Amanda Michelle Gomez doing some old-fashioned journalism: “The Westminster Neighborhood Association, a group of homeowners clustered around 9th, S, and T streets NW in Shaw, is troubled with the rise in crime and believes the concentration of bars and clubs around the U Street Metro station is the root cause. So members asked D.C.’s Alcohol Beverage and Cannabis Administration (ABCA) to stop approving new liquor licenses for taverns and nightclubs on the 1900 block of 9th Street NW for at least three years.”
Related, I Egg You, the breakfast spot from the Chiko team, got its alcohol license approved after seven months. They chose not to go through the ANC. Barred notes that is rather quick. But it was from an established restaurant group that already had a presence on the street and was opening a BREAKFAST spot.
Could Italy’s diversity of grapes be a bulwark against climate change? “As well as growing the more mainstream international grape varieties, the country is home to hundreds of native varieties. Many of these have had no great success thus far outside their region of origin. But now, as growers look for varieties which might withstand heat and/or other problematic conditions, some previously neglected varieties are beginning to find their place.”
Australian wine giant Treasury Wine Estates (Penfold’s), bought relative upstart DAOU in Paso Robles for a billion dollars. The interesting tidbit is that the company from the land of Yellow Tail, is strategically moving up the price ladder. “The acquisition marks another play in Treasury’s premiumization strategy, following its $315 million acquisition of California’s Frank Family Vineyards in late 2021. While the company has had some success in recent years as it tries to transition away from value-priced brands, its Americas division has struggled and sales of its Australian wines in China took a big hit when that country imposed punitive tariffs on all Aussie wines.”
Felicity Carter on the discussion at a wine and health conference. After 30 years of a perceived halo around wine, the industry is having a hard time accepting that it is still an alcoholic beverage.
Related, balancing health and being in the wine business. “A growing number of forward-thinking drinks professionals are following in Hopkins’s footsteps. Recognizing the need to prioritize health and wellness, they’re creating new businesses to help change the industry for the better.”
“Remember to offer drinks for all guests — not just the ones that drink alcohol.” The Post with recommendations on what to serve, and links to writer Allison Robicelli’s tasting of NA alternatives to spirits. Also check out Derek Brown’s IG for sober October suggestions.
Other Drinks News:
Hanna Raskin on the upstart company in Arkansas. Subscription required to read the full article.
Asimov on the experimental edge of drinks. “[A] growing number of producers are blurring the styles, blending grape wines and ciders or fermenting grapes and other fruit together, with remarkable delicious results.”
The Emerging Economy:
Jobs numbers came is solid, but not great as growth slowed down and unemployment inched up. The restaurant sector lost jobs, a month after returning to pre-pandemic levels. The upside is that job growth continued but at a rate that may give the Fed reason to think it can take its foot off the brake. “Following Friday’s jobs data, markets further reduced the probability of a rate hike in December to just 10%.” Also a good sign, “Job creation skewed heavily to full-time workers, reversing a recent trend. Full-time jobs grew by 326,000, while part-time tumbled by 670,000 as summertime seasonal jobs wrapped up.”
When businesses with large cash amounts raise red flags for banks. “This year, Chase closed the bar’s account, plus personal checking and credit-card accounts for Mr. Delaney, his wife and Ms. Maslanka, giving them a handful of weeks to make other banking arrangements. Federal law requires depositors to fill out a form if they’re depositing or withdrawing more than $10,000 in cash. Sometimes, in an attempt to avoid the gaze of the authorities, account holders will engage in “structuring,” making a series of transactions just under $10,000. It’s one of the top reasons that banks file suspicious activity reports. Mr. Dubrowski, the JPMorgan Chase spokesman, said the bar’s series of deposits was indeed the problem.”
In Vittles, a slam against SEO having too big a role in shaping our food preferences. “When we order or go out for food, we tend first to search: to read reviews, to see what’s open, to check prices. Google is undeniably helpful in that respect, but its maps and reviews aren’t merely tools; they change how we interact with the urban environment around us. What businesses come up, what we think is available, how good we think it is – all of this is mediated by the search engine, which elevates outlets deemed to have more ‘authority’: generally, established players who are SEO-savvy and can either pay for ranking or are good at keywords.” Teaser is free, whole article for subscribers.
Apropos of the post-Covid economy, DoorDash sent a warning to those that don’t tip that their order may not be prioritized. While this seems obvious, it does flip the normal tipping dynamic from before to after the service has been provided. It makes explicit that tips are not bonus payment, they are part of the payment for the service. It also highlights that DoorDash and other companies are willing the play the same games even if they are not saddled with the tipping structure that restaurants are.
Related, Jessica Sidman on Twitter flags that smaller fees tend to provoke greater problems. She also flags her story from earlier in the year on the conundrum restaurants face about raising base menu prices.
And Tom’s headline chat question this week was, “Why am I paying a 5 percent service fee for a cup of coffee?” Tom forwarded the request to the named business to respond, but declined to wade in. So, we will offer this simple explanation: you are paying 5% because you are not making the coffee yourself.
On the other hand tech does have its limits.
Kyla Scanlon in a video(!) for Bloomberg Opinion, says that the “little treat” economy of Starbucks with token nods to specialization are pushing the economy.
Food & Culture:
A three-generation story and recipe from France: “To this end, I asked both my mother and my grandmother what the best thing their respective mothers ever cooked for them was. Both of them replied: canard à l’orange. As an homage to independence and pragmatic, little-involved cooking, here is Claude’s interpretation of the recipe.”
Kim Severson in the Times on the conflict in the Middle East and the intersection with the food world.
T Magazine on a brunch for Día de los Muertos that is tied to similar Japanese traditions. “And when Momoca, who is based in Mexico City, mentioned last year that Japan also honors the dead by decorating altars, during the Obon spirit festival, Rice-Cisneros suggested she make one for Bombera, hatching a plan to unveil the installation during a party that would bring together their two communities.”
Alicia Kennedy is rethinking her Substack site and will shift to expanded content in 2024. “I’ll be bringing in writers through a monthly contributor essay, and encouraging more conversation through comments and a book club.” Her subscription fee will go up then, but you can get locked in now for $30!
Keith Lee offering a critique of Atlanta restaurants went viral. “The biggest social media uproar began after Lee left the Real Milk & Honey empty-handed, despite him pleading with viewers not to send negative comments to the restaurant. When he called to place a to-go order, he said, he was greeted by a message machine that said the restaurant accepts to-go orders only through DoorDash. On DoorDash, the restaurant was listed as closed to orders at 4 p.m. — one hour before the restaurant’s advertised closing time. When Lee’s family decided to walk in without him, they were told it was closing early for a deep cleaning. When Lee later walked in himself, the staff recognized him and offered him a table, but he declined.” Eater Atlanta offered its take, which was largely sympathetic to Lee’s critiques: “Longtime Atlanta residents can recognize many of the clout-obsessed, vibe-focused restaurants Lee critiqued. These residents are well aware of the oft-too-strict laundry list of rules, strictures, and dress codes found at such restaurants. Did Lee actually know what he was in for with these restaurants before heading to Atlanta, or did he just not do enough research before arriving to inform how his dining experiences might go? Regardless, Lee used his public platform to say the quiet part out loud to his 14 million followers once he was finished reviewing: Do better, Atlanta.”
Cornelia Poku wrote about Real Milk & Honey’s D.C. connection last year. The Post write-up does include a happy ending: Lee was so impressed by Jamaican Jerk Biz, which stayed open late for his family, he matched the business’s sales for the day, tipping nearly $3,000. “You stayed late, and you had no idea it was us,” he said in his video. “I appreciate you.” Jamaican Jerk Biz’s owner, Ayanna Chambers, who burst into tears when Lee walked through the door, said on social media that she was filled with hope after his visit: “His Presence Alone Has Changed Me & I Will For Ever Be Grateful .. His Kind Words Of Encouragement Was So Needed .. I Will Continue To Dream & Dream Big.”
Ryan Sutton on his site preempts Michelin’s star list with commentary that resonated: “But the inspectors will also vouch for a curious number of $600 sushi spots, without any regard for value (heck, Michelin doesn’t even bother listing the prices). The authors will overlook excellent new restaurants representing unique points of view; instead, they will reaffirm the greatness of bland tasting menus like any other. They will do this all without compelling explanations, because they prefer to deploy writeups with as much narrative force as a blurb for leather oxfords in the Allen Edmonds fall catalogue. This is an effort to make a better splurge list, based on nearly 20 years of professional eating in New York. Though I suppose comparing my efforts to Michelin’s is setting the bar quite low.” Subscription required to read his full list. For those looking, there is a big Michelin take-down story to be had. The conflict of interests, the morally dubious decisions about what to rate, the mailed-in nature of the coverage of cities like D.C., and the editorial voice that sounds AI-generated all add up to lots of red flags for the red guide.
Jon Bonné came across a piece of vibrant food writing from 1979. It was from the Post. Phyllis Richman on Italy: “It is decorated solely by a display of fish from which you choose your lunch, and a mural of a crowded restaurant. It is populated solely by ravenous workmen. It has no menu; its staff speak no English, yet somehow the waiter lets you know what you should eat, and you let the cashier know what you ate, in order to calculate the bill, which will total about $6.” (this was not what Jon excerpted, but read the whole thing).
Flooding in South Sudan forces a shift in eating. “After deciding against the first patch of lilies, Nyaguey and the other women trekked farther away from their village, deeper into an eerie landscape of dragonflies and sickly brittle trees twisting halfway out the floodwaters. For as long as possible, the women tried to keep themselves dry, laboring through a slightly elevated but muddy path. Time in the water meant exposure to poisonous snakes, untold bacteria, and run-ins with submerged thorns. But then there was no choice. After 40 minutes, they saw a patch of lilies, blooming in abundance, in deeper nearby waters.”
Tyson’s recall of chicken wings. Too much iron for the diet possibly.
Odds & Ends:
On the faux outrage watch, New Yorkers push back on scooped bagels. On the other hand this guy is not the most sympathetic messenger. At least he didn’t ask to toast it.
Thanks for reading. We will be off next weekend. Enjoy the three-day weekend.
If you are looking for a spot to dine in the District, then please keep us in mind. Our dining guide for D.C. has 300+ recommended restaurants, sortable by cuisine or neighborhood in either LIST or MAP format.
Tip big. Be kind. Honor the veterans in your life.