Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

DC Stereotypes: Fact or Fiction?


  • This topic is locked This topic is locked
4 replies to this topic

#1 Fat Guy

Fat Guy
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 29,303 posts
  • Location:New York, NY

Posted 24 May 2002 - 06:06 AM

Jeanne, as a New Yorker who travels to DC rarely, I -- like many others around here -- have a certain stereotype of the DC restaurant scene imprinted on my mind: Fat-cat politicians and lobbyists dining out on expense account and therefore driving prices up and quality down. Is this truly an economic force in DC? Was it ever? And overall how do you think the scene differs from what I imagine is a more "foodie-driven" scene in a place like San Francisco or New York?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#2 Jeanne McManus

Jeanne McManus
  • legacy participant
  • 43 posts

Posted 03 June 2002 - 02:46 PM

I just hate it when I hear that. But I perfectly understand. As someone who was born and raised here, I am always troubled that the view of Washington is of official Washington, these people who Come And Then They Go.  And the rest of us, who live and establish a community here and thrive and stay put get lost in that perception. But it’s an absolutely fair assessment to the casual visitors. If you swing a cat in this town, you hit a steak house or power restaurant: The Caucus Room, Sam and Harry’s, the Palm, Nick and Stef’s, Smith and Wollensky’s, Shula’s (hey, Don dahling, you were great as Dolphins coach but we don’t need another steak house!) – that’s just starters.

It’s not New York and it’s not SF but that doesn’t mean it’s just martinis and red meat. It’s funny because my sister, who lives in SF, is coming here in three weeks with her family so I’ve been plotting a course, restaurants that will give her something she can’t get in SF. So I’m taking her to Ten Penh, Jaleo, Lebanese Taverna, and someplace for crabs and beer, maybe Cantlers, and probably to Four Sisters in Eden Center.  (I think Slanted Door in SF is vastly overrated.) I wish I could afford to take her to Citronelle and the Inn at Little Washington.

I think that Washington distinguishes itself sometimes as much in tone and mood in the right restaurants as it does by its food. I really like the atmosphere at Equinox, for example, and the buzz at Jaleo and Ten Penh. It doesn’t feel like the buzz in NY or SF, but maybe it’s because I’m outsiders there.


I have certain “nooks”  in the city, places where my husband and I like to go spontaneously.  I think this might be some Anti-Power-Restaurant side of me. No reservations, no expense account, no business. The back back back back bar at Old Ebbitt in November for oysters and wine; a little table in the window at Four Sisters for garden rolls, lemon grass chicken and that rice crepe (I think it’s No. 84).  I wandered into Tosca one day last summer with one of my reporters and we had a wonderful asparagus soup and stuffed zucchini blossom, just sitting at the bar at lunch.  We regularly meet friends at Lebanese Taverna on Conn. Ave. for a simple mezze (and they have a great wine list) and the roasted chicken with garlic sauce. You don’t need reservations to do any of these things, and so  you’re not likely to see a lobbyist or Rep. Gasbag.

#3 Steve Klc

Steve Klc
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 3,739 posts
  • Location:Washington, DC mostly

Posted 04 June 2002 - 04:33 PM

Jeanne--another stereotype which seems to get mentioned about DC is that we have had a very diverse and very deep array of ethnic restaurants for a long time--much more so than in other big food cities.

To a certain extent, do you agree?  If so, do you consider our concentration of government, embassy and military complex to be mainly responsible?

I arrived in DC in 1978, but you grew up here--when did you get the sense there were "ethnic" cuisines and were they part of what made DC special for you?
Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant
Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

#4 Jeanne McManus

Jeanne McManus
  • legacy participant
  • 43 posts

Posted 04 June 2002 - 05:02 PM

I really am not sure that embassy, government, etc. influence the ethnic restaurant scene. I feel that it's much more grass roots than that, though I have no scientific evidence to support that notion.

The first notion I got that the D.C. restaurant scene was changing was in the late 1970s, with the arrival of Vietnamese in Arlington, Clarendon, etc.  I had eaten Vietnamese food in Paris in 1970 and loved it. And, all of a sudden, locally we had Queen Bee and other Vietnamese restaurants. I think Salvadoran and Central American restaurants also started to spring up at that time. As someone whose notion of "ethnic" was the Yenching Palace at Porter and Conn. I found it very exciting.

#5 Fat Guy

Fat Guy
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 29,303 posts
  • Location:New York, NY

Posted 04 June 2002 - 06:45 PM

Thanks for your comprehensive and thoughtful answer, which seems to confirm something I've been learning about many cities after multiple visits: Stereotypes are often based in truth, but rarely tell the whole story.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)