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 reflect on 2020 restaurant closings that cut deep.
Paola Velez, executive pastry chef for Maydan, Compass Rose, and La Bodega: All of them. It’s heartbreaking.
Tim Carman, Washington Post food columnist: Johnny’s Half Shell, no question. Chef Ann Cashion and business partner John Fulchino have been joined at the hip for a long time. They’re also two of the finest people I know. They’ve fed me well. They’ve taught me a lot. And I always drink too much in their presence, which tells you something about how comfortable they make people feel in their places.
Ann Limpert, Washingtonian food editor and critic: Johnny’s Half Shell. Not just because I have a million memories there from over the years, not just because it would occasionally serve the world’s best hotdogs, but because it was the best kind of neighborhood restaurant. John Fulchino is so welcoming and warm, the space was cozy, and Ann Cashion’s plates were so satisfying.
Tom Sietsema, Washington Post food critic: While the shuttering of Emilie’s, Hanumanh [temporarily], Momofuku, and Poca Madre were dispiriting, I’ll miss Johnny’s Half Shell most of all. Johnny’s was the place I turned to on the rare night off from work — Ann Cashion’s American food was pitch perfect — and I had the good fortune of watching it over its long run and in multiple locations.
Simone Jacobson, co-owner of Thamee: I know Eighteenth Street Lounge wasn’t a restaurant, but that news hit me the hardest. ESL was like a church for dancers. Hearing about Marvin, where I had one of my first serving jobs in D.C., closing also broke my heart. Both places were iconic for dates, celebrity sightings, and unforgettable music moments.
Jessica Sidman, Washingtonian food editor: Room 11. It was a great neighborhood hangout with a lovely patio, friendly bartenders (hi Eddie!), and some of the best (and often underrated) cocktails in the city. I look forward to seeing what owner Paul Ruppert does with the space going forward.
Lenore Adkins, freelance food writer: Montmartre, that adorable French spot in Eastern Market. I’ve lived here for six years and it was always my brunch standby and the place to take visitors from out of town. I have so many amazing memories of that place over the years. And there was a charming French waiter who was hilarious and did everything with a flourish (if you were a regular, you know who I mean). Montmartre closed in March, but because I’ve kept my radius pretty small, I didn’t find out until December when I was walking through that neighborhood. I did double and triple takes at the empty space and had to stop walking, in disbelief, to process the closure. It felt like getting punched in the face.
Raman Santra, Barred in DC blogger: Because of the blog (and my insatiable need to try every new spot once), we haven’t really become regulars anywhere. But the quirky, Hill East neighborhood gin bar Wisdom, which reminded me of some corner New Orleans spot away from the tourists, became one of the few spots in town where the owner and bartenders recognized us. We visited before we moved to the neighborhood to gauge the feel and joined the Gin Club a week after we moved in. We probably could have visited there more but D.C. needs more spots in residential neighborhoods like it.
Gabe Hiatt, Eater D.C. editor: Trying to run a restaurant is a total farce right now, so my heart goes out to everyone who had to call it quits. The closing that hit me the hardest was Sergio Ristorante Italiano, the basement-level Italian-American place in the Silver Spring Doubletree that ended a 37-year run. Extroverted owner Sergio Toni was a trip, and his more reserved son, Luigi, kept the place humming along with affably cheesy charm. The spinach- and gorgonzola-stuffed pork chop in brandy cream sauce was a personal favorite (and hard to get; it was often sold out). So were the fettuccine ai frutti di mare and the super-light tiramisu. I was also very bummed to see modern Mexican hideaway Poca Madre, my go-to for mezcal cocktails with friends, go down. RIP to the Post Pub, A&D, and Maddy’s Taproom, all places where I made memories bending an elbow with coworkers and friends.
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