Image: Dean Martin and Debbie Reynolds.
Our recap of the world of D.C. dining and other similar news starts with the two casual spots we added to our dining guide. After that, we have lots of interesting tidbits from around the nation, and yet another reminder to tip 20% all the time. Shall we get on with it? Let’s!
Updates to the D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
Cinder BBQ – Good food, lots of whiskey options and a space with open doors to the neighborhood both literally and figuratively.
Las Gemelas – The sunny taqueria does crowd-pleasing juicy tacos in the La Cosecha market.
D.C. Dining News
I for one, welcome our new Foxtrot/Tatte overlords: Another longtime neighborhood spot, Acacia Bistro in Van Ness, is closing. The reason is now familiar. The landlord insisted on doubling the rent. One twist in this case is the landlord is UDC.
Michelin can be bought, but can they be persuaded? Seven Reasons announced that they will actively campaign for a Michelin star. Some felt it was tacky. We are of the opinion that Seven Reasons is merely saying the quiet part out loud. Restaurants don’t spend all that money on P.R. to go unnoticed. And as the Sidman piece linked above points out, it provides a narrative hook. Co-owner Ezequiel Vázquez-Ger said, “it’s not about Michelin. It’s about letting people know that we’re always improving.” Sidman summarizes the immediate changes: “Beginning July 5, the restaurant will replace its a la carte menu with a prix-fixe one—likely priced around $80 to $85 for four courses—in the first and second floor dining rooms. It’ll also have a pricier chef’s table tasting menu, similar to the Michelin-starred one at Imperfecto. (Michelin loves a fussy tasting menu, after all.) The bar will still serve cocktails and snacks, and the patio will become a ceviche/crudo bar for the summer.” As we and Sidmman noted, lobbying is not unheard of in big or little Washington.
Can older drinkers provide some buoyancy to the beverage industry? “For an industry facing a post-pandemic economic recovery, as well as a decline in consumption amongst younger consumers, older drinkers with deep pockets could play an important role.”
Some craft brewers are taking a different approach to marketing. “Craft beer and wrestling are increasingly performing as a tag team.”
Other Dining News
Tip 20%, Always: Even for counter service at a BBQ spot.
Leaders: In the Post, Emily Heil talks with Grace Young, the author and activist. “I realized that my background made me the perfect person to be an advocate for Chinatown. And I realized that all these people in Chinatown that were losing their jobs or were vulnerable to their businesses being shut down — they had no voice, they couldn’t get their story out there. But I could.”
Related to this topic, we will make our routine plug for Dish City, which this season (along with a lot of Maryland coverage) has looked at the history of D.C.’s somewhat odd Chinatown and, most recently, the Vietnamese community in Northern Virginia.
Ray Delucci, of Line Cook Thoughts, shares his thoughts on ten years in the industry. There are many insights, including: “I really think as an industry we need to reset our view on awards, ratings and the prestige of these institutions. Not get away with or try to hide. But to really teach the next generation that stable pay, health insurance and a healthy work environment should be priority number one. The awards and other perks of doing good in food should come much later after meeting the essentials of leading a healthy life in the industry.”
The Emerging Economy: Tim Carman digs into the question of how many restaurants did actually close because of the impact of the pandemic. There were legitimate fears that it would be a bloodbath with more than half of all establishments closing. That did not come to pass. But it is not over, the distortions of the economy during the height of the pandemic led to supply-chain issues and now inflation as oil companies seek to cash in. For our list of recommended restaurants in D.C. we have continued to track those closed and closed for good during the pandemic. Based on that sample it looks like roughly 10%. A few of those were likely to close anyway, but most should have made it and didn’t because of the overriding environment. And now landlords seem eager to play the role of oil companies for the dining world.
Possibly adding insult to injury is a coming reality show that is looking for restaurants to be featured in the D.C. area. According to the description from the casting company, it will be: “a new feel-good show for a major streaming platform! We’re looking for restaurants with a strong connection with their community. Our celeb host will travel & help restaurants reignite their spark and once again enjoy the world of hospitality!” We would note that most restaurants that have hung in there this long don’t lack spark, but cash. But if it is a show that gives out $100k (though that was not part of the current pitch) that might not be bad for a restaurant. On the other hand being yelled at by Gordon Ramsay seems less appetizing. Click the link above to apply.
While keeping restaurants afloat in the U.S. has been difficult, in Hong Kong the problem is more literal.
Hell’s Chicken: Costco sells roasted chickens for $4.99 and at a loss to drive customer traffic. They needed so many chickens for the promo that it decided to create its own sources. Now they are being sued on claims those chicken farms are not up to code. The lawsuit avers, “disabled birds slowly die from hunger, thirst, injury, and illness. Costco’s directors and officers cause and are aware of these illegal practices; and have chosen to ignore red flags plainly illuminating Costco’s illegal behavior.”
We should underline that the Grace Young, restaurant closings, and Costco stories were in the Post Food section. We have knocked them for not including the full range of food stories in the Food section, but this week they did some good work. As Tom might say, “take a bow.”
Watching the Detectives: Speaking of Michelin stars, Michelin announced its new Dubai guide. A couple 2 stars, and more one stars, no 3 stars were awarded. The Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing for Dubai was quoted in the initial announcement of the guide doing a Dubai edition, but elided the fact it sponsored the new guide. There was much hullabaloo when California’s tourism industry underwrote some of the costs of starting up a state-wide guide. We continue to believe that Michelin has problems, but this is not the biggest one.
Speaking of ratings, Pete Wells in the Times did his first starred review since 2020. One way to get around the inherent problems of the rating system is to totally re-imagine it. So a guy serving roast pork out of trailer in the Bronx gets three stars. Does the Times continue to redefine what it means by extraordinary or excellent? Do others follow? Wells did not directly address the shift in the piece. As they say, watch this space.
That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading this far! Keep in mind that if you are looking for a place to dine in the District, our D.C. dining guide has 300+ recommended restaurants. 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.