Image: Jimmy Stewart dispensing wisdom over coffee.
Welcome to our recap of D.C. and other dining news. This is really two weeks in review because we skipped last weekend. So lots of ground to cover. Shall we? Let’s…
Updates to D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
Martha Dear – It took us way too long to try Martha Dear, but it lived up to the hype. Don’t sleep on the Caesar Salad.
Zaytinya – The Penn Quarter stalwart still delivers.
Mandu – As does this spot.
Comings and Goings:
Charcoal Town – The excellent shawarma source off U Street is not renewing itslease and will close June 20th. They hope to find a new location to start over. We hope they do.
Compliments Only – Will be opening in the old Sorellina location in the next couple of weeks. They are looking for help decorating the new place. The space was divided and Taqueria Capital took over the half with the bar.
Punjab Grill – Eat DC flagged that the high-end Indian restaurant (closed since November, which we missed), changed its name, has a new chef, and re-opened as Rania. It still is serving Indian in a very posh setting.
Brasserie Beck – The brassy Belgian restaurant with a deep beer list looks to reopen on June 8?
Stellina Pizzeria – Opened a second D.C. location in the burgeoning strip on K Street between 4th and 6th. They re-purposed the old Waffle Shop signage. [Update: An astute and careful read also flagged that they have a location outside the District in Shirlington].
D.C. Dining News
D.C. is getting a new Ukrainian restaurant in Adams Morgan. The chef comes from Veselka in New York and it will be near the Ukrainian cafe D-Light, which saw a huge influx of customers as it raised money for relief in Ukraine. Apropos of the story below about increasing rents, it is also interesting that the more intriguing new restaurants are going into old buildings outside of downtown or The Wharf. As for the less interesting new restaurants…
Gordon Ramsey Restaurants, Ltd, has decided to ditch its chain fish & chips spot planned for Penn Quarter for a pizza chain “concept” that offers unlimited pizza by the slice. That seems like a gauntlet being thrown down to D.C.’s younger generation to test the viability of the financial model. Fish & chips will be moved to The Wharf’s new development (across from Lucky Buns) But we suspect it is not locals that the company is sizing up as customers. As indicated by the 500+ seat Hell’s Kitchen slated for The Wharf.
DCist pays tribute to a chef who was part of the Adams Morgan community.
Winemaker Sean Thackery passed away this week. A singular figure in the wine world who will be missed. He built a collection of antique wine texts, primarily from the 16th to the 19th century, and just prior to his death put the collection up for sale. He also helpfully transcribed them to the web. As we said, a singular figure.
The Emerging Economy: A report found that over 40% of small restaurants could not pay rent in May. This is up from the prior two months and returns to the October 2021 state. While inflation is putting pressure on restaurants, it appears the primary factor driving the rent problems is INCREASED RENT! While employees and small businesses all absorbed the hits of Covid, investors and banks largely escaped the impact supported by free money from the Federal Reserve. So now they are raising rent instead of working with tenants to reach a long-term solution? It is insane to think that a landlord will be able to replace a space vacated by a delinquent tenant anytime soon. So not only does this behavior seem cruel, it seems counter to business sense.
Jobs numbers came out on Friday and were pretty solid. Job openings and hirings remain high, unemployment remains at 3.6%. Notably, and in contrast to many prior monthly reports, leisure and hospitality were the strongest sectors adding 84,000 positions.
The National Restaurant Association put out a study that labor participation by 16-24 year-olds remains low, as the industry looks to bulk up for seasonal demand. They note that, “If employers can successfully incentivize teenagers and young adults to get off the sidelines and into the workforce this summer, the goal of a fully staffed restaurant may be achievable.” Maybe that restaurant relief effort really did need to passed. But the failure of the NRA to protect is smaller members is matched by their absurd take that those looking to do shift work at a restaurant include “retirees who want to pick up a few shifts at the 19th hole of their local golf course.” Yes, that large Venn Diagram overlap of country club members and those over 65 who sling Michelob Ultras for tips must be quite large.
Adam Reiner, in Bon Appetit, responds to the Times story about tipping fatigue, reminding readers that tipping is an anomalous practice whereby customers directly pay employees of the business – not the business itself. The Covid-era highlighted this strange practice and many are trying to move away from it. Reiner quotes someone who works a counter at a bakery: “To read all these articles about people being tired of tipping,” Wilson says, “I’m like—I’m tired of being tipped!” If you can afford to dine out, you can afford to tip and should do so without whining.
Rotten in Denmark: The FT has a long story (the link goes to paywall, but if you google it there is an accessible link) about the prevalence of abuse in many Michelin starred restaurants in Copenhagen, including the fact that while it is seen as a resume-builder to do a stage at a place like Noma, the work is brutal, mundane, not skill-enhancing and unpaid. But that is not the kicker. In modern open kitchens it is more difficult to blatantly abuse staff, but chefs have adapted to kicking and kneeing to do it below the countertop.
Shell Game: In Cheyenne, Wyoming there is a chain of taco joints that when mapped show something interesting taking shape.
Media: Eater NY did a series on the state of food social media, including a story on the killing off of IG influencers by TikTok. Though we tend to think that IG also contributed to its own demise. We would also note that if you think it is difficult to get traction on IG, imagine trying to run an old-fashioned blog/website!
The powerful pull of the PR-speak, light, “press release” story is so strong in the food world that when the Post went to write a story about the vacated McDonald’s opening under a new name in Russia, it took seven paragraphs before the story noted that McDonald’s pullout was precipitated by a brutal invasion by Russia of Ukraine. Before that though, the Post had to mention the possible names, translated, include “The only way,” “fun and tasty,” “the same one” and “free checkout”, and that the company issued a statement saying: “At the moment, we are working on creating a new brand and have already sent applications for the registration of several names. In the future, one of all registered names will be selected.” Even the headline had a breezy feel: “Russia is building a ‘fun and tasty’ McDonald’s replacement.” Waiting on “Best Places for Brunch in Moscow in a Sanctioned Economy.”
Phew…we got a little fired up this week. Remember, 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.