Thrillist: All the Ways DC’s Food Scene Absolutely Destroys New York’s
“Coke vs. Pepsi, Army vs. Navy, Capulets vs. Montagues, Kanye vs. Taylor, Microsoft vs. Apple, vampires vs. werewolves, Man vs. Wild, white rice vs. brown rice… history’s greatest rivalries have been the subject of debate for centuries. But there is no greater rivalry than the war between the food scenes of DC and New York. OK, that might not be true. But you can’t deny that we spent years hearing our food scene negatively compared to the one in New York. And for a while there, we maybe even deserved some of the shade… but not anymore. To settle the score, we asked some of the top industry pros what makes DC’s food scene so special.
DC chefs are really invested in their city
“What I love about the DC food scene over New York’s is the sense of ownership people have in their restaurant and level of pride you see in everyone from the bartenders to the cooks to the chef. People really invest themselves here in one place, whereas in New York they tend to bounce around. It really shows in the food and experience. NYC can feel a little impersonal and cold.” — Marjorie Meek-Bradley, executive chef, Ripple, Roofers Union, and Smoked & Stacked
We’ve been the underdogs forever, and now’s our time to shine
“I feel DC is making its mark with food nationally right at this moment, whereas New York has had that identity for a very long time. I think the chefs, restaurateurs, distillers, etc. are all compelled to innovate in a way that is different from a more established city that doesn’t have that same drive because they don’t need to. It’s that underdog effect, and DC has been the underdog for too long, but sometimes that leads to greater heights.” — Tim Ma, Tim Ma Restaurant Group (Water & Wall, Chase the Submarine, and Kyirisan)
“Washington, by and large, is comprised of local restaurant owners and chefs focused on what they do best, and we have been that way for generations. Our number is growing as chefs mature and leave their mentors to open their own places, and chefs from other cities are now flocking here to secure a stake in the marketplace. We are the young, hip, new kid on the block, so to speak. The racehorse to put one’s money on with the greatest odds. The big cities [like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago] were the trendsetters we all looked to, but now our nation’s capital is a place all the bigger-name concepts and talents are looking to because we are flourishing. Our dining audience has grown more adventurous and international. Those from the major culinary centers now want a piece of Washington’s pie.” — Ashok Bajaj, Knightsbridge Restaurant Group (The Bombay Club, 701 Restaurant, The Oval Room, Ardeo+Bardeo, Rasika, Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca, Rasika West End, NoPA Kitchen+Bar, and Bindaas)
“New York has long been established as a food mecca — and with good reason — but DC has come into its own over the last few years. Being the new kid on the block, we’ve had to be creative and carve our own collective path. Chefs like Jeremiah Langhorne, Aaron Silverman, Eric Ziebold, and Tom Cunanan are putting out food every bit as exciting and fresh as any chef in the world. The rise of high-quality food in DC has been paralleled by tremendous development in the bar scene. From cutting-edge experimental cocktail bars, to dives, to exceptional beer bars, the variety of drinking options available in DC is of the highest order.” — Jeff Coles, bartender, Vieux Carre
We’re overcoming stereotypes
“I believe that there are a lot of chefs who wanted to change the perception of what DC restaurants had to offer. The dark-wood steakhouse has always been synonymous with DC dining and while we still offer that, now we also have a very cutting-edge dining scene as well. With a lot of young professionals moving back into the city, they now have a lot more options to explore.” — Nathan Beauchamp, executive chef, The Fainting Goat
We’re growing rapidly and constantly evolving
“New York offers the best of the best. Inspiration wherever you look! It was very good to me. DC, however, offers an amazing array of international influence and growth at every point. I have found that as a New Yorker I was excited by the overwhelming amount of existing inspiration, but as a Washingtonian I am excited by the overwhelming amount of new opportunities.” — Aaron Silverman, chef and owner, Rose’s Luxury and Pineapple & Pearls
Those who came before have paved the way for epic new heights
“The DC food scene has witnessed a boom in the last five years for a multitude of reasons. Don’t forget — before this boom we still had amazing ethnic cuisines, most notably Ethiopian and Vietnamese. But we also had Michel Richard, Jose Andres, Bob Kinkead, Ann Cashion, Jeff Buben, Todd Gray, Roberto Donna, and a number of other chefs driving the smaller contingent of Modern American restaurants. The boom happened when these chefs cultivated a new wave of cooks. That new wave of cooks, along with the opportunity for cheaper real-estate options, created a new dining scene in a city growing to be more cosmopolitan.
“The problem with New York’s dining scene is a lack of space and money. It’s squeezing restaurateurs into tiny spaces and profit margins — essentially ensuring failure over a given period of time. DC, on the other hand, is growing and thriving. The skyline is full of cranes, and those cranes are bringing opportunity. The homegrown movement is one the residents of this city want, and want to succeed.” — Michael Friedman, chef, The Red Hen and All-Purpose Pizzeria
“What makes this city great is the long history of influential and astute chefs, like Michel Richard, Patrick Clark, and Jeffrey Buben, all of whom pioneered cuisine in America. DC has always been a great food destination and is now getting the recognition it deserves.” — Kwame Onwuachi, chef, The Shaw Bijou“
Read the rest of the reasons HERE!
Featured image by Daniel Fishel, Thrillist.