Image: Peter Keetman, Aprilwetter (1954).
This week we checked in on a landmark in D.C. In local news, some more heartbreaking closures. In national news, it is macroeconomic developments that raised eyebrows with sectoral shifts out of hospitality even as the jobs market booms. But there is much more than that dear gentle reader, so shall we proceed?
Updates to the D.C. Recommended Restaurant List
Comings and Goings:
Also worth noting that Chifa/Mochica, the fast casual Peruvian spot from the Nazca Mochica folks downtown, did not make it. Did Pogiboy close without fanfare? Yelp reports that is the case. Maybe we missed the news. With Rose Ave getting new digs, perhaps the food hall is closing and Pogiboy will resurface. Meanwhile, we wait for Hiraya’s arrival, and Tom Cunanan is doing a project in Houston.
D.C. Dining News
Food and Culture: We forgot to include this one in last week’s update, the story behind Makan as another element to a larger discussion about food, identity, and culture. “We are very proud to tell Malaysians the stories of an American who fell in love with Malaysia and opened a restaurant in D.C.” said Raja Intan Nor Zareen, counselor at the Embassy of Malaysia in D.C. We would flag that Makan is doing a special take-out option.
Barred in DC flagged what we also missed, that Erik Bruner-Yang called out someone posting on social media that Maketto is not authentic. Friends & Family makes the plea that many have been making, “Can we retire the word “authentic” from the general food & restaurant discourse?” This is not the first time Bruner-Yang challenged such ideas. Of course it was Laura Hayes that covered it.
This piece looks at the changes in Chinatown over the years. For most the transformation of Chinatown into Penn Quarter was viewed as a positive for D.C. For some long-time Chinatown residents and businesses it was more like a curse. It includes parts of the story not well-known: “The Gallery Place mall, which connects to the stadium, was supposed to be extended from 6th St to 7th Street so that the Chinese businesses at the time could be located in the mall. Chinatown businesses invested, but the developers ran out of money and filed for bankruptcy. The mall was never fully completed, and many of the Chinese businesses couldn’t survive. In 2014, the remaining developers involved in the project sold their stakes, without being held to account for their promises. The mall has also declined since the pandemic and is now underutilized. It housed a bowling alley that shut down during the pandemic, and the Regal Theater in the mall just closed earlier this year.”
Whiniest Winner: This week in Tom’s chat someone asks how hard is it to make tea? Friends & Family responds that to make it well actually takes a lot.
Farmers Markets: Offset egg problem.
Around the Blogs: Rick Eats DC goes back to Hanumanh, “It’s terrific.” Mostly though it is about his love of Chef Seng’s crispy rice salad.
Future of Wine Drinking: Jason Wilson weighs in on the aging of wine drinkers with a different perspective. He argues that the drop off in wine drinking is in the bulk, crappy wine category and that is no loss. The industry he argues suffers from the false idea, “that younger drinkers with less developed palates will begin drinking these bad wines and then evolve, as they get older, to consuming more sophisticated, higher-end beverages. This is a ‘truthy’ but ultimately bogus concept. There is no conclusive marketing study that backs up any of this. The same percentage of people would be just as likely to move to high-end Burgundy from kombucha or juice boxes or frappuccinos. If wine has an ‘old people problem’ it’s simply because old people still buy the industry’s starter wines.”
The Emerging Economy: The Post Business Section does a story on the trends of the last year showing a tight labor market and a shift from the hospitality sector. A case could be made that at the macro level, the best thing that happened to restaurant workers was getting laid off in 2020. “William Spriggs, a labor economist who was originally critical of the mass layoffs in the United States, now says the shake-up may have ultimately encouraged service workers to look beyond low-wage jobs. “This has been a good evolution — it has raised wages and changed the structure of the labor market in a deep, profound way,’ said Spriggs, chief economist for the AFL-CIO. ‘Workers who were trapped in low-wage jobs were able to escape by switching to higher-paying industries.’” Of course, Laura Hayes covered the trend in real time.
Meanwhile, the monthly jobs numbers came in very hot in January. Leisure and hospitality lead the way, adding 128,000 jobs. Probably not unrelated to the above story, wages also increased. At the end of the year, we will be curious to see if Initiative 82 or larger labor market forces had a bigger impact on wages.
Industry: The National Restaurant Association is now under the microscope. The latest piece looks at efforts to suppress union organizing. “[A]mong the people tasked with identifying and stamping out worker upheaval and union activity, there was a strong sense over the course of the conference that a shift was underway. The American labor movement is undoubtedly continuing a decades-long trend of decline, but you wouldn’t have known it listening to corporate lawyers at the Restaurant Legal Summit attempt to convince management that they are still in control.” They may not be; see above.
Eater NY on how Resy ate Opentable’s lunch. The pandemic helped: Restaurant owner Rachel “Bailin says the role of reservation platforms changed during the pandemic. When businesses were operating at limited indoor capacity, restaurants and even some bars started listing their entire dining rooms online as a way to save money. Margins were razor-thin, and knowing exactly how many customers to expect on a given night helped owners place food orders and staff their dining rooms accordingly, she says.”
On the other hand, Chili’s has seen a drop off from lower-income customers, so they are thinking some TV ads and loyalty programs will fix that. The parent company “Brinker’s same-store sales in the second quarter were up 9.7% systemwide with increases of 8% at Chili’s and 21.2% at Maggiano’s Little Italy.” The bigs had a plan to gain market share during Covid, and it worked. (Just in case a writer or editor is looking for a story).
Private restaurants are a thing. The curse of the one percent is that they become captives to their silliness. “It’s like a cross between the Titanic and The Sopranos.”
In The Food Section!: The Post did a story about the health risks of ultra-processed foods (“Almost 60 percent of the calories that adults in the United States eat are from ultra-processed foods, which often have a poor nutritional value.”) It was originally in the Well+Being section, but they cross-posted it to the Food Section! The few close readers of this weekly update know that we have hounded the Post for failing to include food stories in the Food Section. Do not give up hope. Change is possible.
Also in the Food Section, a Chinese woman cooked a great white shark. Then the police levied a fine.
Not in the Food Section: “Last year, New Zealand — which has pledged to reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 — proposed a first-in-the-world tax on cow emissions.“
Odds and Ends: The regime in Albania wanted to destroy tons of documents at the end of the Cold War. They turned to pastry technology: “Documents that would be annihilated were put in piles in the pastry maker, and with the addition of water, they were turned into dough.”
A new restaurant owner wanted a cute name for her small town cafe. She chose Woke Breakfast & Coffee. It worked out in the end.
That was a pretty good update, right? But that is not all we do! Our site has 300+ recommended restaurants in our dining guide for the District. You can sort by cuisine or neighborhood in either LIST or MAP format.