Food  |  News & Politics

Keith McNally Is Coming to DC. Washington A-Holes, Be Afraid.

The New York restaurateur blasted James Corden for allegedly abusing staff. Will he take on the political power crowd next?

Minetta Tavern in New York. Photograph by Lucas Richarz/Flickr.

New York restaurateur Keith McNally is set to open two upscale bistros in DC’s Union Market District next year: an outpost of Minetta Tavern and another location of Pastis, his collaboration with Le Diplomate hitmaker Stephen Starr. But we’re looking forward to so much more than his famed Black Label burger. Chiefly, McNally’s unvarnished Instagram commentary calling out the rich, famous, and poorly behaved—something Washington lacks but desperately needs.

McNally went viral this week after banning talk show host James Corden for allegedly abusing the staff at buzzy Soho brasserie Balthazar. In one incident, the comedian reportedly berated a server because a bit of egg white was mixed into his wife’s egg-yolk omelet. In another, McNally says, Corden reprimanded a manager and demanded that his drinks be comped after finding a hair in his entree. (Corden called to profusely apologize and McNally unbanned him a day later.)

But if you follow McNally, you know that this is the kind of dish you can expect on the regular (alongside cultural commentary, employee shoutouts, and self-deprecating tales about his sex life). The restaurateur famously put magazine editor Graydon Carter on blast after the “fancy Fucker” no-showed on a lunch reservation for 12 at Morandi. He’s constantly name-dropping—Leonardo DiCaprio on Table 13 at Minetta, Cindy Crawford on Table 66 at Balthazar. And he frequently publishes his managers’ end-of-night reports, chock full of juicy details about cancellations, covers, complaints, comps, big names, big spenders, and bad tippers. Despite the potential breaches of privacy, the VIPs keep coming back.

This is the kind of dining transparency we just don’t have in Washington. Occasionally, a restaurant might share when a (real or Washington) celeb dines in—though usually only after the person has been outed on social media by a fellow diner. Sometimes a server or bartender, usually anonymously, will deliver behind-the-scenes tidbits on politicos of note. But for the most part, discretion is king. There’s no equivalent of McNally in DC.

Washington, though, has its own set of inflated egos, server stiffers, and tableside tyrants—many of them likely shaping policy and the national conversation. This is also the city of checks and balances. So, Keith, please take on the capitol’s power crowd next.

Cordens of congress and C-SPAN, you’ve been warned.

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.