Image: Brooklyn (1948).
Dearest Gentle Reader, we offer a medium-sized plate of food news this week, which actually covers a couple weeks. Hope you enjoyed the Fourth. We added one place and revisited another. Some good news for local BBQ spots. And Danny Meyer steps in it. Curious? Then let’s proceed.
Updates to the D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
Donsak Thai – The newcomer in Woodley Park is gaining fans well beyond the neighborhood.
Beuchert’s – There has always been something comforting and interesting about this spot. That is still true.
D.C. Dining News
Restaurant chains, seems to be the medium-sized ones primarily, are adding Initiative 82 fees of about 3-5%. They might just keep increasing the fee as the wage increases are implemented hoping to shift the blame. Alex McCoy notes anything helps and restaurants really do not want to raise base prices. Per Danny Meyer’s callousness below, it is interesting the degree to which customers seek to avoid tipping and direct their anger towards the staff.
Comings and Goings and Stayings:
La Chaumière’s long-time owner sold. Place expected to carry on.
Hakan Ilhan, who has Ottoman Taverna, Il Piatto, and Brasserie Liberté in his portfolio is taking over the old Paolo’s space and putting in a Mediterranean spot.
Biergarten Haus on H Street closed last night, giving staff less than a day’s notice.
Media: The Wall Street Journal does the Cafe Milano story. Behind a paywall. We didn’t read it, but can it really provide more insight than all the other Cafe Milano stories over the years. But it does remind us of the power lunch episode on Dish City that talked about new spots like Centrolina that are where some of the cook kids hang. There are thousands of untold stories in the food world, but Cafe Milano is not one of them.
Somewhere in the greater DMV area a general manager is having a very bad morning. If this is actually Shoto, as commenters guess, then that is some Karma.
Alder Yarrow helps found an Old Vines Registry. “The Old Vine Registry (OVR) website is the first fully searchable and updatable online database of historic vineyards worldwide, something that among other benefits, will be of use for future researchers. However, it needs help from the whole world of wine to become truly successful.”
Thief goes through roof to steal $600,000 worth of wine. “[T]he roughly 2,000 bottles in the cellar were labeled with price tags, and thethief took the most expensive wines that Helal had obtained from across the world. The collection included large bottles of burgundy and bordeaux wines worth about $3,000 each from French producers including Maison Louis Latour and Bonneau du Martray.”
An ancient African grain and the future of beer. “It all started when Thiam ran into Garrett Oliver, the brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, at a 2018 party hosted by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. They decided to make a test batch of fonio beer.”
The Emerging Economy:
Monthly jobs numbers remained strong, though fell off a little. Wages were up. “Leisure and hospitality, which had been the strongest job growth engine over the past three years, added just 21,000 jobs for the month. The sector has cooled off considerably, showing only muted gains for the past three months.”
Lee Anne Wong breaks down the costs behind the $20 avocado toast. She first points to increased labor costs, which we believe is a structural change that many wish to ignore but will fundamentally alter restaurant costs. But she also flags something we see those in the industry mention a lot in passing: packaging.
Food and Culture:
Deb Freeman on Fried Chicken in Virginia. “Even though Black women are the reason you can look at menus all over the country and see fried chicken, the impact of Black women in the culinary space extends far beyond that single dish and needs to be acknowledged. It is clear their hands have touched nearly every facet of what we consider American food, yet their achievements are rarely spoken about or celebrated, let alone celebrated to the same degree as many others in the food space.”
Tunisians love tuna. What happens when a staple becomes too expensive.
Emily Heil makes the case that this season of the The Bear is about changing restaurant culture. “The fictional struggles of the Bear’s gang in some ways mirror the real-world conversations that chefs and restaurant workers have been having in recent years, often in the public eye, about kitchen culture. Of course, there are still plenty of chefs who take advantage of employees; sexual harassment and assault remain rampant. But there’s a growing awareness in some quarters that the long-standing hallmarks of many people’s experience in the industry — the violence and screaming, drug use and drinking; racism and sexism — don’t have to be.”
Danny Meyer’s protege Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park fame, has a new book out called Unreasonable Hospitality. Adam Reiner raises many questions and points out that the grace and kindness of hospitality is considered a one-way street when it shouldn’t be. “We deserve a new, more diverse and compassionate framework around hospitality that gives restaurant workers agency—that gives voice to the voiceless and expects guests to reciprocate the generosity they’re shown. Although it isn’t to blame in every case, hospitality orthodoxy fosters toxic environments where dysfunction has historically festered. Abuse, harassment, violence, and misogyny flourish in oppressive workplaces where perfectionism suffocates individuality and compassion. We can’t fix the cultural problems endemic to restaurants without reining in the zealots who subject their workers to unreasonable expectations.”
Right on cue, Danny Meyer himself lets it be known that a philosophy based on the idea that, “It feels great to make other people feel good,” does not extend to baristas who could always use a couple extra bucks. In this case, Meyer coddles the comfortable who resent having to tip on a $5 cup of coffee made by hand to order every time. The last few years Meyer has tarnished his image. It is self-inflicted.
The oldest Chinese restaurant in the United States is in Butte, Montana apparently.
The Battle of IHOP in upstate New York. “Broccoli insists that he’s not anti-history. He doesn’t dispute the fact that people are buried on his land or that the area is steeped in Revolutionary significance; his vision for the IHOP involves a wait staff in tricorne hats and bonnets. But it was still a bit of a mystery exactly whose bones were buried on his property and who put them there. And, besides, if there really were hundreds of soldiers beneath the ground, Broccoli believed it to be self-evident that he was the one pursuing the vision of life, liberty, and happiness that George Washington’s troops had fought and died for: the right to sell pancakes where they were buried.”
Odds & Ends:
Former Nats pitcher makes bourbon from the corn grown on the Field of Dreams. “In May, the first batch of Field of Dreams Bourbon went to market — 22,860 bottles, the number of players who had played in the major leagues at the end of the 2022 season. (It’s available in Iowa and Indiana stores, with Nebraska to follow.)”
Thanks for reading. And thank you to the handful of people we crossed paths with this week who said nice things about our plucky little site.
If you are a little hungry and looking for a place to eat, don’t forget we can help with that too! At least if you are in D.C. Our D.C. dining guide has 300+ recommended restaurants sortable by cuisine or neighborhood in either LIST or MAP format.
Be kind. Tip big. Stay hydrated.