I just came across this article where WaPo reports DC is being looked at by NY restaurateurs as a good area to expand, citing the stable economy and cheaper leases. I and definitely a fan of this, as it should make our 2-3 year food trend gap a little shorter as restaurants look to DC for expansion. Areas like Penn Quarter, Georgetown, and Downtown (and probably the Verizon center area) are the areas of focus for their high traffic and established businesses/attractions. Areas like U St and 14th St. are not on the radar yet – probably because these are the up and coming places not yet established.
I think these restaurateurs will find great success in DC if they can get over a few speed bumps:
– Stay in the city. Most of our high-end restaurants are in the city, but some (like L’auberge, Restaurant Eve, 2941, Volt) are outside the city. Staying in the city helps concentrate the restaurants and make DC a food destination, not the DC Metro Area.
– Ease us into the high-end cuisine. Macrogastronomy, macrobiotic, and other food techniques are hard to come by at area restaurants. When you bring your food here, don’t overwhelm us or you’ll be mocked for your foams and xanthum gum mixtures.
– Bring something new. Don’t bring another steakhouse, another chiurriscarra, another tapas place. Although I don’t mind some of the things coming down the pipe like gourmet burger joints and high end ramen (believe me, its coming), some stuff like cupcakes hit the DC food scene and have been made bigger than what it really is – it’s just tiny cakes. Now, cupcakes are keeping us in limbo, just waiting for the next hot trend to take its thunder.
– Make high-end food appealing to more people. I haven’t eaten at a lot of high-end places in DC. Some places like Citronelle, Komi, Restaurant Eve, and L’Auberge have great sounding menus, but I just haven’t been able to justify spending money on the food, yet. But when I go to NY, I barely hesitate to eat when I’m up there. Granted, the places I’ve been to have been fantastic (re: Volt, 1789), but I don’t feel the big draw to eat at the high end places here like I do in NY. Offer us menus with familiar yet new combinations and we will start to trust your restaurants with anything crazy you decide to throw at us.
Who knows, maybe in a few years, we’ll start to see Washington DC get a section on eater.com!