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The Top Complaints About D.C. Dining in 2019

D.C. food writers share their biggest grievances

Preparing Olivier salad (Russian salad) at Moscow’s Pushkin Cafe Donat Sorokin\TASS via Getty Images

Following an Eater tradition, we asked a group of restaurant critics, journalists, bloggers, and friends of the site to weigh in on the year in food. Their answers to the annual “Year in Eater” survey will be revealed in several posts. Next up, the dining experts share their biggest grievances with the D.C. dining scene in 2019.

Laura Hayes, Washington City Paper food editor: I know I’m a broken record, but landlords are going to ruin everything we love about our predominantly independently owned, small business restaurant scene if they continue to double, triple, and quadruple rents every chance they get. Here’s hoping Councilmembers Charles Allen and Kenyan McDuffie succeed in crafting final legislation that offers relief for small businesses and incentives for landlords and developers who support them.

Tim Carman, Washington Post food writer: The closures. It’s always the closures. There were ones this year that really hurt, and not just restaurants. I hated to see the closures of Chinatown Coffee and PX, Todd Thrasher’s ground-breaking speakeasy in Alexandria. But we also lost restaurants created by passionate and often visionary people in the local dining community: Ray’s the Steaks, Dino’s Grotto, Meiwah in the West End, Proof, Woodside Deli and the beloved WTF lunch counter downtown.

Jessica Sidman, Washingtonian food editor: I love beautiful food as much as the next photo-snapping diner, but too many dishes are created for Instagram before anything else. Who actually wants to eat some of these absurdly monstrous or overly precious plates made solely to go viral? Give me delicious food and I won’t care if it’s ugly!

Tom Sietsema, Washington Post food critic: The House Members’ Dining Room, newly open to the general public, blew a chance to garner some good press for the Capitol. The historic restaurant is just … sad. So much for transparency.

Lenore Adkins, food writer: It’s the same one I’ve had since I moved here five years ago: too many places charge way too much for mediocre food and drinks.

Ann Limpert, Washingtonian food editor and critic: The preponderance of iPhone flashlights used for photo-taking in dining rooms. I want dinner, not an LCD Soundsystem show! (PS that’s my lawn please get off it).

Lori Gardner, Been There, Eaten That blogger: Why are food halls popping up all over town? Rockville, alone, now has three. I’m not really compelled to eat in a food hall with one exception: Ballston Quarter—Hot Lola’s is the worth a visit!

A close-up of the dry hot fried chicken sandwich from Hot Lola’s
A close-up of the dry hot fried chicken sandwich from Hot Lola’s
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Lori McCue, DCist food and arts editor: I must have missed the meeting where every D.C. restaurant agreed on one Miami-inspired aesthetic. After a while it seemed like I could guess what was inside every new spot before I stepped through the door: hanging plants, those wire Eames chairs (which hurt to sit on! Enough with these!), seafoam green, subway tiles, etcetera. While it’s all lovely to look at (and dine inside of), I’m eager to see something surprising in the next wave of bars and restaurants.

Rick Chessen, Rick Eats DC blogger: Indecipherable recycling stations at fast-casual restaurants.

Rebecca Cooper, Washington Business Journal digital editor: Probably how intense everything had become? I think the idea of the restaurant “concept” expanded even further this year and it just becomes tiring to experience everything a lot of restaurants are kind of foisting on guests. A lot of times, I wish they kept it more simple. Also my constant grievance, please stop clearing my dining companions’ plates before everyone is finished! (Unless its small plates, in which case, yeah, feel free to get some of those off of this tiny table).

More in the Year in Eater 2019