Making the rounds today is an interview with a Philadelphia chef claiming that Philly food is “head and shoulders above” DC food.
It’s simply not fair to compare food options in DC proper without expanding to the entire metro area. All the good food is in Virginia.
DC is a city that American founders established as a non-permanent residence. For two hundred years, DC residents have struggled with high taxes and no state representation. Of course the most entrepreneurial folks choose to live in the Beltway but outside DC limits.
Because DC is so transient, competitive District dwellers have extremely short attention spans. Any DC resident knows that when a resident hailed for its chef opens, you should try it within the first three months, before that chef takes a new gig and leaves the restaurant to sous chef underlings (just this week Againn lost its chef to a new venture).
Here’s some unscientific supporting data. Renting a 2-br townhouse in downtown DC costs an average of $2600. In Fairfax that same 2-br runs about a thousand dollars less per month (thanks, Rentometer).
Who can afford rent that’s so damn high? Lawyers.
For an even less scientific method, take a look at Tyler Cowen’s excellent ethnic dining guide. Cowen splits his time between beltway Virginia and urban DC. His is perhaps the most consistent and discriminating food guide in this area. I have been following this foodie haven for four years now and I can confirm that nearly all ethnic foods — Ethiopian being the distinct exception — are simply better in Virginia.
Sure, it’s easy to hate on our poor statehood-free District of Columbia. Our nation’s capital reflects the mores of our nation, which includes importing goods and keeping the gears free for idealism.
DC gets all the delicious food we need from surrounding Beltway producers. Parts of the District are awash with mediocre business luncheries, while fantastic restaurants spring up in denser residential areas like U St. and Dupont. Perhaps if DC were more state than nanny all of the excellent lunch truck options could nudge our average food option quality up a bit.
Maybe there are cities with better food options than our fair capital. But it’s unfair to compare DC food without including in that comparison DC’s greatest strength: our delicious suburbs.