Apparently I Wasn’t The Only One Confused By Rumberos’ Closing

IMG_1963, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

It was a bit confusing last week trying to figure out whether Rumberos had closed or not. The fact that the windows were abruptly papered over yet, no “closed” sign was in the window confused a few folks. I noticed these two signs on the door Sunday morning.

16 Comment

  • This is just indicative of the reason they closed: they had no idea how to run a restaurant business. Inconsistent (at times just bad) food, uninterested service, zero marketing / communication with potential customers, not a recipe for success despite a good concept and gorgeous space. Unfortunately, hardly a unique situation in DC, and I wish I could understand why NYC, Chicago, SF, Seattle, Philly, Boston (heck, arguably even Baltimore) are all SO much better in terms of the urban restaurant culture. And that despite the fact that DC is MUCH improved over where it was five years ago. Crazy. I just hope that places like Rumberos and Nori closing are a sign that folks are starting, slowly, to have enough options that they won’t tolerate a place that scrimps in terms of quality, simply by virtue of the convenience factor. I’d rather have places improve rather than close, but Rumberos never seemed interested in changing its formula, alas.

  • Good observations NEW2CH! It also seems a little counter-intutive: If the barrier to opening up a restaurant is so high due to expensive rents, I’d assume people having a lot at risk would have better run operations. Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad we have A LOT more options than before, and I’m glad people who aren’t 100% pros are trying, but it would be cool if they really worried about the mechanics of the restaurant and not just the color scheme.

  • BALTIMORE is better in terms of urban restaurant culture? what restaurants specifically are you talking about?

  • Wheeling, W.V. has a better “restaurant culture” if such things are defined by the median being good food, value, and service. D.C. is the only major U.S. city where shitty service and terrible food is not a bar to having a successful restaurant. D.C. is the only major city in the U.S. where Ruby Tuesdays is more consistent quality option. Don;t forget that Rumberos was in business for at least 3 years and they sucked that entire time. Their food sucked, their service sucked, and they charged ridiculous prices for that sucky food. I doubt I’d keep my job for 3 years if I sucked that bad. D.C. restaurants benefit greatly from having a population of young people with too much money to spend who grew up eating Hot Pockets and ramen.

  • Granted I know much less about Baltimore than I do about NYC, Chicago, and Boston, all of which I’ve lived in or near (I know less about Philly as well, but I’ve heard from MANY people I trust that Philly has a great restaurant scene — and more affordable than DC’s on the average). I’ve also heard from a few people that, for its size in particular, Baltimore has a lot of good restaurants. Supposedly some good Italian, I ate at Peter’s Inn in Fells Point a few times and I’d kill for a place with that combo of quality food / portions / price in DC, also obviously know for crab shacks, etc. Again, I know less about Baltimore, so I am happy to leave that off the list … but I too am amazed at how many low caliber restaurants that are not cheap manage to survive for years in DC. Tapas for some reason are particularly abominable — Jaleo and Tosca are both garbage (and Jaleo is pricey garbage, at that), neither would last a week in a city with decent Tapas options … how many restaurants can any of us name in DC where you can consistently get a great meal for under 30 bucks? Whatever the number, it should be a LOT higher given the amount of disposable income in this town.

  • There are several places to eat in Baltimore that are not at the inner harbor. The Helmand in Baltimore is my favorite place to eat, I think they also own B which is great. Near the Helmand are other popular restaurants like The Brass Elephant and some lower end places like the Mount Royal Tavern. It has been awhile, but I use to live near The Chameleon Cafe and loved it, but it is not worth a trip from DC just to eat there. For a great taste of the Baltimore culture, try brunch at Café Hon. But get there early and then peruse the shops after.

    And also, for all the people that think Wonderland bar is awesome, I’ll have you know that Baltimore is overflowing with cool, laid back, easy going, cheap bars that are far more authentic.

    The thing about Baltimore, it is not an easy city to be successful in. Particularly if you are trying to sell something. It takes work, dedication and a solid product. Hence it being singled out by New2CH’s post about how mediocrity seems to be survive longer in DC while not in, say, Baltimore.

  • Well put, Tootay Frootay. Unfortunately, this city is filled with people who are okay with horrible service and overpriced, bad food.

  • lol at this thread and particularly the baltimore comparisons. You’re going to hold up HELMAND as the best example of baltimore’s advantage over DC’s food culture?!? seriously roflmao.

    baltimore has us beat on dive bars and matthews pizza by patterson park. otherwise there is absolutely no comparison.

  • ^^Apparent example of people who are okay with horrible service and overpriced, bad food.

  • Eric in Ledroit makes a good point. Helmand doesn’t serve mac and cheese for $17, draft Stella for $9 or provide a hat rack for ironic trucker caps. Clearly it’s no good.

    What we need are more places with personal scotch lockers.

  • I am constantly, although I shouldn’t be, surprised by people in DC that look down at Baltimore, yet at the same time are trying to justify DC being as good as New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, etc.

    When I tell people outside DC where I live, they get a look on their face like I just farted. That look is no diffrent from when I was telling people I was living in Baltimore.

  • And I’m sure there are better places to eat in Baltimore, but I was there in college and didn’t have the chance to eat out much.

  • Rumberos had a great vibe, great drinks, great people and mediocre food. It failed. The Heights, by comparison has an average vibe, decent drinks, constant turn over of people and medicore to bad food. It succeeds.

    Why? Because they have the backing of a flush ownership group and a customer base of people who don’t mind overpriced bad food when the place reminds them of where they grew up or went to college.

    DC won’t have a decent eating culture unless rents come way down so individuals can open places, and not unless the people in the city that eat out have better taste and care more about their taste buds than feeling comfortable.

    Good luck.

  • While I have been disappointed plenty of times in DC when I didn’t get to choose the venue, there are enough good restaurants here that people need to STFU and just patronize the good ones and ignore the bad ones. Yeah, we have shitty restaurants that fail, equally shitty restaurants that succeed without explanation (Rosemary’s There Has to Be Some Thyme In Here Somewhere Among All This Grease, Cheap Cheese, and White Flour I Ordered Over An Hour Ago, Sequoia – Where the Wood is in the Service, Brickskellar’s House of Mismanaged Beer Inventory and Soggy Fries), but we have amazing restaurants at pretty much every price point (Falafel and Fries, the shrimp and chowder places at the fish market, Dino, and Beck just to name a few).

    DC’s restaurant scene is just fine, thank you, we don’t have the sheer numbers of wealthy urbanites to prop up a scene like NYC and the way that immigrant groups have settled has put some of the better ethnic stuff exclusively in the suburbs, but we have some natural advantages as well. This isn’t a super-trendy town, which means that we’ve only been sporadically penetrated by some of the dumber food fads of the last decade — yeah, we’ve got some faux-local/seasonal bullshit like Equinox and Nora, and a few lucky souls a night get to plunk down big cash to watch stupid food tricks at Minibar, but we have some solid restaurants and we have a reasonable number of new contenders opening (and closing) every year. Trying out a new place and occasionally being disappointed is part of the fun of being a food lover — if you’re getting let down too often then maybe you owe yourself some more time reading reviews and menus.

    Re: the people who want to complain about rents, look at the restrictions on frontage, liquor licenses, and the insanity of the voluntary agreement system before you blame the rents. Yeah, rents are too high in this town, but you know what the rent is when you open a venture, you’re either going to make enough money to pay the rent or you’re not.

  • “but you know what the rent is when you open a venture, you’re either going to make enough money to pay the rent or you’re not.”

    Yep, but lots of folks don’t get to the opening the venture part because of the rents. You’re left with the bigger ownership groups and the result is a lack of really good ethnic eateries, really good mom and pop eateries. NYC has a bunch not because of all the rich urbanites or concentration of immigrants, but because of rent control. You’ll notice that as the rent control in Manhattan is being phased out and the old properties are losing their protection, the NYC eating scene will start to look more like everywhere else with over-priced rents.

  • VOR-

    I was more talking about people saying that restaurant ABC failed because the rent was too high. Yeah, lower rent buys you more margin of error and maybe more time to correct your course and fix your operation, but if you plan to do X covers a week averaging $Y per to make rent and expenses $Z and you don’t hit those numbers the blame is on your business practices (and luck), not on the rent/landlord. I would agree that high rents mean you need more capital to open and that does affect the portfolio of what opens. On the flip side, it has given us a few pretty awesome food trucks and carts as people say funkdat to having rent at all.

    Re: rent control influencing the NYC scene, it would be a good argument if there were anything to it, but NYC doesn’t have commercial/retail rent control, only residential. I guess there’s a back door argument that residential rent control made it possible for the type of people that would open or work at small ventures to live in the city, but having seen the guts of the NYC restaurant scene I’d say that for every chef living in a rent controlled apartment there are about 50 Mexicans, Salvadorans, Chinese, and Koreans of questionable immigration status who work in kitchens crowding 3 or 4 to a bedroom in slumlord apartments. Not sure what rent control is doing there but it ain’t a simple cause and effect relationship.

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