It’s no secret that if you want to find an expensive meal in DC, you don’t have to look very far. But there are also plenty of places to eat that are delicious, fun, and won’t break the bank.
Last week, Washington Post food published an article with the headline “Dinner for two for less than $100? Good luck.” In it, reporter Becky Krystal writes that Rose’s Luxury and Maketto are billed as neighborhood restaurants but are high end, which blurs a line that used to exist between affordable, neighborhood fare and the high end establishments that got Michelin stars.
As restaurants compete to offer the freshest, best, and most innovative or novel meal, Krystal writes, prices increase and make it more difficult for people to find affordable dining options.
Is this really the case? Sort of. Sure, DC is finally getting credit for its thriving restaurant scene, and high prices and exclusivity come along with that. But that’s not all there is to DC, even for those looking for a nice date spot. There area bevy of food options at different prices, and suggesting this isn’t the case makes it seem as if diners need a lot of money to enjoy dinner out in the District.
You can definitely dine in DC without spending a lot of money
It’s simply not true that you need a lot of money to enjoy dining in DC. GGWash contributors pointed out various ways in which they save money when they’re dining out in DC.
“I think it's bogus that you can't go out without $100. One of the first things I do is just drink water if I want to save. Or I get a dessert and eat a midnight snack when I get home. Or I stay on the [appetizer] menu. Or I just skip some of the fancier, but not very appetizing places,” said Kristen Jeffers.
Matt Johnson pointed out that the H Street corridor has more affordable restaurants, including Copycat, which serves Chinese street food like potstickers and bao.
Sam Norton took issue with the assumptions behind the Post’s $100 price tag, which assumes that a couple would order multiple drinks, appetizers, entrees, and desserts. One very easy way to avoid that kind of bill is to not order as much food or to avoid alcohol.
“If that's your definition, then I think it's entirely valid to bemoan the lack of options under $50 per person. Whereas it's entirely possible to go out to dinner and get just one entree and a non-alcoholic beverage each, skip the appetizer and dessert, and keep your bill to $25 per person or even less,” he said.
“But is it really even dinner if you can't get three signature cocktails per person and an escargot appetizer?,” joked Stephen Hudson.
Gray Kimbrough said, “The clickbait headline basically disguises the obvious conclusion that you can't just eat whatever you want for cheap around here. I'm not sure how this would be news to anyone.” He advises anyone who wants to save some money look for happy hours with good food menus. His personal favorites are Scion and La Malinche, in Silver Spring.
One of my favorite resources is Eater’s DC website, which provides maps of the best restaurants, ranging from expensive to a regularly updated “best cheap eats” map. Eater also has maps for the area’s best Ethiopian food and the best Vietnamese pho, two cuisines the Post article says are in short supply in DC. Vegetarian? There is a map for you, too.
Other restaurants need to be acknowledged, not just the expensive ones
This kind of attitude helps to perpetuate the impression that people who can’t afford a $100 bill don’t have a say in the kind of social experiences a city offers or can’t be in the discussions about the newest, hottest restaurants.
“I agree that this sort of language is kind of classist: it implies that dates or dinners with a friend or partner aren't valid unless they're at a really fancy, expensive place that a lot of people can't even consider going to,” said GGWash contributor D.W. Rowlands.
But if you can spend a lot of money, that’s fine, too
“What, exactly, does the Washington Post think should happen? $26 for the chicken at Maketto seems very reasonable to me. That stuff is amazing. And Maketto is pretty much on a wait every night,” Matt said, adding that there’s a clear demand for more expensive food options.
Maketto, Bad Saint, and Rose’s Luxury are recent examples of high praise heaped on DC’s restaurant scene. These restaurants feature award-winning food, and in the case of Bad Saint and Rose’s Luxury, tiny spaces where lines for a table go down the street. The hype isn’t unwarranted; President Obama celebrated a birthday at Rose’s Luxury, and First Lady Michelle Obama has been spotted at Maketto.
These prestige restaurants are part of DC’s fabric and contribute to a growing reputation for being a good city to live in. How much anyone chooses to spend on food is up to personal preference. Not everyone would spend $26 on fried chicken, but that doesn’t mean the people who would are bad (by the way, Eater has a map for the city's best fried chicken as well).
For DC’s restaurant scene to continue growing, it needs a variety of restaurants to serve a variety of residents, and these restaurants also need to be showcased for what they can contribute to DC’s social landscape. Affordable eats are plentiful and show that DC is sensitive to residents’ wallets. Any discussion about DC’s restaurant scene should not exclude these options as though they don’t exist or aren’t worthwhile.
If you’re looking for affordable eats and high quality people to hang out with, GGWash’s next happy hour is July 11 at the Highline RxR in Crystal City. It won’t cost $100.