From the Forum – What’s the deal with Dupont?


What’s the deal with Dupont?:

“I can’t for the life of me figure out why the restaurants are closing north of Dupont Circle. It’s become a food desert for us office workers stuck here Monday-Friday. Sure, Smashburger,Potbelly, and eventually Fuel weren’t gourmet, but they got the job done. I never thought I would say this, but I actually miss Cosi.

The few options north of Q Street that are 1.) fast 2.) casual and 3.) less than $15 are Glen’s (which is great, but the service is not that streamlined and that makes a huge difference when you only have 30 minutes to find lunch and eat it) and the Soho Market that just opened up by the Hilton, which also has a huge problem with lines and efficiency during prime lunch time.

I get that the area has rats – I’ve worked here long enough to know not to look too hard in corners or down alleys. But the rat problem has been here for the last 10 years. What changed? I usually bring my lunch now (which is cheaper and healthier, sure), but on the days where I forget or don’t have time to make one, I’m stuck with whatever is left at Soho or Rite Aid. I would do terrible, unspeakable things to get a Pret to open up around here. Is there hope for new proprietors, or should I start lobbying my higher-ups to move elsewhere?”

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64 Comment

  • I say if you can successfully lobby your management to move to a new building on account of lack of lunch options, you are in good shape. K Street has plenty of spots you’ll soon be accustomed to.

  • I think there’s just not sufficient daytime foot traffic. Not a ton of offices up there, really.

    • Yep. I work south of DuPont Circle, on Conn. Ave., and there are many options. Of course, there is a lot more day-time foot traffic down there. Not many offices north of the circle, some residential (in which you compete with 17th and 14th Streets at night) and I guess tourists coming out of the hotels North of Florida Ave. Other than that, not much going on…

  • Why draw the line at Q when there are 3 more places in the half block of Conn. between there are the circle?

  • Really? Because you still have Sweetgreen, Chipotle, Subway, Shophouse, Smoothie King, Teaism, Bethesda Bagels, Flippin’ Pizza, and Zorba’s on that stretch of Connecticut. You may have lost a few places, but there is still a lot out there.

    • another +1
      Also, City Lights does take out, as does Banana Leaves.
      There may be a few fewer options than before, but things are not dire by any means. The places that closed weren’t great places anyway.

  • Are there any food trucks within a walkable distance? They save the day here in NoMa.

    • justinbc

      Yes they could just walk down Connecticut to all of the trucks at Farragut Square, but I’m guessing if Q Street is their arbitrary stopping point then there’s no way they would go that “far”.

      • That would be really far for a person with only a half hour lunch break

      • Do you typically walk 20 minutes (1 mile) to lunch? That’s the distance from north Dupont to the food trucks at Farragut Square. Not particularly convenient/feasible for a 30 minute lunch.

        I totally sympathize with the OP – yes, there’s Bethesda Bagels, and Chipotle is about 10 minutes away, but you can’t disregard that a lot of lunch spot closures have happened in north Dupont in the past 6 months.

        • justinbc

          Whenever I go out for lunch I typically walk wherever it is I want to go. I don’t really have restrictions on that kind of thing.

          • So why are you using snark-quotes with regards to other people’s restrictions??

          • justinbc

            I’m not being snarky about anything, I’m just answering questions as posed to provide possible solutions for this individual.

          • sure, justin. you are totally being “helpful”. i bet that’s your primary purpose in life. you just sit here all day, reading popville threads and making super-“helpful” comments to solve other people’s problems- because you’re a swell guy! it’s too bad that “helping” on popville takes up so much of your time (you do seem to be in every article’s comment threads after all). you could be “helping” so many other strangers in person!

      • Not so arbitrary. I have a disability so it takes me a bit longer than most to get around. I would love some food trucks up here (2000 block conn) but I almost never see any!

      • Tsar of Truxton

        I agree with the poster above that there are some options not listed, but I don’t think that it is unreasonable for someone working north of the circle to think Farragut is too “far” for lunch. The round trip walking is probably between 30 and 40 minutes depending on how fast you walk (and in the summer, you would be a sweaty mess), which means 20-30 minutes to get food and eat it. That is pretty rushed. I don’t know what the lines are like during lunch for food trucks in Farragut, but some popular trucks in L’Enfant have a 20+ minute wait to get to the front of the line. Most fast food places take 10-15 minutes in popular lunch locations, so even those would not be an option if you need to walk a ways to get to them.

      • If you only have a 30 minute lunch break then that leaves you maybe between zero and 5 minutes to actually eat your food. Unless you eat on the walk back.

        • Don’t people usually just bring it back to their desks? If I had to get food and eat it in 30 minutes I’d never have the time to buy lunch out.

          • I’m sure some do but not everybody works at a desk and not everybody can eat at their desk. Whatever the case it’s still a lot of time to spend just acquiring food.

      • It would take about 45 minutes to walk from north of Q to Farragut Square, stand in line, get food, and walk back.
        And 45 minutes is too long to spend just acquiring lunch.

        • SouthwestDC

          Maybe I work in the boonies, but I’ve never worked at a place where I didn’t have to walk 15-20 minutes each way to get a sandwich or whatever. I just work an extra hour on the days I have to go get lunch. I also feel that that 45 minutes is too long to spend just acquiring lunch, though, so it’s not something I’ll normally waste my time doing.

    • There are occasionally some near the circle, but they do not seem to be there very frequently or have much variety. Most of the ones in the area are in Farragut Square.

  • justinbc

    Firehook, Subway, Chipotle, Bethesda Bagels, Flippin Pizza, McDonalds, Prego, Sacrificial Lamb…all north of Q Street, casual, and cheap.

  • Can the OP explain what they mean by Glen’s not being streamlined? There is a sandwich line, salad line, and line for drinks/grilled cheese at the cafe. Check out is at the registers. How can it be more streamlined?

  • SouthwestDC

    This happened near my old office, except the options that closed– a Quiznos and a greasy carryout– weren’t even that great to begin with. But it was better than nothing. Even the CVS was a 25-minute walk away. At least you have the Rite Aid! And you work in an area where it’s pleasant to walk around.

  • The rumor seems to be a rat/roach infestation on the block.

    • On what block? There is no block referred to that doesn’t have food service establishments on it now.

      • I’ve heard the problem was particularly bad in the former Cosi and Potbelly locations. Just a rumor, so who knows. Frankly, this is probably an issue for most businesses in the city.

        • The former Cosi and Potbelly locations are on the same block as Chipotle, Smoothie King, Subway, Circa, Capital Teas, Gazuza and Larry’s Ice Cream. I’m fascinated by the rumor that rats and roaches can target two businesses and not similarly affect the other food service establishments on the block and all the other businesses around them. 😉

  • I think the rent may be too high. Cosis leases have been expiring all over DC, which has led to their closings (back in 2010, a franchisee purchased all of Cosi’s DC restaurants from the Cosi corporation, so the franchisee can do what it wants with them). It would be great to get a fast casual Mediterranean place such as Freshii or Roti but I suspect the space will sit empty for a while.

  • Go to Dupont Market!! At 18th and Swann, 2 blocks from Cosi and phenomenal. Same goes for that strip on 18th from S to U, about 5 lunch spots that are 2 blocks off Connecticut.

  • The geographic distribution of restaurants has changed over time. The stretch of Conn Ave between the Mayflower and the Curvle used to have nothing. P Street W of Conn had gay bars but few places to eat. The space by PNC had nothing. Individual places are part of this too-theCosi wasn’t great not was the 5 Guys, rats aside. Basically, you may be inconvenienced now, but the area cntunues to have many choices. They’ve just move around in terms of the critical mass.

  • Yeah, totally not a fast-casual food desert at that price point, north of Q.

  • At one point, Dupont was pretty much DC’s de facto downtown (along with Georgetown). Now with the rise of Gallery Place, 14th Street, and to a lesser extent Shaw and H Street, there are just a lot more options for people to go hang out.

  • Egad

    Teaism is a great lunch spot in that area.

    • +1. Even with various places closing in Dupont, there are still a lot of food options — certainly more than where I work.

  • Aglets

    What is this “lunch break” of which you speak? I haven’t had one in over 5 years….
    Also, the only places for me to grab lunch were limited to a Family Dollar and a cold sub place. Finally a small market opened up and they’re good.

    But seriously….i’ll trade you. in a heart beat.

  • I can confidently say that the issue for North of Dupont Circle is as the old lease’s are expiring the Landlords are (arguably/justifiably) asking for at or above market rents. We looked at a few spots including the Black Fox (now soon to be Salty Dog ) and couldn’t justify the rent vs. projected sales.

  • Parking. I draw parallels between Dupont and Barracks Row/Eastern Market. Can always find a space in the latter, Dupont – hardly ever and gave up trying. To turn a phrase: “Dupont is a great place to live, but I wouldn’t want to visit there.”

    • Or, put another, more accurate way, Dupont is a great place to live, work, play, and shop, just don’t bring your car with you and expect to find a parking space on the public street.

      This is a walking and transit-friendly city. If you want to drive to your destination, there’s an 99% of a nation out there built just for you.

      Business is Dupont never thrived because of ample parking, they did because of ample transit and pleasant walking.

      • +1.
        Street parking in Dupont at night (at least in southern Dupont/Midtown) is actually MUCH less competitive on weekend nights than it used to be, as a result of there being entertainment-destination neighborhoods now.
        These days when I go to Eighteenth Street Lounge on a Friday or Saturday, I usually drive and can find street parking nearby, which would’ve been unthinkable in the late 1990s or early 2000s.

  • Slap a “Vacant Property” sign on it and raise the taxes.

  • Commercial rents across the city are too high, but are especially egregious in neighborhoods like DuPont. Food margins are low, so I would expect to see more closures among food businesses that do not make up the margin on alcohol — like lunch spots.

  • Part of the issue is the aging population of the neighborhood. Dupont used to be THE place to go out for food and drinks of any sort. And over the years, the rent has gone up, preventing younger people from moving in the way they used to, and the neighborhood has aged with its residents. The older you get, the less you go out, and when you do go out to eat, you have more disposable income, so you’re going to want something more than 5 Guys or Cosi. As a result, the concentration of fast casual restaurants that aren’t near office buildings have shifted further and further east as those neighborhoods become younger demographically.

    • When was Dupont “the place”? I lived in DC in the 90s and the place for younger people was Adams Morgan. There were good sized chunks of the area like the stretch below the Circle that had very little going on. The P Street strip was very gay. What Dupont has lost is retail–restaurants have supplanted some of the old retail spaces, which is typical when rents rise. It’s also lost its centrality as “gay central”. The P Street bars have slowly closed and the center of gravity has moved eastward and become more dispersed. The 17th street strip is perhaps the one that has an aging clientele and places like Annie’s and DIK could only stay in business based on nostalgia, but it still attracts new places like Komi.

      • When do you think all these older people moved into Dupont and 17th Street? When they were younger. The reason why 17th is dying is because no young gay people really live near it anymore. Rent has skyrocketed in the area even just in the last five years. Five years ago you could still easily find a studio apartment for under $1200. These days you’re hard pressed to find a studio in the area for less than $1600. The demographics of the neighborhood have changed significantly. The only people who can afford to live here these days are either the extremely lucky, or older people who have more disposable income, who again aren’t going to be eating a whole lot at places like Cosi and 5 Guys when they do go out.

        And Komi is an exception. Good for you for finding the one exception. Pat yourself on the back, since that one exception disproves everything else apparently.

  • Take your lunch. Save money and eat clean and healthy. When the weather is good sit at the circle and enjoy.

  • Bring back Cafe Rabelais! On second thought, let’s not.

  • There’s really nothing unusual happening. I’ve lived in Dupont for fifteen years and this is just the cycle of things. Retail and restaurants come and go. Sometimes there happen to be a handful of empty storefronts at one time, but they fill in. Some of these places can be fads and just don’t stick. Rents are high and that makes things more difficult, but there are still have lots of great options and things seem to be on a health conscious trend. BTW – don’t forget Triple B Fresh, behind Starbucks on the circle! Fast Korean Bibimbap bowls, lots of fresh vegetables and delicious. I could eat there everyday, I almost do.

  • Umm if you think that that’s the definition of a “food desert” then I’m quite worried what you think of inequality in this country…

    • Yeah, it’s pretty absurd for an office worker to complain about the “food desert” in Dupont freakin’ Circle (“But, but, there are no fast casual options in a 5 minute walk from my office! It’s an outrage!”) when there are swaths of the city that are actual food deserts.

  • Great sandwhiches at Dukes on 17th

  • Le Mirch (next to Bistro du Coin) has an excellent $10 buffet. You can fill a to-go container, pay, and be on your way in 4 minutes. La Tomate’s new sandwich shop is very nice and it’s quick.

    The commercial rents on Connecticut are rising. The turn-over in establishments is largely because of that. Restaurant that aren’t doing that well aren’t renewing or are flipping their leases to new operators.

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