The recent article by Mark Furstenberg in the Post about the food culture of DC opened my eyes to the food desert I live in. I didn’t realize it before. Not only is DC a food desert, it is an over priced food desert!
Just the other day I was enjoying, actually enjoying, a chorizo taco at Taqueria Nacional. Never again! Had I realized how bad the food is in DC, I wouldn’t have dared to enjoy it. When I think about it, the employees at Localat Cafe some how tricked me into believing that the mussels I had there were delicious, as well. This misconception stuck with me right until I read Furstenberg’s article. Now I know better.
I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences. Chalk them up to your inferior palate, now that Furstenberg has pointed out how bad the food is in DC, and how bad your palate is. The pizza at 2 Amy’s, for instance - you can never take your kids there again. (When they beg to go, just do as I did: tell them it burned down; they’re young, they’ll get over it.) Or the pig tails at The Pig, but you had a sneaking suspicion that something called pig tails (served at a place called The Pig) couldn’t possibly be as good as they actually tasted. Mr. Furstenberg simply confirmed it. Of course, now you know that you were simply wrong when you went to Etete, that everything wasn’t incredible, even when you had no idea what you were eating. Remember that? Boy, some places will go to any length to make you believe you’re eating good food in this city, even so far as using fresh ingredients and knowing how to cook it.
The other service Furstenberg performs for Washingtonians is show us how over priced our restaurants are. You can’t get good cheap food in this city. I did not know this. Obviously, I’m being taken advantage of. For instance, I thought I was stealing the food at Los Hermanos, it was so good and so cheap. As it turns out, those crafty Dominicans were over charging me! I should be able to eat that well for two dollars and get a free drink, I believe Furstenberg is implying. Same goes for Mi Cuba Cafe, where they call breakfast Desayuno - that should have been my first clue that it was overpriced; foreign words on the menu! But how could I tell that it was overpriced when I was getting Huevos al Gusto con Jamon o Bacon o Queso Frito, Tostadas cubanas, Cafe con Leche y Jugo de Frutas (freshly squeezed) for $6.95? I suppose I shouldn’t have paid a penny over $2.95! Live and learn. And then there is Fast Gourmet. How on earth this place ever duped me I’ll never know! It’s in a gas station for God’s sake! It must have been the fact that the food tastes really good and didn’t cost very much. The bastards.
I’m also, in a way, relieved to know that all those stores at the Florida Avenue Market like A. Litteri, Mexican Fruits on 4th Street NE, Caribbean Crescent on 5th Street NE, and the nearby Union Market, plus the butcher, baker, and cheese monger at Eastern Market are all terrible. I mistakenly thought for years that the food I was buying at these places was fresh, affordable, and delicious. I’m glad to know that I was fooling myself. I can go back to shopping at 7 Eleven and not feel like my soul is slowly dying.
I know there are places I missed, neighborhood places like Mangialardo and Sons and Vace or newer places like Taylor Gourmet or Medium Rare that I always enjoyed but now know are simply vile.
I guess I might as well take all my meals at Ben’s, instead of just most of them. At least it’s iconic and mixes nostalgia with it’s not-good-ness.