For the hospitality industry, 2020 was a year of profound loss. The COVID-19 pandemic forced bars, restaurants, clubs, and hotels into an abominable, 10-months-and-running cycle of temporary shutdowns, permanent closings, layoffs, pivots, and reopenings. At the same time, video of police killing George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked a social justice uprising in America that reverberated across kitchen culture. Through it all, new restaurants and charitable initiatives kept popping up in the District, and the nation’s top infectious diseases expert became a celebrity that inspired a line of pouched cocktails. Much of that played a part in Eater D.C.’s 10 most-read news stories of the year, presented here in descending order.
Northern Virginia native David Chang’s trendsetting restaurant group shut down its D.C. outpost in mid-May. That set an ominous tone for the months ahead by raising the question: If Momofuku can’t make it, who can? For national restaurateurs like Chang and Wolfgang Puck, exiting D.C. properties represented but one chess move in a wider business strategy that smaller operators relying on one or two restaurants for their livelihood couldn’t afford to mimic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has seen his Q Score soar while encouraging Americans to suppress the spread of COVID-19 from his post at the National Institution of Health. The good doctor further endeared himself to his D.C. neighbors when he revealed to CNN that he ordered from local restaurants several times a week, and Eater did a little digging to find out where Fauci gets his fix for burgers and bolognese.
Horace and Dickie’s, a D.C. institution for takeout trays of fried whiting, ended a three-decade run on H Street NE on March 1. In his comments to WJLA reporter Sam Ford, owner Richard “Dickie” Shannon gave a powerful, succinct description of the changes he observed as gleaming condos and a new class of neighbors have moved into the Northeast corridor.
In the immediate aftermath of D.C.’s mid-March dine-in ban, many restaurants were scrambling to shift to takeout and delivery in order to eke out some sort of revenue. Other high-profile establishments — such as (now-closed) Kith/Kin, Tail Up Goat, and Bad Saint — decided to stay closed because they didn’t feel they could ask workers to risk exposure to the coronavirus. At that time, there was still hope that the public health emergency would be a short-lived event, and that the federal government would come through with significant stimulus for independent restaurants.
This post, updated over two weeks, tracked D.C.’s COVID-19 response as it escalated from a public health emergency with a shutdown of on-site dining to a formal stay-at-home order that carried a threat of criminal charges and fines up to $5,000 for people who were willfully violating the policy.
The white male partners behind a new wine bar off U Street came under fire from online commenters shortly after opening with a name they took from the Tagalog language native to the Philippines. Critics accused the partners of cultural appropriation for using “Barkada,” which signifies a tight-knit group of friends, for a business that had no ties to the Filipino community and offered a menu full of European wines and charcuterie. After initially pledging to change the name, the bar owners have kept it. According to Barkada’s website, it now works with a Filipina-owned social media and marketing company and serves Philippine dishes like adobo and lumpia.
The original Ledo Restaurant announced it would close in November, marking the end of an era for legions of college students and athletes at the University of Maryland. The owners later clarified they were selling the business, which remained independent of the chain, to a hospitality management company that was already overseeing several franchises of Ledo Pizza.
The fall of one of D.C.’s coolest clubs, tucked inside an old mansion on Connecticut Avenue NW lined with dusty chandeliers, vintage couches, and premiere sound systems, is emblematic of the decimation COVID-19 has wrought on the nightlife industry.
Catering chefs chefs Reginald Mack and Steven Wilson generated a ton of interest with a new soul food operation in Prince George’s County that makes a cognac glaze for chicken wings and stuffs cheesesteaks with crab dip.
Legendary chef Patrick O’Connell proved to be a marketing mastermind when he drew widespread attention for seating lifeless, model guests in between real life customers while indoor capacity was limited at his three-star dining room in rural Virginia.