A Brief History of Political Types Hating on DC’s Food Scene

A tweet from a congressional candidate about DC's food being "terrible" is just the latest jab.

Pizza at 2 Amys. Photo by Scott Suchman

Political types love to hate on Washington (“The Swamp”), which, fine. But things get really heated when the insults veer from the political scene to the food scene. DC has a long history of outsiders bashing our culinary options, and locals getting extremely defensive about it. Just the latest example: This tweet from a Florida congressional candidate: “Can we talk about DC food being terrible? Because it’s not great y’all.”

We’ve been here before! So, here’s a brief modern history of foodie trash-talking and clap-backs.

2013: The pizza and sandwiches suck.

In a review of Mark Leibovich’s Beltway insider tell-all This Town, the New York Times took a jab at the “utter inability of a metropolitan area of 6.9 million people to produce a single decent slice of pizza or a passable submarine sandwich with oil and not mayonnaise.” (The Times has a long-running history of DC food scene put-downs.) Locals let out a collective, “Excuse me?,” compiling lists of the best sandwiches and pizzas and penning rebuttal essays.

2016: There are no great restaurants.

In the lead up to the presidential election, celebrity chefs José Andrés and Geoffrey Zakarian pulled their restaurants from Donald Trump’s soon-to-open DC hotel, sparking a legal fight. In a deposition for one of the lawsuits, lawyers asked Trump whether liberals would make a point not to patronize his properties. Trump said he thought they would—if there was a great restaurant. Then came the dig: “They want to go to a great restaurant… There aren’t that many in Washington, believe me. There aren’t that many in Washington, as you know.” Trump seems to have made a point of it but never visiting a single DC restaurant in his four years in office—other than the steakhouse in his own hotel. (To be fair, it’s not as though many places were eager to welcome him…)

2016: There’s no amazing sushi restaurant.

Technically, the New York-based owner of Sushi Nakazawa isn’t a politico, but he did create political sparks by opening his omakase restaurant inside the Trump hotel, earning him a place in this timeline. It all started with an interview Alessandro Borgognone did with New York magazine: “With D.C., I had reached a point where I saw so much bad that I was actually looking for the good. I couldn’t find it.” Asked about competition, he added, “We don’t have any… It’s just, you know, can you name an amazing sushi restaurant in D.C.?”

Facing backlash, Borgognone swiftly apologized: “The story unfortunately was depicted in the wrong way… I love DC and that’s why I’m opening a restaurant here.”

2020: It’s impossible to get a decent bacon, egg, and cheese.

In an episode of Showtime’s Desus & Mero, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez visits a New York bodega, and DC shaming ensues. “Is it hard to get a good bacon, egg, and cheese in DC?,” asks Desus. “Impossible,” AOC says. “There’s no bodegas anywhere. I don’t know how anybody eats in Washington, DC, which probably explains why everyone’s fighting all the time. Everyone’s hangry.”

2021: DC food is terrible.

And that brings us to current day when Omari Hardy, a democrat Florida House rep from West Palm Beach running for Congress, dared to share his novel take. Twitter, naturally, is already in a tizzy. Here are some highlights:

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.