Young and Hungry

The Atlantic’s Henry Counters: D.C. Is Indeed a Great Food City

Pho: One of the great dishes that D.C. has to offer

Y&H is really getting to like Terrence Henry, who serves up regular commentary for the Atlantic Food Channel. I think I'd say that even if Henry didn't call me a "great food writer," which is a stretch but which I nonetheless enjoyed seeing in "print" as if it were an objective, verifiable fact. (I've already forced Wemple to read the piece, but he said nothing, refusing to take the bait.)

So what I like about Henry is this: He's passionate. He's honest. He's knowledgeable. He's a homer without embarrassment. He's the kind of eater every city needs.

After my quasi-take down of Henry's declaration that D.C. is a great food city, he came back strong with a longer essay better stating his case. I hate to disappoint anyone, but I don't feel like ramping up this argument with another rebuttal.

First of all, it's a fool's errand because the answer is subjective. Second of all, I have no interest in bashing the D.C. dining scene by constantly comparing it to those in other cities — and finding it lacking.

The fact is, I'm pretty happy with the offerings in my current home. Can the District do better? Yep, of course. There are still vast stretches of this city where I can't find a great place to eat. You don't even have to point a finger at Ward 8, which doesn't yet have a white-tablecloth restaurant to call its own. Chevy Chase and Adams Morgan are content to slide by with mostly mediocre offerings as well.

Frankly, it's part of my job to help nurture a restaurant scene here by rewarding its best players—and chiding those who want to skate by on grim plates of second-rate food.

The bigger question in this discussion, I think, is this: Can anyone who lives in the District be objective enough to determine if it's a great food city or not? Frankly, I think that's a job better suited for qualified outsiders after spending a couple/three weeks here sampling our restaurants and take-outs and street carts.

Those of us who have lived and worked and eaten here for years are somewhat myopic when it comes to the "big picture," and that includes the major food critics who have something of a vested interest in calling their coverage area a "great food city." I think it's easier for critics to judge restaurants one at a time than it is for us to make sweeping statements about our cities as whole; our judgments on the latter are bound to lean toward overstatement since overstatement will make us and our readers and sources feel more important.

No, I will continue to focus more on my day-to-day job, content that I live in a city that satisfies almost all of my cravings. I think I will leave the grand designations to others, like New Yorkers who revel in such pronouncements.

Until, that is, somebody asks me what I think about D.C.'s food scene.

...