It can be hard eating in DC without feeling like you are being hoodwinked. In a city flush with government money and its concomitant bloat of white-collar service industry, it can feel at times that you are just one mark of many to extract. I mean, we made a big deal out of the whole #Resist thing, but at the same time, we just let $15 cocktails happen to us without putting up much of a fight at all. Sometimes, we do not always practice what we preach.
In any event, this problem is particularly acute because the traditional guides that have helped us discern bad from good in the past are of no use in DC. To summarize the state of things:
- Tom Sietsema, the Washington Post’s food critic inexplicably entering his 17th year of paid employment (!!!), pretty much gives a positive review to every trendy new restaurant when he is not otherwise taking time to dedicate positive copy in a nationally circulated newspaper to Chipotle-for-salad and Chipotle-for-vegetables. Tom Sietsema is either much too easily impressed to perform his job responsibly or he is part of a larger conspiracy to accelerate the real estate values in gentrifying neighborhoods in the city. Either way, he is an embarrassment and should not be relied upon under any circumstances.
- DC Yelp suffers from a similar problem. It seems like if a restaurant has exposed brick or serves a novel alcohol like mead (which describes 90% of new restaurants in DC), it will get four stars on Yelp even if the food is not good. What ends up happening is that after you have been here for a while, you will find yourself searching for “dinner” in Shaw and find yourself scrolling through page after page of 4+ starred restaurants that have already taken your money once and that you have no desire to give any more of your money. So that, too, is not reliable.
- Food blogs in DC are also strikingly vapid. DC Eater, for instance, is largely devoid of any substantive commentary whatsoever and reads like it is written by a crowd-sourcing algorithm designed by an advertiser to sound human. Other popular food blogs are either nauseatingly DC (The Hungry Lobbyist: Premier Food & Lifestyle Collaborative), overly reliant on professionally done photography to the point of non-credibility (dcfoodporn), or both (Bitches who Brunch). Blogs here tend to be aggressively monetized and heavy on the ads and interstitials, and it is very disconcerting on a meta level just how much they simply reflect how the restaurant scene here singularly pursues (in a particularly naked way) the extraction of profit. It is a little like that blog post that guy wrote a few days ago about how capitalism has combined with a complex bot ecosystem to automate the infinite production of horrifying children’s videos on YouTube.
So, in light of all that, I humbly provide this map of DC that shows, in haiku, (1) places I wholeheartedly recommend and would be glad to return; and (2) places to avoid at all costs that are often recommended by the charlatans discussed above. It is a work in progress, so thoughts and responses welcome.
(Most of the pics are mine, but sometimes they are Google’s, idk how to eliminate those from showing, so lmk if you do. To view in a list, click the sidebar icon on the top left of the map.)
(For phones, a link to the map is here.)
- Gold: Very Expensive ($75-$100+ per person w drinks)
- Orange: Expensive ($50-$75 per person w drinks)
- Green: Less Expensive ($20-$50 per person w drinks)
- Blue: Cheaper ($10-$20 per person)
- Purple: Coffee, cafe, bakery, or ice cream
- Trash: Overpriced and forgettable