Image: Edward Clark (Paris, 1946).
Welcome to the week that was in the dining world. Activity on our site was minimal this week, but there was good economic news, and lots of interesting tidbits to read about if you get to the bottom of the post. It is a quick read this week, so let’s get going.
Updates to D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
D.C. Dining News
The Emerging (Local) Economy:
Evan Caplan in the increasingly essential DCist looks at the turnover on 11th Street. “What I like best is that the owners and employees of the restaurants and bars can be seen out and about on 11th street too, giving the area a strong community vibe.”
Street vending laws get looser. “But street vending, which will soon be virtually decriminalized, is changing. In April, the Street Vendor Advancement Amendment Act, headed by Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau and Chairman Phil Mendelson, was passed after years of advocacy. It will officially go into effect on July 13th. The bill makes it easier to get a vending license and less risky to operate without one. It removes the criminal background check required to get a license, reduces the fee from up to $1000 per year to $75 annually for a sidewalk license, and makes more licenses available than in previous years. The bill also creates specific sidewalk zones for vending, and most notably removes the police’s ability to arrest someone for vending without a license. In past years, vending without a license could result in a misdemeanor arrest.”
Food and Culture: Tierney Plumb does a deep dive on Ollie’s. It is part of a series that big Eater is doing on diners across the nation.
Media: Nevin Martell reviewed Love, Makoto for the Washington City Paper. His reviews appear to be the only reporting happening in the WCP food section.
The District’s antiquated computer system means DUIs are not tracked properly. Though the problems may run deeper: More broadly, the DMV workers who spoke to DCist/WAMU said that the issues surfaced recently don’t only point to technological problems within the agency, but also managerial ones. “Our management is not very keen on having people tell them what’s wrong,” said the second DMV employee. “We don’t have the type of agency where we can continuously go to our superiors and say, ‘Hey, can you fix this?’, and they’re willing to listen to us.”
As much as we have doubts about Uber/Lyft, they will get you home for a small fee that is much less dear than the costs of drunk driving. Despite that, it feels like we are backsliding from the progress made during the MADD era. “Between 1991 and 2021, the rate of drunk driving fatalities per 100,000 population has decreased 36% nationally, and 70% among those under 21. These long-term trends show an overall decline and the gains being made to eliminate drunk and impaired driving, however, for the second year in a row drunk driving fatalities increased, a clear indication that we must do more to address this public safety issue.”
Industry: Sherry-Lehmann’s problems continue. “The Justice Department has convened a federal grand jury as part of a criminal investigation into Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits, the venerable New York City wine merchant, according to former employees who have been contacted by the authorities. Sherry-Lehmann, which was founded in Manhattan in 1934, has long been one of the elite sellers of fine wines in the United States. Last month, though, The New York Times reported that the store had not delivered large quantities of valuable wine to customers who had paid in advance. The Times also quoted former employees who believed Sherry-Lehmann was improperly selling clients’ rare bottles from a storage facility to other customers.”
Wine: Robert Mondavi’s grandson impresses Asimov. “Mr. Mondavi, with whom I spent a day in Northern California in early May, has taken a concrete step toward helping more farmers achieve these goals by spearheading the development of the Monarch tractor. This smart electric vehicle can work autonomously while serving as a sort of farm research hub that will provide growers with data about crop health that they need to better understand their operations and make them more efficient.”
The Emerging Economy: Inflation came in lower and bodes well for the future. Overall it probably means that interest rates will remain unchanged and the economy will avoid recession. Though there is still work to do and these are still open questions. “Food prices, however, were still up 6.7% from a year ago, though eggs fell 13.8% in May and are now slightly negative on a 12-month basis after surging in previous months. Shelter prices have risen 8% and transportation services are up 10.2%. Airline fares also have been in retreat, declining 13.4% year over year.”
Greg Jaffe at the Post has been looking at labor in America on his current beat. One thread running over the last year or so has been the Starbucks unionization drive. His latest installment is on Starbucks’ going after those that are pushing for the union. “It’s against the law to fire workers for organizing. But as Rizzo and the other Starbucks workers were learning, there’s also little to stop companies from doing it.” If you can impose psychology on a corporation (in Starbucks case it is easier because of CEO Howard Schultz’s belief that he is the company), it is an interesting moment when unemployment is so low and worker retention is so difficult, yet the anti-union position of companies runs straight into its workforce requirements. So far, the anti-union reflex is stronger.
“New York will become the first U.S. city to implement a minimum wage for food delivery workers, as much as tripling the current earnings of the city’s some 60,000 drivers. Starting on July 12, companies like Uber Eats and DoorDash will be required to pay their delivery workers at least $17.96 an hour for their labor, a sharp increase from their current average hourly rate of $7.09, neither including tips. The new rule, announced Monday by New York Mayor Eric Adams and the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, also calls for an increase to $19.96 an hour in 2025.”
Watching the Detectives: Pre-covid, one of our hobby-horses was the unreliable nature of Yelp. This story brings a smile to our faces and makes us say, why deny the obvious: “Next, she traced a positive Yelp review for SavantCare to Facebook, where she found that the reviewer was a member of several review groups — a black market for buying, selling and exchanging fraudulent Yelp and Google reviews. A few clicks and an alias account later, Dean was offered pay or a positive review of a company in exchange for writing a friendly 150-word review for SavantCare.”
The Post has the story of “an 18th-century enslaved woman who was so renowned for her baking she was nicknamed ‘the pastry queen of Rhode Island’ and may have even used her talent with dough to secure her and her family’s freedom.”
LeAnn Mueller was born into BBQ, left it for photography, but found her way back. A lot packed into 51 years. “Early last year, I went to la Barbecue for a celebration of life for John Mueller, LeAnn’s brother. They closed the restaurant down to remember a larger-than-life pitmaster who had left the world far too early. On July 2, Ali will do the same for LeAnn. La Barbecue will end its regular service at 2 p.m. that day, at which time anyone who wants to come share stories—good or bad, but hopefully funny—about LeAnn is welcome to attend. So go raise a toast—or rather a pickleback brisket shot, a speciality of la Barbecue—to LeAnn, and to Ali, for opening a great barbecue joint that just happens to be run by women, and for encouraging others to do the same.”
BA needs a new editor. A chance to do something really interesting and cool and then leave in about two years.
Post Food section goes in depth on Emeril’s son. Why do we flag this as a “Media” story? Because of this sentence: “The world-class chefs who’ve worked with both Emeril and E.J. say the son has a chance to be better than his father — and his ascension is about his years of training and skill, not his name or nepotism.” Emeril’s son (Junior?) is twenty years old. Just because they pitch a puff piece doesn’t mean you have to do it that way.
“Orange juice may become pricier and less sweet over the next several months as Florida’s famous groves yield the smallest crop of citruses in nearly a century.” Cross-posted in the Food Section from Business.
Odds & Ends:
Hard to run to the border in these.
Stamped: I need lunch money.
That does it for this week. Thanks for reading! Give us a follow if you don’t.
Happy Father’s Day to all that it applies to. Best wishes for Juneteenth. Stay cool. Be kind.