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Tim Carman at the Washington Post


arleneivana
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I read the NYT article, esp. what it said about Capitol Hill, and I have to say I basically agree. I was sick of pizza and burgers and hot dogs long before these places opened, and the few exceptions do not disprove the rule.

ETA: *Raspberry* I meant to say I read Tim's article and agreed what he reported the NYT as saying. (Remind me not to post after an office holiday party involving Armenian digestifs.)

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I read the NYT article, esp. what it said about Capitol Hill, and I have to say I basically agree. I was sick of pizza and burgers and hot dogs long before these places opened, and the few exceptions do not disprove the rule.

ETA: *Raspberry* I meant to say I read Tim's article and agreed what he reported the NYT as saying. (Remind me not to post after an office holiday party involving Armenian digestifs.)

I hate to tell you, but I still don't know what you're trying to say! :)

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I hate to tell you, but I still don't know what you're trying to say! :)

Only that I agree with the NYT comments that TC was criticizing. His twist at the end, where he implies NY also has its share of ordinary diner food and such, also fell flat. NY can accommodate hundreds of such places within its vast firmament, but in smaller DC it's this type of food that exerts a disproportionate influence over entire sections of the city, and the Hill is the prime example.

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Only that I agree with the NYT comments that TC was criticizing. His twist at the end, where he implies NY also has its share of ordinary diner food and such, also fell flat. NY can accommodate hundreds of such places within its vast firmament, but in smaller DC it's this type of food that exerts a disproportionate influence over entire sections of the city, and the Hill is the prime example.

Carmen is correct, the New York Times has been condescending regarding the DC dining scene possibly its founding. Zeroing in on the Hill -- particularly the low-rent House Side -- is a cheap shot, especially when a single article becomes the Times' once-in-three-years article on the DC food scene. The Hill, lacking significant office buildings and even a reasonable concentration of high-disposable-income residents is essentially a food court for modestly-remunerated government employees and a no-cook option for younger families with kids who bought on the Hill because they couldn't afford Cleveland Park. Yeah, it's not going to support Per Se. Presenting it as indicative of the Washington food scene is the equivalent of touring a North Jersey commuter town (or Midtown) and denouncing the New York dining scene as dominated by Cheesecake Factories and Maggianos.

Ironically, most of the law and lobbying firms that kept Manhattan's restaurant scene flush while the economy in the rest of the world went to shit, have kept Penn Quarter a relatively interesting restaurant neighborhood. But walking the few blocks to Rasika would have fucked with the reporter's cheap metaphor, so it wasn't done.

No one in their right mind compares DC's restaurants to New York's. But New York has more than its fill of mediocre-at-best restaurants, as well, an the Times snide-ass attitude does grate after a time.

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the Times snide-ass attitude does grate after a time.

This is my primary complaint with the paper of record's coverage of DC. I mean, I'm stll an NYT reader -- I read it (online) more than I read the Washington Post, and for the ten years I lived in the Boston/New Hampshire/Southern Maine area, I read it (mostly online) more than I read the Boston Globe or the Portland Press Herald or the ... well, I'm sure Manchester NH has a paper* of its own, and I didn't read that, either. I like the NYT, I really do, but I'm convinced that their food writers have been instructed to treat DC as the country mouse to Manhattan's city mouse, which is just blatantly unfair.

As Waitman and others point out, we don't have the critical mass to support what New York does ... but neither are we drooling imbeciles whose tastes are so unrefined that we don't even deserve a decent restaurant at which to chance it.

Sigh. I guess it's my wasted journalistic dreams talking, but it hurts to see the NYT take such an easy out with DC. And props to Carman for calling it like it is -- and he didn't even need to invoke the favored word to do it.

*The Manchester ... Courier. Crier. Herald? It was something really weird to me at the time actually, like "Expose-Courant"** -- I could look this up but that would be cheating, and really, the fact that I have this little idea of its name should be telling.

**I cheated: "Union Leader." Which: really, Manchvegas? Really?

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What's the point of getting defensive and facetious about an obvious truth? NYC restaurants are better than DC restaurants in general - why get butt-hurt over it? When I go to NYC, it's like a kid in a candy store; they have so many better restaurants than DC that I turn into a glutton (okay, I'm already a glutton, for food and punishment). It's not just the NY Times that points out the faults in DC, one of our posters (Weinoo) recently pointed out that Estadio's bar is a free for all - how uncivilized is that? Are we living in the U.S. or Spain? There's nothing particularly snide about the junk food that's prevalent in our nation's Capitol - it is what it is - junk food. Heck, I wont' even drive from McLean to eat that shit (I get enough shit in McLean).

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This is absurd: Washington has the same quality as the best of New York; the difference is that there are nowhere near as many restaurants at the highest level. What D. C. doesn't have (at least not yet) is the arrogance of New Yorkers and their media critics who pay their own personal penance if New York falls from it's perch. And, yes, it is falling. We should be honored: first New Jersey, later New England and now, D. C. We have been singled out. My guess is that there are some who still believe we have temporary buildings on the Mall.

Doesn't matter that Washington has the highest level of education and income of any major city in America. Or position of power. Any place outside of a New York city borough is epistemologically eliminated by the insecure and fragile New York press. No matter that someone from Shanghai, Singapore or Sydney thinks of Washington as an iconic, sophisticated international city-certainly the equal of NYC. Manhattan chauvinists believe the real America only exists 205 air miles north.

As the printed media is losing its influence so is the New York press.

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This is absurd: Washington has the same quality as the best of New York; the difference is that there are nowhere near as many restaurants at the highest level. What D. C. doesn't have (at least not yet) is the arrogance of New Yorkers and their media critics who pay their own personal penance if New York falls from it's perch. And, yes, it is falling. We should be honored: first New Jersey, later New England and now, D. C. We have been singled out. My guess is that there are some who still believe we have temporary buildings on the Mall.

Doesn't matter that Washington has the highest level of education and income of any major city in America. Or position of power. Any place outside of a New York city borough is epistemologically eliminated by the insecure and fragile New York press. No matter that someone from Shanghai, Singapore or Sydney thinks of Washington as an iconic, sophisticated international city-certainly the equal of NYC. Manhattan chauvinists believe the real America only exists 205 air miles north.

As the printed media is losing its influence so is the New York press.

We have a better internet food board than they do. :)

As for the now-defunct Old Homestead Steakhouse, Brasserie Les Halles, Olives, and Il Mulino, Bobby Van's Steakhouse (and Grill), Nathan's Famous, Carmine's, MoCA Asian Bistro, P.J. Clarke's, Sbarro, Kellari Taverna, The Palm, Bond 45, Smith and Wollensky Steakhouse, Original Soupman, the pathetic ARK chain featuring Sequoia, America, Center Café, and Thunder Grill, the future BLT Burger, Burger Palace, and the utterly dumbed-down Shake Shack, Casa Nonna (which BLT is wisely afraid to put its stamp on), J&G Steakhouse, and lately, Charlie Palmer Steak, I say ... take 'em back. My goodness, I forgot Rosa Mexicano.

You can leave Adour, BLT Steak (for now), and Bertrand Chemel. Oh, btw, thanks in advance for losing Fabio.

And while you're at it, send some Jewish Deli down like you did with Carnegie Deli back when it wasn't lousy. And instead of trucking down H&H Bagel dough, how about opening up a store here? Oops, wait a minute.

Mountains, trees, beaches, museums, the largest undeveloped park of any city in the United States ... a (soon-to-be-electric) car parked in my driveway ... a single-family home ten minutes from downtown for less rent than you pay for a laughable efficiency? A child getting a better public education than yours? I know where I'd rather live. And I assure you, I dine better than you do, too - for a lot less money.

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The Hill, lacking significant office buildings and even a reasonable concentration of high-disposable-income residents is essentially a food court for modestly-remunerated government employees and a no-cook option for younger families with kids who bought on the Hill because they couldn't afford Cleveland Park.

You sound like you're trying to outdo the NYT at its own game. While there is a kernel of truth in what you say, my impression from living on the Hill for 15 years is that most people live here simply because they want to and prefer its atmosphere to the quasi suburbia of areas like Cleveland Park. (I could simply be projecting my own experience here, but that is my impression as a long-time resident.) The demographic picture is also more complex than your broad brush paints. The Hill reflects the overall trend in DC away from a demographic dominated by federal employees. Most of the people I know work for international organizations, law firms, or have retired from similar careers. And where do these people go when they would like to eat well? Not to the Hill. The reason for this used to be that there was nothing here at all. But now that the restaurant scene on the Hill has indeed taken off, people are rightly asking why it must take off in the direction, generally, of glorified fast-food.

I think the answer lies in two things: 1) The many legislative staffers that work here and are indeed of modest means (perhaps those are the "federal employees" you were actually referring to) and 2) the proximity of the Hill to less affluent areas of the city. If you go to places like Ted's Bulletin, Matchbox, or even Sonoma on a Friday or Saturday, less than half of the people you see will be from the Hill. A good many actually come from the suburbs in MD or VA. So, every weekend, there is a kind of migration of diners--to the Hill from points East, South and North, and from the Hill to the good restaurants in the rest of the city.

I'm not sure the NYT was "zeroing in on the Hill" as being representative of the DC dining scene. But it is not comparable to North Jersey or a commuter town (that would be Silver Spring, Bethesda, or Arlington). It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and lies smack in the middle of it, and as such I think a food critic is right to point out the relative weakness of its restaurants and, from this, conclude that the DC dining scene still has a way to go. (And do we really disagree that it does, all comparisons with NY aside?)

Finally, as I've said before, local pride is all well and good, but it can generate an emotional reaction to outside criticism that clouds objective judgment. A lot of the DC-NY discussion on this board I think falls victim to that tendency.

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You sound like you're trying to outdo the NYT at its own game. While there is a kernel of truth in what you say, my impression from living on the Hill for 15 years is that most people live here simply because they want to and prefer its atmosphere to the quasi suburbia of areas like Cleveland Park. (I could simply be projecting my own experience here, but that is my impression as a long-time resident.) The demographic picture is also more complex than your broad brush paints. The Hill reflects the overall trend in DC away from a demographic dominated by federal employees. Most of the people I know work for international organizations, law firms, or have retired from similar careers. And where do these people go when they would like to eat well? Not to the Hill. The reason for this used to be that there was nothing here at all. But now that the restaurant scene on the Hill has indeed taken off, people are rightly asking why it must take off in the direction, generally, of glorified fast-food.

I think the answer lies in two things: 1) The many legislative staffers that work here and are indeed of modest means (perhaps those are the "federal employees" you were actually referring to) and 2) the proximity of the Hill to less affluent areas of the city. If you go to places like Ted's Bulletin, Matchbox, or even Sonoma on a Friday or Saturday, less than half of the people you see will be from the Hill. A good many actually come from the suburbs in MD or VA. So, every weekend, there is a kind of migration of diners--to the Hill from points East, South and North, and from the Hill to the good restaurants in the rest of the city.

I'm not sure the NYT was "zeroing in on the Hill" as being representative of the DC dining scene. But it is not comparable to North Jersey or a commuter town (that would be Silver Spring, Bethesda, or Arlington). It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and lies smack in the middle of it, and as such I think a food critic is right to point out the relative weakness of its restaurants and, from this, conclude that the DC dining scene still has a way to go. (And do we really disagree that it does, all comparisons with NY aside?)

Finally, as I've said before, local pride is all well and good, but it can generate an emotional reaction to outside criticism that clouds objective judgment. A lot of the DC-NY discussion on this board I think falls victim to that tendency.

I think this is a well-reasoned argument, and points to people having different interpretations of what they read. My problem with the NYT's write-ups of DC (not just this piece, but the one on K Street NW earlier this year, and others) isn't with the paper's analysis that our dining scene isn't equal to New York's -- it's that we, represented as a homogeneous (!) DC population, don't care, or don't know better, or would prefer "junk food" or less sophisticated restaurants than are sustained and welcomed in other places.

Which may not be entirely untrue (your analysis of the dining migration may actually support this), but I find it an inaccurate blanket statement ... which is how I read the Times' pieces.

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You sound like you're trying to outdo the NYT at its own game. While there is a kernel of truth in what you say, my impression from living on the Hill for 15 years is that most people live here simply because they want to and prefer its atmosphere to the quasi suburbia of areas like Cleveland Park. (I could simply be projecting my own experience here, but that is my impression as a long-time resident.) The demographic picture is also more complex than your broad brush paints. The Hill reflects the overall trend in DC away from a demographic dominated by federal employees. Most of the people I know work for international organizations, law firms, or have retired from similar careers. And where do these people go when they would like to eat well? Not to the Hill. The reason for this used to be that there was nothing here at all. But now that the restaurant scene on the Hill has indeed taken off, people are rightly asking why it must take off in the direction, generally, of glorified fast-food.

I think the answer lies in two things: 1) The many legislative staffers that work here and are indeed of modest means (perhaps those are the "federal employees" you were actually referring to) and 2) the proximity of the Hill to less affluent areas of the city. If you go to places like Ted's Bulletin, Matchbox, or even Sonoma on a Friday or Saturday, less than half of the people you see will be from the Hill. A good many actually come from the suburbs in MD or VA. So, every weekend, there is a kind of migration of diners--to the Hill from points East, South and North, and from the Hill to the good restaurants in the rest of the city.

I'm not sure the NYT was "zeroing in on the Hill" as being representative of the DC dining scene. But it is not comparable to North Jersey or a commuter town (that would be Silver Spring, Bethesda, or Arlington). It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and lies smack in the middle of it, and as such I think a food critic is right to point out the relative weakness of its restaurants and, from this, conclude that the DC dining scene still has a way to go. (And do we really disagree that it does, all comparisons with NY aside?)

Finally, as I've said before, local pride is all well and good, but it can generate an emotional reaction to outside criticism that clouds objective judgment. A lot of the DC-NY discussion on this board I think falls victim to that tendency.

Hey, who doesn't love The Hill? I've been working there on and off (including now) and drinking there on occasion since the early 80s, and periodically searching it for a house since the first Bush Administration, and so have a passing familiarity with it.

I suppose I was less interested in the reasons people choose to live on the Hill -- and your points in that regard are well taken -- as in the amount of money available for restaurant dining. Whereas Downtown and Penn Quarter (for example) can draw on vast numbers of highly-paid, expense-account bearing lawyers, lobbyists and consultants for lunch and dinner, The Hill caters to swarms of staffers, Library of Congress types (aka "government employees") and not a few modestly sized non-profits and pre-Penn Quarter consultants.

I lack census statistics, but I'd also wager that Hill residents -- as a whole -- have more kids and less disposable income than areas like Penn quarter -- with its $700K DINK condos -- or Georgetown.

And, despite an increase in energy in recent years, the Hill's nightlife scene is relatively modest, meaning money isn't flowing to restaurants from other parts of the city or Metro Area, as in the 14th & U area, Georgetown or -- again -- Penn Quarter. (admittedly, suburban money has done dining in Adams-Morgan no favors).

The analogy to a commuter town is not to suggest that the Hill is the metro-accessible equivalent of Herndon, but that it tends to be a calmer and less-monied neighborhood than can be found elsewhere, hence with a greater tendency towards less expensive or adventurous food and -- especially given the cherry picking by the reporter -- not necessarily representative of the DC scene as a whole.

Yes, we can all agree that the DC dining scene could be better, and that New York's is better (on the whole). But when a paper runs one article every other year about a city's restaurants, it is indeed holding out its latest "discoveries" as microcosm of the whole scene. And that is, in this case, both incorrect and lazy.

(And yes, this is an issue at least in part because everyone who's lived in DC more than 18 months is sick unto death of snotty New Yorkers.) :)

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I read the article several days ago, and can't remember if this was mentioned or not...but most of the Hill restaurants highlighted in the NYT article have opened with in the past couple of years, where the trend nationwide in restaurant openings has been upscale takes on "comfort food" - pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs etc. How many of these type places have opened in NYC in the past 3 years? I would wager a significant number.

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I might also add that, to my mind, restaurateurs (or their backers) are about as adventurous as adolescent boys at a middle school sock hop. Everyone's afraid to be the first to ask a girl to dance. And so the Hill -- and PG County -- is too often left to play wallflower, while the town's top toques wait for Mikey to try it first.

I am NOT afraid to mix metaphors.

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And, despite an increase in energy in recent years, the Hill's nightlife scene is relatively modest, meaning money isn't flowing to restaurants from other parts of the city or Metro Area, as in the 14th & U area, Georgetown or -- again -- Penn Quarter. (admittedly, suburban money has done dining in Adams-Morgan no favors).

I think this might really be the rub. The fact is people do come to the Hill to dine, but, as I said in my previous post, they are coming mostly from other areas that are even less well served, which brings the standard down farther than it would be if local residents were the only ones calling the shots. Perhaps Adams Morgan is actually a good comparison. If current trends continue, the Hill might see itself similarly overrun with a lot of places in which one can eat more or less badly.

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we are who we are, DC. a small, sleepy southern town with advantages. well, maybe not so sleepy or small anymore. we have intelligent people bustling in and out of the city, we have restaurantuers that seem approachable-by a hand shake even, we have wine geeks that are funny, we have cocktail mavens that don't stand on a stage, yet behind the bar- in anticipation of making a drink. DC is something in ways that i consider in one word, approachable from a consumers stand point in Food and Bev. I don't truly think anyone on this board wants DC to be NYC. Let NYC do their thing, but at least from this view being a baseball fan, maybe NYC should taste the humble pie that was served up to them from Cliff Lee yesterday, a big slice for big ego's

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HAHA Cat Fight! Cat Fight!

From the NYT Diner's Journal, What we are reading post (http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/15/what-were-reading-78/)

The Washington Post: They say we don’t like the food in the nation’s capital. – Nick Fox

The Washington Post: But the city has a Vietnamese restaurant with two-toned popsicles. Worth the trip! – Nick Fox

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"Dear New York Times: We get it. Your restaurants are better than ours."

I don't think this column had the intended effect: http://eater.com/archives/2010/12/14/is-the-nyt-biased-against-dc.php

Wouldn't it have been better to continue silently chortling at the NYT's ridiculous trend pieces?

Well, The New York Times isn't alone in hiring chauvanistic airheads. Here's the latest from Tasting Table DC:

The D.C. area doesn't lack excellent, authentic Vietnamese food. But up until recently, we still had to head to New York--specifically to one of David Chang's restaurants--for cleverly reimagined takes on Asian cuisine.

But Capitol Hill's new Ba Bay has filled the void, skillfully updating Vietnamese classics using French techniques and local ingredients, from drinks through desserts.

Title: "Pho with a French accent" Picture? Innovative sandwich whose Vietnamese contents are modernized, lodged within a split baguette!

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Title: "Pho with a French accent" Picture? Innovative sandwich whose Vietnamese contents are modernized, lodged within a split baguette!

I'm afraid I'm going to hurt myself rolling my eyes at that one. Yes, Vietnamese food with French influences is so cutting edge.

I'm enjoying the All We Can Eat blog, with the exception of the Lunchroom Chatter - but that's only because I'd rather see more of Tim's writing than curated links. I guess that's the nature of the biz these days.

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