DataLensDC Volume III: What’s Guy Fieri’s Problem with DC?

DataLensDC was started in the summer of 2015 by Kate Rabinowitz, lover of all things data and District. She lives in a cozy Capitol Hill carriage house where she enjoys data mining, board games and wandering the city. Kate created to DataLensDC to present data-driven views of the character, trends and hacks of the ever-changing District.


Guilty pleasure confession: One of my favorite shows is Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. If you’re uninitiated it’s a show where 90’s emoji Guy Fieri visits restaurants around the country. I can’t be sure what it is exactly – how Fieri bleaches only the inner bit of his goatee or unironically uses phrases like “that’s killer!” and “off the hook!” – but if I’m in a hotel room there’s an 85% chance that show is on.

After an embarrassing number of hours spent with Food Network however, I’ve become disappointed with how rarely Guy Fieri visits my city. Across 22 seasons Guy Fieri has been to DC only four times. And it’s not like he hasn’t been in the neighborhood. He’s been to fifteen Baltimore restaurants and visited Virginia Beach, a city two-thirds the size of DC, seven times. So what’s Guy Fieri’s DC problem?

For one, he’s not visiting the best of the DC dining scene. The average Yelp rating for DC restaurants he’s visited is 3.625, lower than most other cities he’s visited and lower than the overall DC restaurant average Yelp rating.


But I think there’s more to it and the lack of Diner, Drive-ins and Dives visits actually reflects a few things about the DC food scene. Much of the show is dedicated to community favorite cheap eats, mom and pop diners, and cultural food institutions. DC frankly doesn’t have a high proportion of any of these due to it’s more transient population and traditionally more of a focus on lawyers who lunch as opposed to casual cheap eats.

That has been changing as more people stay in the District longer and a more vibrant food culture takes hold through food trucks like Puddin’, cheap eats like Fast Gourmet and nationally acclaimed spots like Rose’s Luxury.

Of course this isn’t to say DC lacks great food. As Maggie Criqui shows, Guy Fieri’s unending restaurant enthusiasm doesn’t exactly hold up to Yelp. And on the upside, at least we know for sure Guy Fieri won’t be opening one of his infamous restaurants here anytime soon.

Want to take a tour of the spots Diners, Drive-ins and Dives has visited in the area? Check out the map below:

Technical notes: Data and graphics shown are based off Restaurants of Diners Drive-ins and Dives by Maggie Criqui, which was presented at great local group DC Hack and Tell. You can find complete code for this post on my github page.

54 Comment

  • justinbc

    I think you already stated the answer, there just isn’t much of this type of place here in DC. FWIW, I couldn’t possibly tolerate watching his show, but I’ve unintentionally visited places he’s gone to (you quickly find out when there are photos everywhere), and with a few exceptions most haven’t really been very good.
    A better question would be, what places do you think deserve to be featured on a show with this theme?

    • I’m going to agree with the comment about the places not being very good. We unintentionally went to a pizza joint in Baltimore featured on DDD. My pasta was good, but my boyfriend’s pizza made his stomach “off the hook” within about an hour. Also the service straight up sucked.

    • Good question… some ideas:

      Mi Cuba Cafe
      Fish in the Hood
      Mother Rucker’s
      Taqueria Habenero
      Mangliardo & Sons
      Los Hermanos
      Fishnet (College Park)
      Franklin’s (Hyattsville)

      • I haven’t been to most of these places, but a common factor among Guy Fieri haunts is that they do something gimmicky that makes them stand out. I think that’s what a lot of DC place are lacking. Mangliardo & Sons makes good sandwiches, for example, but they’re quite conventional. Production would have to juxtapose the footage with a lot of shots of the Capitol to make it exciting.

        • phl2dc

          That is a good point. It’d have to have at least one item on the menu that’s just absurdly huge and so rich in ingredients that it’d keep you full all day / give you a heart attack.

    • A Litteri

    • Disagree! We certainly have more than a lot of state’s he’s visited. Ben’s, Panda Gourmet, DCity Smokehouse, KoChix, Amsterdam Falafel, Fast Gourmet, and A Litteri would all be good candidates. Not to mention all of the great Ethiopian, Vietnamese, taco, and Peruvian chicken joints – especially if you branch out into the close-in ‘burbs.

      • (agree with you about the show though – not a fan)

      • justinbc

        I think Ben’s pretty much sums up my idea of the type of place he would feature, although I admittedly do not watch the show and have never seen it. He just seems like a chili on a hot dog type of guy. I definitely can’t imagine him featuring a hole in the wall Vietnamese or Ethiopian place that didn’t already have some name recognition.

        • I can’t think of too many episodes where a non-European or non-European-descent chef/cook was featured. He’s featured tons of places with “fusion” or “my take on ___,” but very few actual non-Euro menus.

  • DC and environs DOES have great community favorites, mom and pops, and cultural institutions to eat at, but they tend to be ethnic eateries. Don’t know this Guy guy, but maybe he avoids cuisines from different nations. That’s a shame.

  • jim_ed

    Probably because our restaurants feature an embarrassing dearth of Donkamole sauce and Sammy Hagar impersonators.

  • If anything, the suburbs are dramatically under represented. A metro area of 6 million people and 4 of the six places his show has visited was in the District with ~10% of the metro population.

    But you answered your own question the show is dedicated community favorite cheap eats, mom and pop diners, and cultural food institutions. Based his shows criteria, he would be more likely to go to Ben’s Chili Bowl than Rose’s Luxury.

    DC has undergone a crazy food renaissance the past 12 years. The number of retail places (restaurants, bars) that serve food in the District has more than tripled. during that period, but they opened to cater to the increasingly wealthy DC demographic, and there is no way his show would come to DC to do a “wall to wall spendy small plates show where he would hit 50 locations between U street and Logan Circle.

  • I used to hate him but I’ve grown to love him. The spectrum of love and hate is not a straight line, but rather a circle, where love and hate reside next to one another. Open your hearts, haters, and embrace the Bold Flavors.

  • Could also be that the target demographic for that show is not your typical DC resident. He’d get more bang for his buck by going to places where more people watch the Food Network and would be ecstatic to have him.

    • Ashy Oldlady

      I kind of doubt that. I’d bet that the show is just as popular in DC as it is anywhere else. And besides, half of y’all came here from the places featured in the show.

      • I dunno, I think DC has a higher percentage of cable-cutters than most other places.

        • Seriously. And cable cutters are like the new vegan/vegetarian (i.e., they’ll be sure to let you know about it, even if you don’t bother/care to ask them).

          • justinbc

            I think that might have been more true 5 years or so ago, before the proliferation of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc where you can get (almost) any show you want without cable. Nowadays I feel like many people are doing it without the preachy attitude. It’s become more trendy to discuss which obscure streaming only show / podcast that you’ve seen but nobody else has.

          • yeah, but DDD is on netflix at least

  • I think the first chart should be rescaled into:

    Visits/(Population of Host City).

  • My guess? Most people who don’t live in the DC metro area, particularly Guy’s viewers, have a visceral reaction to anything Washington-related, which is fair, given our dysfunctional legislative branch, so his producers probably steered clear of DC.

  • DC sucks at basics which are the backbone of his show. We’ve had some recent progress on the bbq front but have backslid in the pizza department and lost some of the old delis (which weren’t that great).I lived in DC in the 90s and have been back for 10 years–the trend has been the same across that time: DC gets lots of trendy places (although trends often start elsewhere) and they’re often mee, too-ish. For example, Astro’s Donuts are a take off on those at Doughnut Planet in NYC but not as good or consistent. Where DC excels is expensive steak places you can find anywhere and often obscure ethnic food that that doesn’t necessarily have the novelty prized by the show.

    My own experience with DD&D places has been a mixed bag. If Yelp reviews are any indication, places often go downhill after the show. Often he’s visiting relatives (as he does in Ohio) or goes for something that’s a bit surprising like bbq in Connecticut.

    The idea that any of this matters speaks to DC’s still not being a real city. This is the sort of thing a that boosterish provincial place like Indianapolis or Columbus, Ohio worries about.

    • I take your point about delis in DC, but I’d push back a bit. For example, Straw, Stick, and Brick in Petworth/Brightwood makes some amazing sandwiches.

      • Also Stachowiskis, DGS, Bub and Pops, Vace, the place in the old Union Market, Taylor (ok, not amazing, but better than many of the old bad delis).

    • justinbc

      The correlation to Yelp reviews is an interesting one, that would be good to see statistics on. I have a feeling that he visits the places that locals may have grown up and loved, and for them it’s an easy 4-5 stars, but after being on the show it draws in a huge crowd of people from all over who may have a drastically different impression of the food and not rate it so highly, especially if they’re of the well traveled “foodie” variety. This effect is especially apparent in the really small town places. Anthony Bourdain once commented on this type of thing where he mentioned he would get calls from small places he had visited bitching that they couldn’t keep up with the increased popularity and quality was suffering, or at the very least the appearance of quality to new guests.

    • I sort of agree with your overall premise, but not sure how you can say DC has backslid in pizza. Wiseguys, District of Pi, Etto, Ghiballena, and many more have opened within the past 5 or so years in addition to old standards such as Paradiso, 2 Amys, etc.

    • +1 People named a handful of good deli’s but I’d say on the average it’s pretty difficult to get a good sandwich here. It’s not like other large cities where you can walk into your corner store and get a sandwich that’s better than any of the aforementioned places. Even with pizza, say I don’t want a more traditional type of pie like what you’d get at 2 Amy’s. Say I just want an inexpensive slice of good pepperoni pizza. Where does one get that in DC without having to drive or take a bus/train somewhere? The issue lies in that in the city proper of the capital city of the United States there are only a handful of places to get good basic inexpensive meals.

      • justinbc

        While I think the “walk into any corner store and get a better sandwich than any place mentioned in DC” is some extreme hyperbole, I do agree that the city still lacks in number of good, basic, inexpensive meals. It’s also a city where the rent is pretty high across the board, so you have to head out into the outer areas to a place like Mother Ruckers to get a good sandwich for under $7.

  • We seem to be doing just fun without him. Let’s keep it that way.

  • Anyone else a fan of Jane and Michael Stern (of Splendid Table fame)? I usually don’t like these concepts but there’s something about them that’s incredibly charming.

  • I completely disagree with the takes above. First saying Guy Fieri’s show ” is dedicated to community favorite cheap eats, mom and pop diners, and cultural food institutions” is completely misrepresenting the show. The show traffics in a false nostalgia for a time that never existed, when America was white and local dives consisted of fat people stuffing their faces with cheese fries. Fieri panders to Donald Trump’s America, most of the places on the show are sh*tty tourist traps that serve terrible good.
    Heart Attack Grill in Vegas is a classic example. It’s terrible food served by a scumbag, with nothing about it that’s historic, delicious, or interesting. The show is really scraping the bottom of the barrel of white American culture.
    Second, the author states that “DC frankly doesn’t have a high proportion of any of these due to it’s more transient population and traditionally more of a focus on lawyers who lunch as opposed to casual cheap eats.” If this is your experience, I’m torn as to wether I should be disgusted or sad. DC has a rich tradition of dives and food institutions beyond the terrible and Fieri-ready Ben’s: MG Roast Beef, Panda Gourmet, Highlands, Florida Ave Grill, Zenerbach Injera, Langston Clubhouse, Jimmy T’s, Takoma Station, Haydee’s, the list goes on. Most of these are too ethnic or liberal for Mr. Fieri who I’d prefer stayed away from our town in any case.

  • Emmaleigh504

    Nebraska does have some pretty epicly good Mexican food.

  • Blithe

    Reading through this post and the comments, has convinced me that I seriously need a trip to Saint’s Paradise for a taste of the DC that I grew up in. With side stops at Florida Avenue Grill, Horace and Dickies, and Fish in the Hood to make sure they know how very much they are appreciated — just in case there’s any question. RIP Southern, Posin’s, and Mel Krupin’s. I wish I know the name of the fish place that used to be in Mt Pleasant — but I’ll include them in my nostalgic shout out too.

  • I think he’s become a joke in the culinary world (see Bourdain, Alton Brown, and other recent public comments directed at him or alluding to him), and has always sort of been a joke besides (1996 called…).

    I think we are better for having not received his attention.

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