Image: American Ladies in London, 1956.
As D.C. creeps closer to capacity dining, we have been ramping up our activity on this site. We added a couple a restaurants this week to our recommended list. There is news of places coming back and less news of places being lost. So let’s get out the recap of site activity and news highlights from the world of D.C. dining.
Updates to the Recommended Restaurant List
Compliments Only – the counter spot on 14th Street serves up traditional subs with a few twists.
Laos in Town – Good food, big airy inside space, big patio. Great for the moment and for the neighborhood.
Corduroy – The beloved (by us) fine dining restaurant returned to service a few weeks ago, but it snuck by us. They added outdoor seating and we’ve updated our guide.
China Chilcano – José Andrés‘ Peruvian palace reopens for sit-down dining. They have added some outdoor seating too.
Granville Moore’s – Not so much a re-opening as a return to form. The H Street pioneer is reverting back to Belgian after a survival move to Italian.
Public Health Rules: The biggest news of the week was an unannounced posting sniffed out by the intrepid Barred in DC that D.C. updated its mask rules. The updated rules were discovered Friday night and by Saturday the Mayor’s office was having to clean up the mess. The initial posting was confusing to a degree that we could not make sense of. The net result seems to be very little change for now. Barred summarizes: “The new order essentially still eliminates the mask mandate for fully vaccinated persons outdoors, but no longer does the order lift the mask mandate for fully vaccinated indoors. Instead, the order just refers to DC Health guidance that exists and will be forthcoming.”
With the coming influx of tourists, basing rules on local numbers seems a fool’s errand. Whatever the rule it must be straightforward and easy to enforce. Our guess is that when the vaccination rates get to a certain number (60%? 65%?) it will be 50% indoors no masks when seated.
Compensation: When customer traffic picks up, it will be interesting to see who can keep up. There are a number of stories about the labor shortage in the industry nationwide. The subtext is employers are in denial the degree to which they will have to change their business model to attract qualified staff. A huge number of employees dropped out of the sector and once freed seem to have less interest in returning to low-paying, brutal jobs working for bad bosses.
We keep looking for a change in the amount of money allocated for rent. So many “concepts” start with a location or a menu approach. They essentially lock in rent costs and food costs. That leaves compensation as the only adjustable factor when things are tight. If compensation becomes more important to sustain a stable staff then it has to come from somewhere else. It is ungracious to pick on developers for doing their job, but we sincerely hope that lots of shiny spaces in newer multi-use buildings do not get filled with restaurants. Let restaurants migrate out of the booming neighborhoods until they can afford the rent AND afford to pay their staffs decently. Perhaps we will see more hotel restaurants that are proper dining destinations where the hotel owns the spot.
For all the talk about inflationary pressures, the entire commercial real estate market has yet to shake out from the work-from-home phenomenon. Maybe that will force a reckoning on rent when the bankruptcies hit and the building costs are written off. It does seem like the real estate industry is much better positioned to absorb the blow than a line cook, but the economy is not rational in that way.
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We will keep updating our guide, which means that it is the most current guide to D.C. dining there is. If you are thinking of visiting D.C. when the tourist season picks up, or if you are planning your first nights out in D.C. after hunkering down at home, or if you just want to be cool, then keep us in mind.
Stay safe. Get the shot. Tip Big!