Big Apple's Food Scene Descends On The District (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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The Big Apple's Food Scene Descends on the District

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:47:31
Earlier in the show, we visited a type of restaurant you probably won't see in just any city, an Ethiopian-Jamaican fusion restaurant serving up everything from spicy lentils and Injera bread to curry chicken and Bake and Shark. But over the past few years, D.C. has experienced an influx of restaurants you do see in another city, New York City to be precise, as more and more Big Apple eateries set up shop in the nation's capital.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:47:58
We've seen the arrival of the Italian place Carmine's, the cupcake joint Crumbs, the Steakhouse BLT, the newly opened Serendipity with their frozen hot chocolate. The list goes on and on and on. Emily Friedman headed to some of these spots to learn why so many are migrating to D.C. and whether Washingtonians are developing a taste for these New York exports.

MS. EMILY FRIEDMAN

13:48:18
There's actually a very simple explanation for this restaurant migration and it has to do with the most basic economic concept out there, supply and demand. As the District became more and more developed over the past 10 years or so with sleek office buildings and condos, new restaurants began to appear on the scene with high-end inventive eateries packed night after night. It wasn't too long before New York chefs and investors took notice.

MR. RUSSELL WARNICK

13:48:46
So we're at Shake Shack in Dupont Circle.

FRIEDMAN

13:48:48
That's D.C. based food writer, Russell Warnick, and Shake Shack, for those unfamiliar, is a burger joint based in Manhattan made famous by its excruciatingly long lines. And D.C., Warnick says, it's no different.

WARNICK

13:49:02
When you go evening time or at lunch, there's lines out the door.

FRIEDMAN

13:49:06
The D.C. Shake Shack opened in May and relies on its crowd-pleasing burgers, fries and milkshakes. They've even tweaked some of the names on the menu with a little D.C. pride, like the shakes.

WARNICK

13:49:17
The majority were Presidential Suite, Washington Monument.

FRIEDMAN

13:49:20
The District itself is known for hosting quite a few burger joints, Five Guys being the most common. But right now, as we walk around the restaurant, it's obvious Shake Shack has the buzz.

MART

13:49:31
The idea that, like, we have to rely on New York for innovative food ideas kind of gets under my skin. On the other hand, this is really good.

FRIEDMAN

13:49:39
This is a diner named Mart, who lives in Northwest D.C. He says he likes seeing New York restaurants join the D.C. market. It means there are more options while still having the choice to buy local.

MART

13:49:49
I think this is, like, good stuff and Ray's Hell Burgers stand on their own. I think they can handle the competition.

FRIEDMAN

13:49:54
And the competition is steep. Many of the people chowing down at Shake Shack admit they came in because they read that Michelle Obama ate there. And you can't underestimate the Obama effect, no matter who owns the restaurant. For the next stop on our tour, Russell Warnick and I head to the quintessential New York watering hole, P.J. Clarks.

FRIEDMAN

13:50:13
While the original location on Manhattan's Upper East Side has been in business for a staggering 125 years, this location has been in operation for less than one. It's located right by the White House at 16th and K.

WARNICK

13:50:26
P.J. Clarks is very branded. You would walk in and think, yes, this is a chain.

FRIEDMAN

13:50:31
Despite its glossy branding, Warnick says, there are charming parts to the place as well. The old presidential photos on the wall...

WARNICK

13:50:38
The red and white checked tablecloths. That's what gives it a New York vibe.

FRIEDMAN

13:50:42
Warnick says when you go to P.J. Clarks, you know you're going to get a good, solid meal. Nothing spectacular, but nothing to complain about.

WARNICK

13:50:49
Do we need another restaurant like that? There's always a market for it and it's a good addition to the K Street restaurant scene.

FRIEDMAN

13:50:55
The final and most famous stop on this tour takes us to the desert dreamland known as Serendipity, right at the corner of Wisconsin and M.

WARNICK

13:51:04
Great location, actually probably the best location of any restaurant in Georgetown.

FRIEDMAN

13:51:09
Serendipity in New York first opened its doors in 1954 and since then has provided a cozy resting stop for tourists as they pound the pavement and swipe their credit cards in stores. And here, Warnick says, there isn't anything quite like it.

WARNICK

13:51:22
P.J. Clarks, I would say the D.C. equivalent is Clyde's. Shake Shack, the equivalent in D.C. is Five Guys. Serendipity, I don't know if there is a kind of D.C. equivalent. I can't think of one off the top of my head.

FRIEDMAN

13:51:36
Whether there is one or there isn't, we're both blinded by the arrival of two tall glasses. Mine is piled at least four inches above the rim with whipped cream.

FRIEDMAN

13:51:45
All right. So I ordered the Root Beer Float and you ordered...

WARNICK

13:51:49
The Madras Mojito.

FRIEDMAN

13:51:51
Cheers.

WARNICK

13:51:52
Cheers.

FRIEDMAN

13:51:52
The question remains whether the Southern migration is good for D.C.'s evolving food culture. Our local food scene is blossoming, Warnick says, but building up some culinary rivalry is ultimately a good thing.

WARNICK

13:52:04
I don't think that D.C. is a better -- is an old kind of city in food terms. I mean, definitely in politics, but not in food terms. You know, I personally think that if newer restaurants want to come to D.C. and open up, that's a nod to D.C. That's, like, hey, look at what's happened in D.C. We want to get in on that. It's healthy competition.

FRIEDMAN

13:52:24
It's not that D.C. is becoming a New York knockoff, he says, but that we're coming into our own as a dining destination. I'm Emily Friedman.

SHEIR

13:52:32
How do you feel about the increasing number of New York restaurants? Get the conversation going at facebook.com/metroconnection.org or send a tweet to @wamumetro.
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