Food

7 Things Restaurants Are Really Struggling to Get Right Now

Chicken wing prices have doubled, and many paper products are in short supply.

Jerk chicken wings are one of the most popular dishes at Cane, but chef Peter Prime says prices have doubled. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Supply chain troubles are just the latest crisis to hit restaurants and bars. Many otherwise ordinary items have skyrocketed in price, while some staples are simply impossible to get with any consistency. We asked seven chefs and restaurateurs about the ingredients and supplies they’re most struggling to get hold of right now.

Chicken Wings

“Wing prices have doubled. They’re all over the place. It’s one of our most popular items. People think it’s really expensive, but the inflation is real. Everyone’s just got to rethink what everything costs. We’re just getting whatever is available sometimes. It’s not the same quality and consistency that we like. There was a time where every week we’d be getting it from a different place just to keep up. I would just put in orders with all of my suppliers and see who sends them.” —Peter Prime, chef/owner of H Street Corridor’s Cane

Pie Dishes

“I bake all of my pies in a Pyrex dish. Even when people purchase a pie, we sell that pie in a Pyrex dish because I refuse to put it in some shitty piece of tin. That became a super 9-1-1 situation. You can’t find Pyrex at all anymore. For Thanksgiving, I need like 500. I was lucky to find one made by Anchor Hocking, which is subpar. I’m going to end up probably using 20-percent more of my pumpkin pie mix to fill those pies. It is a lot.” —Teresa Velazquez, co-owner of Baked & Wired in Georgetown, and A Baked Joint and La Betty in Mount Vernon Triangle

Noodles

“We get [Twin Marquis fresh Asian] noodles normally from H-Mart, and they’re shipped over from Korea. Now, it’s kind of scrounging. I’ve had to circumvent and go to different markets. I’m currently getting them from Great Wall Market, which is a massive Chinese market. I have to drive to Fairfax to pick them up. We were paying $42 a case for noodles, and it’s jumped all the way up to like $90. Currently, we’re just eating the cost.” —Angel Barreto, chef at Anju in Dupont Circle

Kitchen Equipment

“I’ve never taken this long to open a restaurant. I am held up right now by a piece of metal—it’s the front frame to the stove to tie everything together—but DC health won’t come out until it’s assembled.  You could probably stand on the corner with a deep fryer right now and pay off your mortgage. Refrigeration? Forget about it. We’ve got it now, but it took us 12 weeks to get it.” —Ashish Alfred, owner of Duck Duck Goose in Bethesda and Baltimore; he’s opening a new location in Dupont Circle this fall 

Paper Products

“The size food boats I use, they were out for maybe two to three weeks. When they got them in, people were hoarding those like toilet paper. Instead of buying one case, I bought four. They had eight-ounce soup cups for the first time in about a month. I had been using coffee cups. I was going to Restaurant Depot maybe every other week. Now, I’m going two to three times a week just to see if they have stuff.” —Patrick Rathbone, owner of the Big Cheese food truck

Glass Bottle Beverages

“Getting Pellegrino in is very difficult. Sometimes we’ll get it in, sometimes we’ll switch to another product. Diet Coke and Coke were out for months. We just recently got some Diet Coke in. I know that liquor and wine has also been affected a lot. You have to be really flexible. By the time you know you have to switch to something else, the deadlines [for alternative products] have already gone through.” —Amy Brandwein, chef/owner of Centrolina in CityCenterDC

Shrimp Paste

“For Asian restaurants, you’re getting an off-brand or you’re not getting the brand that you want, period. Luckily, I know a lot of suppliers giving their reserve to me— 20 years of doing this helps. I can’t imagine people starting right now, it’s just going to be crazy.” —Aung Myint, owner of Bandoola Bowl in Georgetown, and soon, Foggy Bottom

Quotes have been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

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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.