Image: Warren Beatty, Splendor in the Grass (1961)
The algorithm gods were unkind this week but hopefully will rally down the stretch. Also, we scrolled through Instagram with the sound on, which we rarely do. It is really loud. So much for the pretty food pictures being a place of refuge from the hustle and bustle. On the other hand, our weekly recap is an oasis of quiet contemplation, so without further adieu…
Updates to the Recommended Restaurant List
Incheon – Last year Chef Justin Ahn opened his own spot in Annanale where he does two seatings a night with a tasting menu format rooted in Korean cuisine but draws from everywhere. It is worth a trip outside District lines.
Cane – Anna Spiegel in Washingtonian has the scoop that Chef Peter Prime is stepping away from the much-lauded Cane and the forthcoming St. James. His sister will carry on operations at both places. Prime is looking to do a cookbook. We wish them all well and look forward to Chef Prime’s return to the kitchen soon. There is also something notable for the D.C. food world that the chef change at a small restaurant on H Street is getting this much attention. We’ll take that as a silver lining.
Oyster Oyster – One of the many impressive things about this restaurant is its beverage program under Sarah Horvitz. This week they announced she will be moving on – leaving the industry. This is a very interesting job and they are looking for applicants.
D.C. Dining News
We start this week with some somber news. Tim Carman in the Post Magazine spent time with a family running a popular restaurant in Wheaton as it tries to handle all the pandemic can inflict. We have been critical of the big outlets for not covering stories like this, so we want to highlight this piece. Carman makes clear that all the statistics about Covid deaths and struggling business are really hundreds of thousands of individual stories. He clearly cared about doing justice to this one.
State of the Industry: Julie Verratti of Denizens Brewing had a series of tweets about the state of the restaurant industry. She points out that last year places got by with help, but now that is disappearing and restaurants are the ones taking the primary brunt – not the banks or landlords. We would also add the credit card companies charging fees, or the delivery apps gouging and even many governments collecting taxes. We enacted policies to make us all safe, but the burden did not fall equally.
But Shōtō and some boat-based bar in North Bethesda opened or will soon. And, as if to put a cherry on top of it all: Gordon Ramsay is putting up a restaurant called, “Hell’s Kitchen” on the Wharf. It is as if the developer hoodwinked investors into believing that The Wharf is closer to the Mall than it is, and that there will be streams of gullible tourist to eat up TV-personality driven food. We should probably reserve judgment, but when the story includes bits likes, it’s a chain “surf-and-turf restaurant, which pays tribute to his hit Hell’s Kitchen TV show on Fox,” then one’s instinct is to start making over/under bets about it and other recently announced places.
If you are looking for restaurants to root for though, Barred in DC has the scoop on a new brewery coming off the Metropolitan Branch Trail called Lost Generation. The Solis place Mariscos just opened, and there is a new Caribbean spot on H Street called Lydia on H.
D.C. in the World: José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen has a documentary about it!
Cathy Alter, a D.C. writer looked at her drinking habits and came away with some thoughts. Inside the piece are two interesting statistics, with one perhaps driving the other. “According to a recent study, while Americans drank 14 percent more compared to before the pandemic, women increased their alcohol intake by 41 percent.” This upsurge may have caused a reaction as people tried to come back into balance because “nonalcoholic beverage sales reached $331 million in 2021, up 33 percent from the year before.”
Eric Asimov writes that the wine industry is worried that Millennials are not taking a shine to wine. The key insight though has ramifications for many more sectors in the economy: “millennials have less disposable income than their parents and more economic fears. They are often burdened by student debt, have fewer middle-class job opportunities and cannot assume they will ever be able to afford real estate.” It should also be noted that Gen X is doing what it can for the wine industry, but its smaller size means it does not have the buying power of the fading boomers.
Food Media: Emily Wilson writing in Taste looks at the state of the food podcast world, asking why none has broken through and how it might that happen. Her story opens with a nugget from a fairly new podcast Climate Cuisine, which is under the umbrella of Stephen Satterfield’s Whetstone Radio Collective. The nugget is about bananas and why we only have one variety in our markets. We also came across that podcast and found it fascinating. As for the economics of podcasts, it is clear that well-done, thoughtful podcasts operate on tight margins – compared to blow-hard, click-bait ones. One “successful” podcaster, Julia Turshen “is able to make $1,000 per episode via sponsorships, and she estimates that each episode takes her eight to ten hours to create.” Also, if you find a difficult to find food-related content there is a reason for that: Within Apple’s podcast app, “Food” isn’t yet its own category—it’s a subcategory of “Arts.”
Food and the Environment: The collapse of the oyster business in a corner of Florida. One “retired” oysterman said: “It was scary when the oysters went down. I’m the breadwinner of the house. A lot of what you see around — rundown places and such — when you could oyster the bay, they had more respect for where they lived. I believe when the bay was working, it was like a machine — all the parts working together. Now it’s like a broken wheel. In five years, there aren’t going to be any more boats. They’ll all rot. No one will be making the tongs. Tourism doesn’t do nothing for the people around here.”
The Emerging Economy: Beginning to suspect the Greg Jaffe is working on a book about the world of minimum wage work and the future of the labor movement. He has another long story about food workers in the Rust Belt. This time it is how a Rhodes Scholar organized to get union recognition at a Starbucks in Buffalo.
Last week we flagged a story out of New York about liquor stores pushing back on cocktails-to-go because they eat into their margins and monopoly. The San Francisco Chronicle has a story (subscription required) about how local restaurants caused a stink over food trucks coming into the neighborhood. In a regulated market, it is interesting what innovations are allowed to undermine the rules (like Uber) and which ones are not (like cocktails-to-go).
Laura Reiley notes that competition is getting a bit stiffer between pretend proteins and Big Ag.
In Britain, a pub that stood for over a millennium, had to shut down. We presume this is not the first time in 1200 years that its owner has had to shut down or turn over the keys.
Stand Backs: There were a number of interesting stories this week that take a broader lens or reframe an old issue, including this photo essay on the lives of Black ranchers in Texas.
In some ways related to Carman’s story about The Hollywood East Cafe, Mahira Rivers in Resy looks at the places that we often call old-school or classic or any of those other stock phrases to describe a not-fancy restaurant serving a specific cuisine. If they are around long enough there is often a story about how it adapted to a changing America, or how consumer nostalgia for one version keeps a place going even as times change.
Back Off: Though this was in the WSJ Real Estate section and not directly related to food, it does seem related to this moment and many of the things that the food industry is going through. The writer explains why she won’t respect a host’s preference for removing shoes when entering a home. At the root of it is a loss of manners and being considerate. By loss of manners we don’t mean doffing a cap or using the correct fork. We mean just not being a jerk. But it does not strain imagination to think that the same lack of consideration is part of the reason people seem to engage in aggressive non-masking where it is required or requested. Or the self-indulgence to throw temper tantrums over vaccination requirements by taking it out on staff (which carries over to other places like the airline industry). We’ve come this far, let’s keep it together a little longer.
Speaking of which, we like to hope the way the toxic elements of the influencer culture leverage the weakness of Yelp is fading, but it is not gone. More interesting is the idea you can file a lawsuit to stop it!
Finally, per our picture caption this week, this one has so much going on: an obtuse “visionary entrepreneur”, the NYC hipster embrace of the outré even when it crosses into the grotesque, the absurdity of the The Infatuation, and a total inability to read the room. Also a reminder: any gullible visionary millionaires wanting to waste money on something we have a plucky little website trying to highlight the great dining options in Washington, D.C. Interested investors can follow us on social media to stay up to date – the same goes for interested readers or eaters! We are on FB, Insta, and Twitter. Click on the icons at the top or bottom of this page to stay up to date.
Finishing where we started, a reminder that the primary purpose of this site is to be a dining guide for the District. We have 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.
Have a great week. Support the restaurants you love Don’t be a jerk.