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D.C. Restaurant Experts Call Out the Most Exciting and Infuriating D.C. Food Trends of 2022

Breaking down good and bad developments in the DMV scene

A frothy espresso martini
The espresso martinis trend continues.
Red Hen

Following an Eater tradition, we asked a group of restaurant critics, journalists, bloggers, and 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 month. Next up, answering the question: what was the most exciting — or most infuriating — local restaurant trend of 2022?

Tom Sietsema, Washington Post food critic: Most exciting: service automatically added to checks. No more math after dinner! Most frustrating: all the confusing other fees tacked onto bills.

Ann Limpert, Washingtonian executive food editor and critic: Infuriating: that some restaurants have apparently forgotten how to serve small plates, and traffic-jam your table with everything you’ve chosen, all at once. Lesson learned: you have to order as you go. Also, the not-so-subtle rushing of diners through their meals. So many dinners this year felt like they were on fast-forward. Not that I wanted to sit around for like, three hours, but I also don’t want to tuck into dessert at the 45 minute mark.

Jessica Sidman, Washingtonian food editor: Yes, there were trends this year, but were they exciting? Celebrity chefs are arriving en masse (again), espresso martinis continue to be hyped, food halls keep coming, “speakeasies” seem to be back, service charges are everywhere, everything got really, really expensive. Can’t say I’m excited.

I’ll talk about an infuriating trend. For the record, let me say that I am not actually against QR code menus. They’re fine. Whatever. Really. But I do think some places make the experience even worse with QR codes stuck to the table that have gotten sticky and gross. Or it’s so dark your phone doesn’t want to read them. I’ve been to at least two restaurants this year that had spotty cell service, so you had to log into their wifi networks with a password to get to the menu. One of the places had a really long, complicated password and I kept typing it in wrong. I ended up just borrowing my dining companion’s phone to read the menu. Why, just why.

Personal pan pizzas at at Tigerella in Foggy Bottom’s Western Market food hall

Lori Gardner, Been There, Eaten That blogger: For the “exciting” trend: there were a ton of openings this year and for the most part, DC area dining seems to be thriving again. And this is not infuriating, but confusing: it’s critical that restaurant employees are compensated fairly, but service charges plus suggested tips and other surcharges are puzzling to many diners.

Anchyi Wei, Anchyi Adorned blogger: I love seeing the “food hall” concept gaining more popularity, and pop-ups like Hole in the Wall at Tonari and Casa Kantuta are always fun! I also appreciate that restaurants are becoming more knowledgeable about dietary restrictions.

Rick Chessen, Rick Eats DC blogger: Butter boards are infuriating but not sure they caught on enough to be called a trend. I’m also not fond of the plant-based trend of vegetables trying to imitate proteins – e.g., a red beet shaped to look like filet mignon or a slice of watermelon on rice pretending to be tuna nigiri. Sure, the initial trompe l’oeil can be fun, but once you take a bite, your taste buds will not be happy with your eyes for over-promising what was coming their way.

Angie Duran, Women of Wine co-founder, director of operations for Duo Group and at Bottles Wine Garden: Please don’t order a “Negroni. Sbagliato. With Prosecco” from me. However, seeing low-ABV continuing to grow and not slow down in the city makes me really happy. The last couple years being “mindful” is pushed in every part of our lives, being able to find it and enjoy it within beverages easily is great. Shout out to Show of Hands.

Missy Frederick, Eater cities director: I’m continually amused by all the nostalgic cocktail trends that Eater DC editor Tierney Plumb has done such a great job chronicling: blue curacao, Mind Erasers, espresso martinis (I know this one kicked off before this year), etc. Request: bring back your Grasshopper cocktail riff, Jane Jane! I was also delighted enough by the places doing Book It!-style personal pizzas to buy a pan for myself off E-Bay.