What is DC’s Next Food Obsession?

by Rebecca Cooper

New York bagels

While putting the words “viral” and “food” in the same sentence doesn’t really whet the appetite, that is exactly the way some foods have exploded in recent years. DC hasn’t been immune to these viruses as it seems there’s no limit to the amount of retail space burger joints, pizza parlors, and cupcakeries can gobble up.

But what next? With the emergence of DC-3 and ChiDogO’s, it looks like hot dogs are making a play. Sandwiches seem to be picking up speed with Taylor Gourmet opening up in a new neighborhood on an every-other-month schedule, and Chef Spike Mendelsohn, who hit both burgers and pizza with Good Stuff Eatery and We the Pizza, now adding a Jewish deli sandwich truck, 6th & Rye, to his arsenal.

While sandwiches and dogs might be growing in popularity, here are a few ideas for foods we could see taking off in a big way:

Nachos: Is there a more social food than nachos? The portion alone is tailor-made for sharing, which is a key element to a lot of the new, casual concepts that are capitalizing on classic fare, according to John Critchley, the new executive chef at Urbana in Dupont Circle. The sheer number of possibilities for different kinds of nachos could also support a nacho-centric food truck or casual beer-and-nachos bar. Need gluten free? Blue corn tortilla chips. Vegan? Spicy hummus nachos with, if you must, vegan cheese. Meat lovers? Throw some house-made chili made with buffalo (or some tongue, points out Critchley) on them, along with pico de gallo and cheddar cheese. Or maybe some pork belly? “Adding pork belly to anything can bring it to the next level,” Spike Mendelsohn says. Nachos also go swimmingly with beer, which helps its viral-ness, as another must-have of the casual concept is some kind of alcohol accompaniment.

Cheese steaks: Due to its proximity to the city of brotherly love, DC does not lack Phillies and Eagles fans, which means that creative cheese steak shops featuring some Pennsylvania brews would likely be pretty well received. Washingtonian’s Best Bites Blog already noticed that fancier cheese steaks have been popping up on restaurant menus around the city.

Cheese steaks hit a key note that make viral concepts a success: they serve something that people consider a treat, and a comfort food. However, when it comes to variations of these longtime favorites, Spike Mendelsohn says there needs to be a balance. “It’s always valuable to try and push the boundaries,” he told UrbanTurf. “But at the same time, classics are classic for a reason.” That’s why, even if they are trying to play up a new angle, steak shops should probably stock some Cheese Whiz for the purists.

Bagels: Full disclosure, this native New Yorker might have a predisposition to think this one’s a good idea. But really, how have bagels not become part of the food crazes of the moment, particularly in a city that is essentially a bagel desert? It can’t be the no-carb thing that nearly killed them in the early 2000’s; people are now scarfing down hamburger buns, baguettes, and pizza crust with abandon.

Bagels have the advantage of being a classic from another city, something that’s clearly proven itself worthy in the era of viral foods. (Examples include Pete’s New Haven Apizza, ChiDogO’s Chicago-style fare, and the Texas barbecue of Hill Country). The humble bagel also doesn’t suffer from high-quality ingredients; if you don’t believe me, try the handmade, all natural ones at Capital City Cheesecake in Takoma Park. We’re thinking Sunday brunchers in DC could get used to a freshly made bagel with some homemade Old Bay cream cheese, or house-cured local blue fish. Even with a latte or a St. Germain-laced mimosa, one would significantly be cutting down on the cost of brunch.

Obviously these are just a few of the foods that could go viral next. But what about you? What foods would you like to see take off in the area?

Rebecca Cooper is a freelance journalist and avid eater that has contributed to TBD, DCist, and Washingtonian. If you have any tips about restaurant or bars openings or closings, email Rebecca at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

See other articles related to: viral foods, neighborhood eats, editors choice

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/what_is_dcs_next_food_obsession/4117


  1. Bages said at 7:58 am on Friday September 9, 2011:

    I would love to see at least one decent bagel place in DC!

  1. Mary said at 9:04 am on Friday September 9, 2011:

    Hah! I think bagels totally had their trendy moment, too - I recall around the early to mid 1990s bagel shops opening all over the place, even way out in rural/ex-urban parts of MD and VA. Remember Bruegger Bagels and Chesapeake Bagels?

    There are good indigenous, as it were, places though. Well before the trend took off,  Bethesda Bagels was there and had lines stretching out the door on weekend mornings.

  1. barry said at 9:23 am on Friday September 9, 2011:

    A decent cheesesteak place would be nice. Nothing fancy, keep the whiz!

  1. saladman8283 said at 2:16 pm on Friday September 9, 2011:

    Prediction:  Brownies are the next cupcakes.

  1. Kaylee said at 2:25 pm on Friday September 9, 2011:

    There’s already a good Cheesesteak place: Philadelphia Water Ice on H Street, NE. Definitely nothing fancy (it’s just a walk-up window), but delicious nonetheless.

  1. Jen said at 3:37 pm on Friday September 9, 2011:

    I hear pies are the new cupcake. And i’m glad. I’m sick of cupcakes!

  1. Marc said at 4:18 pm on Friday September 9, 2011:

    How about soft pretzels (another Philly specialty).

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