Following an Eater tradition, we asked a group of restaurant critics, journalists, bloggers, and — as a new twist this year — a couple industry pros to weigh in on the year in food. Their answers to an annual “Year in Eater” survey will be revealed in several posts this week. Next up, the dining experts share their picks for the “most D.C.” food stories of 2020.
Ann Limpert, Washingtonian food editor and critic: The mere existence of the Fauci Pouchy; AOC’s predictable NY-vs-DC dissing of our breakfast-sandwich selection; and the fact that Biden’s Covid czar is also a co-owner at Call Your Mother.
Jessica Sidman, Washingtonian food editor: The Fauci Pouchy.
Lenore Adkins, freelance food writer: The Fauci Pouchy, no question. Drinks inspired by American pols typically do well in this town and they laid the groundwork for Rohit Malhotra’s wildly popular pouched cocktails that are sold at Capo Deli. The grab-and-go pouched cocktails are inspired by Dr. Anthony Fauci, a public servant and the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, who became a household name this year. I’m pretty sure I’ve had them in every flavor more than once…
Takera Gholson, Flights and Foods blogger: Restaurants popping up inside of other restaurants. Like Little Beast hosting Taqueria Xochi. It was great seeing folks in the food industry come together to support each other.
Perhaps ‘Taco’ should be ‘Round Bread We Tried To Make Out Of Corn, But It Didn’t Rise, So We Put Pork Or Shrimp In It With Some Spicy Vegetable Sauce’?
It’s “the most D.C.” because D.C. is at the intersection of art, culture, politics, embassies, business, gentrification, and all these really interesting cross-sections of people and professions all kind of colliding. The specificity of language is fascinating, but so is our approach as restaurateurs to culture and how much of it and in what ways we attempt to share it with the folks who come eat in our establishments. This is definitely a great time to reevaluate what a restaurant is and what it isn’t. I think restaurants can be amazing places for cultural connections, but that requires curiosity and openness from diners, too.
Raman Santra, Barred in DC blogger: To me, the “Most D.C.” food story (using that term in an inclusive manner) is the Republicans in Congress who slyly, in a racist act, funded D.C. in the CARES Act as if it was a territory (whose residents don’t pay federal income taxes, unlike DC residents), shortchanging D.C. over $750 million. D.C. undoubtedly could have provided more relief to its restaurants/bars/entertainment venues and its workers (along with others affected by COVID-19 and its restrictions) than what it did. Instead, many of our restaurants/bars have closed and many more others will close than would have otherwise. This in a nutshell is taxation without representation and a sobering example why statehood is necessary.
Tim Carman, Washington Post food columnist: Sometimes it’s easy to forget, because he’s always posting photos and videos from somewhere else, but the single most impactful human being in food calls Washington home: José Andrés saw the need, and he didn’t hesitate. First, he turned his D.C. restaurants into places to feed the hungry. Then he performed an even larger pivot and turned his nonprofit, World Central Kitchen, into a national operation that would take on the task of feeding the hungry during a pandemic, while also keeping restaurants open across the country. The last figure I saw indicated WCK had served 35 million meals in more than 400 cities. If Joe Biden doesn’t give Andrés a Congressional Medal of Freedom, something is seriously wrong.
Tom Sietsema, Washington Post food critic: It wasn’t a single story, but rather, lots of accounts of Washington-area chefs and restaurateurs demonstrating over and over again how to meet the challenge of a lifetime.
Gabe Hiatt, Eater D.C. editor: In terms of stories that reflect general wonkery and #thistown culture, the rise of the Fauci Pouchy is the “most D.C.” story. As I’ve come to learn, D.C. is also a place where hotels are constantly opening, changing ownership, or otherwise rebranding, so I’ll throw in the story about about the revamped hotel in Thomas Circle that debuted with a female empowerment theme — and a male executive chef. On a more serious note, it’s been fascinating and heartening to watch D.C. bartenders use their skills to advocate for anti-racism during a nationwide push for social justice. On the other side of the political spectrum, the takeover of Harry’s Bar and the Hotel Harrington by the Proud Boys and other pro-Trump, white supremacist groups during violent protests disputing results of the presidential election feels unique to Washington.
More from the Year in Eater