Image: Tore Johnson, Paris (1949).
Welcome to the weekly recap of activity on our site and a news round-up of the dining world. The least favorite month in D.C. is almost over, and we look forward to a better autumn. So let’s start with updates to our dining guide that you can use to plot your next night out.
Updates to Recommended Restaurant List
Sharbat – The little Azerbaijani bakery in Adams Morgan is making waves.
Grand Duchess – The little dive bar in Adams Morgan is putting out some really good food.
Sara Selevitch, a writer and waitress in Los Angeles, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post that, yet again, explained why the current structure of restaurant employment is cracking. She includes three stats that leap off the page. The first makes clear the problem preceded the pandemic: “The turnover rate for restaurant employees hit 74.9 percent in 2018.” All other private sector industries are less than 50%. Second, “Line cooks had the highest covid-19 mortality rate among working-age Californians, according to a study from the University of California at San Francisco.” Third, “wage theft annually accounts for half of all reported property theft in the country (not citation offered).”
Not unrelated, the D.C. Board of Elections voted to permit the One Fair Wage initiative to move forward to the next stage, which is signature collection.
There was a contretemps over a column by a Washington Post writer who has been put out to pasture in the back of the weekly magazine. There are a few things that make the column in question perplexing on top of being dumb and insulting and ironic that it appeared in the Post. First, there is perhaps no more prominent fan of Indian food than Tom Sietsema, whose weekly reviews appear just before the end of the magazine each week. Second, there was already another cranky old man who made the same (albeit not as stupid or insulting in phrasing) comment just a few months ago and ate his words. Third, The Post itself printed a thoughtfully-argued piece by G. Daniela Galarza earlier this year that called out lazy thinking like this.
Chef Marcelle Afram, previously at Maydan, started a pop-up selling Palestinian rotisserie chicken meals. Now it looks like he has something in the works and will be shutting down the ghost kitchen project on September 10.
Officina – Nicholas Steffanelli now has three different takes on his slightly more casual Italian spot: the original three-story version at The Wharf, his merged effort with Via Umbria in Georgetown, and now a from scratch, shiny downtown cafe that is open from 10:00 – 6:00 Monday through Friday to start.
Sfoglina Downtown announced its reopening for dinner on September 16. A number of places seem to be holding out for a post-Labor Day opening, re-opening, or end of summer pause: Succotash (rebranded as a southern steakhouse – ugh), Queen’s English, Central. Masseria just re-opened after a summer break. New spot Maiz 64 is also holding back until September 1.
Many more restaurants are getting more strict on vaccines for customers.
I don’t want to go off on a rant here, but…Dave McIntyre, the Washington Post’s wine columnist writes about the Biden Administration’s request for comment on opening up the three-tier distribution system in alcohol. Apologies for the short rabbit hole that follows. The three-tier system is a distortion of the market created in the wake of prohibition’s repeal and sustained by effective lobbying. In essence it requires that alchohol produced by wineries and breweries must be distributed by wholesalers before it lands in your local store or restaurant. The internet briefly raised hopes of cutting out the middle-man for small producers, but fear-mongering by wholesalers with the help of then-Rep. Joe Scarborough (in his rabid days before being tamed for MSNBC – as Dennis Miller went the other way) among others at the national level and many wholesale lackeys at the state level squelched what could have been a lucrative channel for small producers. In some states, wholesalers even made things worse by passing laws to actually prohibit producers from dropping a distributor. In states like Maryland, it is even crazier. Ultimately, the Supreme Court and reality has opened the market in a slow, unsystematic way. The biggest problem is consolidation at the wholesale level means that smaller producers have fewer channels to market than even a few years ago. McIntyre notes that “In 2010, the top 10 wholesalers accounted for 58 percent of U.S. wine sales. A decade later, that portion was 80 percent, with the top three distributors accounting for a whopping 63 percent of all wine sales in the country.” (emphasis added for the benefit of the FTC). This is why so many wine lists and wine stores from coast to coast seem to have the same selection. Locally you can see the system at work with Maryland being the most restrictive, Virginia only slightly less and D.C. (as one person said) like the wild west in comparison. We’ve watched the selection at one of my favorite wine stores get less interesting over the last decade. A better system is possible and we hold out hope for it.
In good news, local pizza chain Andy’s won an international competition in Las Vegas.
That’s it for the week. Be sure to obsessively check our site for new posts so you don’t miss a thing. Or you can just follow us on social media!! We are on FB, Insta, and Twitter. Click on the icons at the top or bottom of this page.
If you are looking for a place to eat be sure to check out our dining guide that has 300 plus recommended restaurants. You can sort by cuisine, neighborhood, and current operating status (dine-in and/or take-out, etc.) in either LIST or MAP format.
Stay cool, stay safe. Get the jab, bring proof and a mask. Tip big and don’t be a jerk to the staff.