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D.C. Dining Pros Point Out 2023’s Most Innovative Industry Ideas

Shout-outs to sustainability, clever packaging, and wine QR codes

Oyster Oyster chef Rob Rubba’s tasting menus showcase plates made of repurposed glass bottles.
Rey Lopez for Oyster Oyster

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 week. Now, these dining authorities discuss the new innovative dining ideas they’ve seen emerge this year that they hope continue into 2024.

Tom Sietsema, Washington Post food critic: I love good packaging, in particular what Eric Eden, David Deshaies and Makoto Okuwa have done within the Capitol Crossing development. Love, Makoto is a food-hall-size mash note to sushi, barbecue, Japanese takeaway and different price points.

Tim Carman, Washington Post reporter and columnist: Can we get AI to replicate Mark Bucher and his Feed the Fridge organization?

Nycci Nellis, publisher: Not new or innovative, but the re-emergence of mid-priced establishments. Casual but not fast casual (not that there’s anything wrong with it). Dining destinations that don’t break the bank and offer a thoughtfully executed menu and great vibe. Thinking of spots like: Little Black Bird, Queen’s English, Hiraya, and Any Day Now.

David Hagedorn, Arlington Magazine/Bethesda Magazine dining columnist: The dining public simply does not like—or understand—all the fees and surcharges added to their bill. Two innovators have proven that it is possible to take on the fair wage/tipping/inflation/Initiative 82 conundrum without confusion: The Duck and the Peach and 2Amys. The price at the bottom of their bills is the guilt-free price you pay (you can leave more) and they explain their reasoning clearly on their websites and menus.

Paola Velez, Author, owner of Smallorchids INC and co-founder of Bakers Against Racism: I hope to see a rise in sustainable practices like chef Rob Rubba of Oyster Oyster. We gotta get crafty in the industry, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t help the planet while doing so.

Red wine with a background of greenery Shutterstock

Rick Chessen, Rick Eats DC blogger: I’d like to see some disruption in the wine-ordering process. I often look at a wine list like I look at my car engine when I open the hood: lots of nodding as if I’m carefully assessing the situation when the truth is I haven’t got a clue. Why not have a QR code on the wine list that lets you explore the wines in greater depth? Or that tells you which wines on the list are comparable to ones you already know and like? I’m not anti-sommelier but some places don’t have one and others have those serious somms with a certification lapel pin and a little cup hanging around their neck. I’ll do anything to avoid that awkward moment when they point to the perfect wine for our dinner and I have to ask for something with two digits while trying to convey that I’m not cheap and/or don’t value their expertise.