A Little Love for DC Dining in the New York Times

View from Crane & Turtle across the scrappy/resilient Upshur Street toward Petworth Citizen

Thanks to all who sent emails about yesterday’s New York Times piece Washington Has More on Its Plate – Restaurants in D.C. Are Moving Into Residential Neighborhoods. Never mind that they call Upshur Street a “scrubby little block” – personally I’d say scrappy is a better adjective – but props to some love for Crane & Turtle, Petworth Citizen, Compass Rose, Red Hen, and others.

37 Comment

  • Please NYT, enlighten us as to what a “groovester” is.

  • I was more than a bit perplexed about the reference to Cashion’s Eat Place being in “once dicey Adams Morgan.” I have visited Adams Morgan on a fairly regular basis since I began living in DC in 1980. The “dicey” quality — of lack thereof — of the 1800 block of Columbia Road has not, in my observation, changed appreciably in the last 20-25 years.

  • This seems like a pay to play article. No mention of Domku in Petworth when they were the first to take the plunge and have done pretty well staying open for almost10 years now.

    • Well, anything before 2 years ago constitutes the “dark ages,” so…

      To be fair, DC was bad for a long time. But even 5 years ago there were already good creative spots in Columbia Heights, Shaw, and other places that were arguably “marginal”

    • You think that its “pay for play” because they didnt talk about Domku? So basically because they didnt give props to the place next door to you, then something must be amiss.

      Why WOULD they feature domku? Aside from actually being present, what else has it done? I’ve heard very little to make me think that its a consensus choice for any sort of accolade. I dont think many people, outside of the petworth contingent just happy to have it, are all that enamored with it. I think most people in Petworth appreciate for what it is and not expecting it to be written up in condescending pieces from the NYT.

      • I like Domku.

      • I think at least referencing a restaurant that has been on that “scrubby block” for years before Citizen and Crane & Turtle is germane to a story about new restaurants in changing neighborhoods in DC. And the ‘pay to play” reference was a bit too much I admit, but the two restaurants referenced on that scrubby block are owned by the same people. Also, for what its worth, I did say “no reference” not feature. I guess I’d say, lazy reporting, and an astonishingly narrow perspective.

      • I’d pretty much take word for word what you’ve said about Domku and apply it to Petworth Citizen. Yeah it’s fine for a neighborhood bar. But the food is mediocre. I certainly wouldn’t highlight it in a survey of hot new neighborhood restaurants.

        I go there because it’s close to home, the drinks are pretty good and that’s about it!

    • The article sucks and is full of ignorance and false premises. But it is about new restaurants, which Domku is not. Also, the service at Domku has always been comically slow and has sometimes been weirdly hostile. Many Petworth residents avoid it for that reason, which is why many thought of the Citizen as the first restaurant on the block when it opened (putting aside short-lived “joints” like fish-sandwich places or the recent attempt at a breakfast place).

  • Renovated row houses in Petworth start at 700k now…but I guess thats “working class” by NYT standards…

    • Because a neighborhood is defined only by those currently moving in to newly remodeled houses and not the population that has been there for years??

      • brookland_rez

        Exactly. 700k is the price of entry and reflects the market desirability of the neighborhood . But that doesn’t mean everyone there could repurchase their house at 700k. Far from it. And this is the same for all of DC, include west of RC Park. There are plenty of middle income professionals living in multi-million houses. I know and work with a lot of them. It wasn’t that long ago that west of RCP was middle income. I know people that bought town houses in Glover Park for around $250k in the late 90’s.

  • all the comments about how hard it is to find skilled staff reminded me of this Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-leadership/wp/2014/09/05/what-employers-really-want-workers-they-dont-have-to-train/ though that is admittedly about jobs for college grads, I think the point stands in the restaurant industry too.

    There are a lot of people in DC who would be glad to work–think back to the posts on Popville about how many people were lined up outside the Petworth Safeway when they were hiring. Restaurants could call DOES and get as many eager people as they needed almost instantly. Sure, some wouldn’t work out. But a lot would, and all they need is some training.

    • I think you are missing the point here. The article is not saying it is difficult to find workers to staff restaurants. It is saying that it is difficult to find professional staff that is knowledgeable about food and wine and serving in general, i.e., people who have been in the industry for years and have knowledge that can’t be learned overnight. Go to a fine dining restaurant in NYC and you will know what they are talking about. I couldn’t agree more with the article, as servers in this town (as a generalization) are terrible at giving informed opinions about menu items and (especially) wines. Obviously, there are some good ones out there, but I would say it is the minority.

      • justinbc

        Part of that fault lies on the restaurant as well. Along the lines of uninformed servers, I’ve often asked them “have you tried this”, and a large majority say no. Restaurants should be tasting their staff on every single menu item, there’s really no excuse not to.

        • +1 I’m always pleased when the staff have clearly drunk all the wine on the menu enough to be familiar with it, and know enough to suggest wines based on my stated tastes and what I’m ordering.

        • The other part lies in the fact that servers rarely earn a living wage, have health insurance, etc. It takes a long time to become an expert at something (10,000 hours, I’ve heard) and most people just don’t have five years of full time restaurant work in them.

      • Not trying to be snarky but I never understood this exercise of quizzing the waitstaff about every item on the menu or the winelist. Just seems to be an affectation of hard-to-please diners and foodies. Every one has different tastes, likes and dislikes. Just do your homework or go with your gut and try something.

  • diploj

    Folks seem to like to pick apart articles like this (and the Lonely Planet story that came out yesterday). Personally, I think this is positive attention for the District. So what if the author doesn’t list my favorite local haunt.

  • I see some people in Petworth complaining that they described Upshur Street as “scruffy”. I get why they are slightly offended, but that’s the reality. And I live there. It’s gotten better, but still needs work. Sorry, just the truth. I’m by thankful for the restauranteurs like Ruppert who have invested in this awesome little corridor. I hope more on the way! Getting a little ink in the NYT is sure to put it more on the map as a great plaxe to open businesses!

  • Not so much an agenda as the determination to stick to a storyline, regardless of how tedious or dated. I wonder how she’d write about Brooklyn.

    “scrubby block in a working-class neighborhood east of Rock Creek Park…”
    “once-dicey Adams Morgan”
    “the high crime rates and extensive municipal scandals of the ’80s” [30 years ago!]
    “lower housing costs in areas once dominated by crime”
    “emerging neighborhood of Bloomingdale just blocks from a public-housing project”
    “once highly shady Logan Circle”

    And this — speaking of decades — is conventional wisdom a good decade out of date: “For decades, Washington’s dining scene has been made up mostly of two kinds of restaurants. There are the expense-account steakhouses and hushed white-tablecloth hotel eateries catering to the political class with money to spend. At the other end are the cheap ethnic restaurants dotting the city and its outlying suburbs.” See also “Washington, a transient town….”

  • The ny times runs a version of this story about once a year. A small number of their writers, outside of their politics beats, have left the inner boroughs since the 80s. Also they have a penchant for plagiarism… So recycling tired expressions is their m.o. They don’t know what the hell is going on.

    Then they wonder why their newsroom staff gets cut and fewer and fewer people give two shits about what is printed in the country’s newspapers.

  • Screw New York. We don’t need their approval, opinions, or reviews.

  • At risk of being drawn and quartered, I’ll say that I actually thought this article pointed to some real changes taking place in DC’s restaurant world, and that these changes probably do merit a “trend” piece. Granted, this article is from the NYT dining section, and even its coverage of New York restaurants is a bit hackneyed. Most trend pieces are. But can you honestly say that most neighborhoods in the district don’t have considerably more, and substantially better options than we did 5 years ago? I also think they picked some pretty great examples to illustrate it.

  • brookland_rez

    I generally agree with this article. The neighborhood descriptions for Adams Morgan and Logan are laughable though. I’m not sure why it’s necessary to mention the state of the neighborhood 20+ years ago. I don’t see how that’s relevant to today.
    A lot of neighborhoods didn’t have decent restaurants until the past few years. Brookland didn’t really have a whole lot until this year, except for Menomale.

    • I’m with you on this. NYTimes isn’t aiming this article for those who have a decent idea of life in DC, but rather at the populace at large. Their one-liners are intended to provide some quick history about the neighborhoods mentioned to give readers an idea of what it was like before. Sure, these one-liners aren’t really all that accurate today, but they do give some really basic context for someone who never even heard of Adams Morgan, much less Bloomingdale or Petworth. You’d be surprised how many long time DC-metro folks couldn’t place either one on a map.

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