Image: Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1947).
This week in the D.C. dining world there were a few notable places folding up shop and some other ones backfilling into open spaces. The National Restaurant Association popped up in a couple different stories. A New York Times writer proposes words/phrases that should be banned from food writing. And the emerging new economy giveth this month and economists are confused by the good news. For all that and more, read on!
Updates to D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
Donburi – The Adams Morgan location has closed for good. It looks to be changing to Mockinbird Smoked Chicken. POPville had the scoop and there is a recent job posting. Not clear if it is the same owners or new ones.
Sorellina – A few months back they started hosting a pop-up taqueria done by their in-house chef. (We had a good breakfast burrito there recently). We also noticed that Sorellina gave up its web site, and the pop-up Taqueria Capital has one.
DC Dining News
Comings and Goings: The biggest news was not surprising, but still startling. Jessica Sidman got the scoop for Washingtonian that Columbia Room is closing and will roll-over to Death & Co. In recent years, founder/owner Derek Brown has changed his lifestyle in ways (for the better!) that made owning a cocktail bar a less desirable career path. We wish him well in future endeavors. The fate of the newly-established Disco Mary is not clear, though Brown reports Maria Bastasch, one of the key forces behind Disco Mary, has “lots of cool shit planned.”
Also rolling over is the old Anxo space. It will be Uncaged Mimosas from Chef Damian Brown who currently owns The Uncaged Chefs in District Heights. The restaurant will feature an all-day brunch menu.
Call Your Mother may soon lose its lovable local image as a plucky upstart, as it looks to open yet another location, this one at 14th Street at P Street.
Wagyu Looking At: Laura Hayes, a well-known fan of Japan, has a story about how the Government of Japan is doing a micro-targeting strategy to promote its food. Through “the Embassy of Japan and the Japan External Trade Organization, has attempted to woo local chefs into working with more Japanese ingredients. They have held events centered around rice, wagyu beef, and shōchū.”
Watching the Detectives: Tim Carman’s annual BBQ rankings posted this week. Most striking is that several spots in the District fell off the list for a variety of reasons.
Barred in DC flagged that the Financial Times has a piece identifying 10 of the world’s best sandwich shops, and includes local shop SUNdeVICH on the list. Kudos to them. The piece itself is about the rise of really large sandwiches. No disrespect to SUNdeVICH, which makes a good sandwich, but if you are talking about big sandwiches there is one obvious place.
Compensation: Initiative 82 is heading for the ballot and likely heading for passage. DCist has a bit on the current state of play. The story cites as the most likely reason for a less intense effort that, “small business owners don’t have the money or energy to wage a costly political battle.” But the most interesting nugget is the idea that RAMW, the trade group of local restaurant owners, was willing to play ball on a compromise piece of legislation but was steered off that path by the national trade organization, the National Restaurant Association. Presumably the NRA did not want to set an example that might be picked up. The way both sides have engaged in a maximalist stand-off is unlikely to lead to a stable solution, though the idea that a compromise is possible was good news. This battle also does not seem to reflect the emerging reality of compensation (see below). Like debating the barn door latch after horse is running wild.
Malign Neglect: There is a NY-based singer-songwriter who wrote a song about his early days playing bars in Florida to drunken tourists. The song centers on a personal resolution that he’s “not playing that song.” Well, we are not going to talk about that bar.
Virginia Wine: Dave McIntyre in the Post celebrates the career of one of the key figures in the development of the wine industry in Virginia. Tony Wolf, professor of viticulture at Virginia Tech, is retiring after 36 years of studying the potential for growing wine in Virginia’s soil and sharing his knowledge with a growing industry. When Wolf started at Tech in 1986, “There were 35 wineries in Virginia that year, with about a thousand acres under vine. Today, Virginia boasts 325 wineries and more than 4,000 acres planted.”
Wine Industry: The N.Y. Times has a great story about how former Nationals manager Dusty Baker found his way into the world of wine, including this great tidbit from his playing days: “I’d be on first base and Willie Stargell would explain to me, hey, this was a dry year, this was a wet year, you ever try this wine, you ever try that wine?” Baker said. “He was my man.”
The Baker story is also an excuse to flag one of the great stories about a pro team boss and the world of food and wine.
Distribution Racket: In the wake of drinks-to-go during the early days of the pandemic to help smaller restaurants and bars survive, the State of New York is looking at its rules for liquor sales. The laws of New York, like many states, are a product of Prohibition-era morals and entrenched interests. So an adult being able to walk into a bar and buy a drink to go is revolutionary. It also sets the liquor stores, who bought businesses and licenses assuming a controlled market against the bars seeking to open that market. Much like the rise of Uber undermined the value of taxi medallions. But this being Albany, there is always more than meets the eye.
The Emerging Economy: Last month, the number of people quitting jobs remained at a high rate, with the “accommodation and food services” sector leading the way at 6.1 percent. Retail followed with 4.9 percent. This and omicron braced economists for poor monthly jobs numbers at the end of the week. But the monthly numbers were actually quite good and the previous two months were revised upward significantly as well. So you have record numbers of people quitting, strong numbers of people returning to the workforce, and overall low unemployment. All of that is consistent with rising wages that encourage people to quit bad jobs, lure people with better paying jobs (who might be feeling the squeeze of inflation as additional motivation), and still have tons of openings to sustain the wage growth pressure. Yet analysts were confused. It is almost as if they don’t know how to interpret a market with rising wages.
Speaking of the National Restaurant Association, Mother Jones has a deep dive on something we have been flagging for a few months: In the Covid-era, the big chains won, and the independent shops lost. It has a very Mother Jones-like take: “In practice, [NRA] has bent federal, state, and local governments to the will of the corporate behemoths, claiming to represent the nation’s 500,000 food service establishments, even though less than 10 percent are members.” A few locals make appearances.
Fun Reads: The Times has a story with this lede: “Of the many small, weird things that happened at the end of 2021 was the opening of a very good Korean restaurant, maybe the best in New York City, on the second floor of a car showroom in Manhattan.”
The New Yorker has a story on saving the Ebony Test Kitchen. When the Chicago building where it resided was slated for development, a new home was found at the Museum of Food and Drink in Queens. “To save it, volunteer preservationists rushed in and dismantled the kitchen in a single weekend.” Yet the story is about much more than that, including the rise of a Black media mogul, mid-century architecture and design, and the importance of knowing how to cook a good pound cake.
The Washington Post Travel Section has an interesting piece on how social media gave platforms to voices highlighting different history and experiences (including dining!) than the typical ones found in Travel sections. The story includes both national and local figures who have broken through.
They also have a piece on the rumored death of the hotel mini-bar.
Kim Severson on Twitter raised a point about words/phrases that are used in food writing that are annoying. Of course it triggered an avalanche of replies. Many of the nominees for banishment from the lexicon are words we also avoid, but some, we must admit, do sneak in from time-to-time. Severson’s tweet: “Let’s make a list of food writing words and phrases to ban. I’ll start: Calling a restaurant an eatery. Calling a vegetable a veggie. And washing something down, unless it’s medicine.” D.C.’s own Laura Hayes (elevated, authentic), Pati Jinich (tastebuds) contributed. Carol Blymire’s thoughts reflected someone who helped draft language for cookbooks. We don’t mind “veggies” but still can’t believe “food porn” is used so casually. Other notables we concur with: Nom Nom, tucking into…, Noods, cooked to perfection, brekky, toothsome (but we approve of al dente), unctuous (unless used pejoratively). A former Eater editor had a list of banned words/phrases.
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