The Daily Byte: Dear Times and WaPo, Don't Make Us Turn This Food Truck Around

The problem with the culinary kerfuffle between New York and D.C.
A jumbo slice from Pizza Mart in Washington D.C.

Arthur Bovino

A jumbo slice from Pizza Mart in Washington D.C.

Intercity rivalries involving New York don’t usually feature D.C. When it comes to sports or food, Boston, Philly, and San Francisco sure, but the Capitol? But last week, The New York Times' Congressional Correspondent, Jennifer Steinhauer, ruffled feathers among Washington’s gastroratti for a piece on 'Everyman Eating', claiming “Capitol Hill is awash in junk food.”

The Times feature was particularly hard to swallow for one of D.C.’s prominent food writers, Tim Carman. The piece that former Washington City Paper food editor penned in response made a potential culinary intercity rivalry even more tasty because of the new employer he wrote it for: The Washington Post. Problem is both Steinhauer and Carman overlooked things, and the irony is that earlier this year Carman was the one dissing one of D.C.’s most iconic comfort foods.

Steinhauer bolstered her case by citing examples like a new hot dog spot, DC-3, and places serving pizza, burgers, milkshakes and grilled cheese sandwiches:

“A major contributor to the spread of Everyman Eating is the steady rise of Capitol Hill as a residential neighborhood, with several chefs moving into the area. When they open restaurants, what they want, it seems, is not a crack at a Michelin star, but rather midlevel places where they could get food from their childhood, and attract residents who craved the same.”

But The Times' late-to-the-party trend piece doesn’t acknowledge that the comfort food trend is older than food trucks, cupcakes, and Neapolitan pizza combined. New York's still entrenched in it. It was more than Carman could take. He cited three supposed examples of The Times putting down D.C. restaurants, one from each of the last three decades, then started in on his disproportionate response:

“Could you please stop rubbing our noses in our inferiority? We understand by now. You're better than we are. Your fashion is better than ours, your art is better and, of course, your restaurants are better. Washingtonians will forever cower in the long shadow cast by Gotham, nervously picking our nails and hoping you will like us one day. I mean, really like us - and not just like us so that you can tear us to shreds another day.”

The problem with that is that there is no competition. Sure, New Yorkers would love to have Restaurant Eve and Minibar, but New York's restaurants are better, and no self-respecting New Yorker would be caught dead wearing khaki shorts, Izods and sandals. (Though Washingtonians can take solace – their museums are free.) And Carman's outrage is bit much.

After all, my piece in April, Jumbo Slice Wars, pitted pizza at New York’s Koronet and Adam Morgan’s Pizza Mart against each other in several categories: size, structure, taste, cost, press, and iconic status. D.C.'s Pizza Mart won three to one. In turn, Carman's piece on The Young & Hungry, New York Vs. D.C.: Whose Jumbo Slice Sucks Less?   noted: “Who cares?   Isn't this like raising the question of which city has better sanitation services?”

To turn around and get all bent out of shape over a bad trend piece is a little disingenuous, especially for a guy who then took a drive up I-95 to spend the weekend in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Dear Tim, Thanks, we know. Take a sip of tej and relax. D.C.'s restaurants are improving.

 

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