WETA is doubling up on dining coverage in the coming months, expanding on one program that looks into local restaurants from a historical perspective, and readying another based around deploying guest critics to judge each other’s go-to eateries.
Kevin Harris, vice president and station manager at WETA, told Eater that Neighborhood Eats, which is scheduled to premiere, Friday, May 5 at 8:30 p.m., is the food-focused companion to an earlier project, WETA Neighborhoods. Whereas the latter touched on some of the restaurants located within the featured areas — in this case, Anacostia, Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle, and Georgetown — Harris said the debut Neighborhood Eats showcases places that help define each local dining scene. The roster of can’t-miss hospitality ventures includes the flagship Hank’s Oyster Bar, Beuchert’s Saloon, and Baked & Wired.
Harris said his team is already in pre-production on round 2, compiling a list of candidates located in the Southwest waterfront; Adams Morgan/Mount Pleasant; the Del Ray section of Alexandria, Virginia; and Silver Spring, Maryland. “We hope that the neighborhood series is an ongoing process,” Harris said, citing plans to unveil the next chapter of Neighborhood Eats in late summer or fall of 2017, and airing round 3 — which is tentatively set to explore Brentwood; Columbia Heights/Petworth; Falls Church, Virginia; and Foggy Bottom — some time in 2018.
The public broadcaster is hopeful that the seemingly insatiable appetite for food programming can also sustain Check, Please!, a restaurant-related show that’s proven successful in other markets. A trio of rotating “citizen reviewers” steers the action, with each panelist offering up a favored dining destination. The other two are then dispatched to size up the recommendation, and all three establishments are then dissected with the help of the show’s hospitality minded host.
“We want regular people to come on because they are going to show us restaurants none of us know about,” Harris said of the guiding principle behind the community-driven critiquing. He told Eater he would prefer to recruit individuals (the application process is now open) with no professional ties to the restaurant world in order to provide an unfiltered view of the metropolitan area.
“No one knows who they are. They don’t go together. They just go and eat,” he said.
That anonymity, though, may prove fleeting.
At least it proved so in the case of the local politico that in 2001 went to bat for the since-shuttered original Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop. That armchair tastemaker: then-Illinois state senator Barack Obama.