Tabla

Tabla, web site, 3227 Georgia Ave. NW, Washington, DC, a bit north of Howard, 202-291-3227, opens at 10 a.m. by the way. (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | Washingtonian | City Paper | Ylp]

Georgian, a more casual offshoot of Supra. First of all, it is one of the best outdoor dining set-ups in town, as even part of the “indoors” is quite well aerated, while the outdoor section has some real protection again the cold. And the food is great! Get khatchapuri here, most of all the ones with lots of cheese, especially the one with egg on top and then the other one with extra cheese. Yes, the other dishes are fine, blah blah blah, but get the khatchapuri, with the other orders you are merely paying lip service to culinary diversity.

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Hedzole, food stand

Hedzole, food stand, web site, at Angelika Mosaic for the Farmer’s Market on Sundays, 2910 District Ave., Fairfax, VA 22031 (FreshFarm link). @hedzole, they hope to open a restaurant when things are more normal.

Ghanian food, but no fufu. Very good jollof rice and make sure to get it with cabbage and egusi. Right now the best Ghanian food option available to me, and there are many places to sit nearby. Make sure you purchase your intended drink in advance. Recommended, and with a friendly vibe.

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Posted in Food Stands, Ghanaian, Merrifield / Mosaic, Virginia | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Follow Up for Desi Bethak

Desi Bethak, web site, 8000 Haute Court, Springfield, VA, 703-337-2448 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | zabihah | Ylp]

Original review here.

I had never had the pepper chicken here, a wok dish, and one of my very favorite entrees in this whole area, worth the more than $30 cost, plus it feeds two or more. The mix of creamy, biting, sweet, and nutty is quite special. Get it with the lentils. And I still recommend the haleem.

Could this be the best place that no one knows about?

Their outdoor dining offers two low-slung tables, both large, and three seats, with more available inside. It works great if the weather cooperates.

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Mim’s Food

Mim’s Food, web site, 9990 Main St., Fairfax, VA (next to Curry Mantra), 703-261-6566, opens at noon. (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [Google | TripAdvisor | NoVA Mag | Ylp]

Uyghur, a small number of dishes, but they all are excellent. My favorite dishes are the hamburgers and the cold noodles, but it seems everything here is quite good – probably the best Uyghur place at the moment. Uyghur food, by the way, does very well for take-out. There is no outdoor dining here, so if you wish to go arrive right at the opening, when no one else is there. In any case the dining room is spacious and well-aired. It is nice to have such a wonderful new place! The prices are reasonable too.

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Moghul Express, Edison, New Jersey

Moghul Express, Edison, NJ, web site, 1670 Oak Tree Rd, Edison, NJ, 732-549-6222 [Google | TripAdvisor | restaurantji | Zabihah | Ylp]

It is the best biryani I have had outside of South Asia, plus the arrangement for outside dining is both spacious and nicely done and offers protection against rain. Here is their web site. Just get the biryani, but yes everything there is good it seems. It is very close to where the Turnpike and Parkway intersect, and thus close to both — what more could you ask for in New Jersey?

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It’s a Good Summer to Explore America at Random

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is the premise:

    With my summer trips abroad canceled, I decided to be resourceful about travel. Having lived in Northern Virginia for 30 years, I asked myself a simple question: Which local trip have I still not done?

    Earlier in the summer I thought I might spend time in scenic Maine, but too many of my friends from the Northeast and mid-Atlantic seemed to be planning the same. I decided a more adventurous course of action would be to get in the car with my daughter Yana and spend a three-day weekend on the road.

The column is not easily excerpted, but here is one bit:

    Lunch was in Morgantown, West Virginia, but rather than visit the university, we stopped for excellent Jamaican food with jerk chicken, oxtail and plantains — better than the equivalent in the D.C. area. A tip: If you’re ever looking for great food in obscure locales, don’t just google “best restaurants Morgantown WV,” as that will yield too many mainstream options. Pick a cuisine you don’t expect them to have, and Google something like “best Haitian restaurant Morgantown WV.” Whether a Haitian restaurant comes up (it didn’t), you’ll get a more interesting selection of “best” picks. In this case we learned that a town of 30,000 people has several Caribbean restaurants, highly rated ones at that.

Five states in one day (VA, WV, MD, PA, OH) was great fun. In my view, every excellent trip has one stop or locale at its emotional and narrative heart, and for this trip is was the Native American Earthworks in Marietta, southern Ohio.

It’s a Good Summer to Explore America at Random

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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Delivery service price cap regulations

Ben emails me:

    Could you please consider and comment on some of the unseen consequences of local price caps on restaurant delivery services? (Politico article describing the phenomenon in SF, NYC, etc.) A highly competitive market for such services exists between GrubHub, DoorDash, Uber Eats, etc. Moreover, patrons can always pickup and restaurants can always hire their own drivers. That dynamic market will keep prices down and improve service quality and value. As reported 2 days ago, 5/13/2020, in the Wall Street Journal, “America is stuck at Home, but Food Delivery Companies Still Struggle to Profit.” Yet many locals are considering regulating and limiting the prices that such delivery services can charge.

Here is a NYT article on the same phenomenon, claiming that some apps charge up to 40% of the restaurant’s take.

My first question is why the restaurants do not charge higher prices for customers using the app. That might be illegal in some localities, but surely that is not the general answer to the question. Rather the restaurants are afraid of losing customer good will — “what!? I have to pay 30% more just because I bought it with my phone?” [Plus the apps do not allow it, see the comments, though I do no think the apps could prevent restaurants from giving “extras” and thus lower prices to those who show up for service in the restaurant.]

In this setting, restaurants are losing potential revenue to avoid a reputational hit, and staying in business (rather than closing up) because they believe the value of their future reputational franchise is high. In other words, in both channels the restaurants perceive the value of their future reputational franchise to be pretty high.

That is the good news, although you might wonder how it squares with the generally low returns to running a restaurant. I suspect some restaurants simply know they are good and profitable because they are skilled, and the losers are overconfident and less well-informed.

One efficiency advantage of the apps is that they will put the unprofitable restaurants out of business more quickly.

The next question is whether some surplus from the profitable restaurants should, in the short run (and maybe in the longer run too?) be redistributed to the app company.

The apps should increase the demand for the food from the good restaurants (easier to order and arrange delivery), but lower the profit margin on selling more of that food. If those ingredients and kitchen capacity otherwise would go to complete waste, overall that seems like an acceptable bargain. Kitchens are kept active, which is an efficiency gain, even if some profit is redistributed to the app company.

In this scenario, you can think of the app as doing some of the selling, rather than the restaurant doing that selling, and reaping surplus from that effort. In essence, the business of the restaurant has become more specialized, toward pure food production and away from selling, that latter service now being performed by the app company.

Restaurants that were great at selling in the first place might be worse off. But it is far from obvious that these apps and their prices should be decreasing efficiency. Some other restaurants might be worse off because it is harder for them to carve up or segment the market, but that change likely is efficiency-enhancing.

And if the apps do indeed speed the bankruptcy of the lesser restaurants (presumably what the critics have to believe), over the longer haul prices will indeed go up and the good restaurants will earn back some of what they lost up front.

On net, consumers will have better services, better marketing, pay higher prices, and have a better selection of restaurants. That just doesn’t sound so terrible, or so necessitating government intervention to cap app prices.

Note that informed customers probably need the app least, so they are least likely to see its value, just as “critics” as a class, including restaurant critics, are also least likely to see the value of the app in marketing the restaurants. Of course this class of “critics” are exactly those who are most likely to be writing about the apps.

Delivery service price cap regulations

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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Will Covid-19 expose the ghost firms?

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

    Demand for in-restaurant dining is likely to fall as well, though estimates vary. Since the average small business carries less than a month’s worth of liquid reserves, and the wait for a vaccine is likely to be at least a year, many restaurants will simply be unable to survive the shrinking of the market.

    I call these places ghost restaurants because they are still walking around, so to speak, visible to us and listed on Yelp, but not really alive and without much of a future.

    In a few months’ time, a significant number of these ghost enterprises will be gone. My drive around Northern Virginia, rather than being rich with culinary choice, will soon become fairly desolate — and the overall economic landscape will indeed be much emptier.

What else in our current capital structure might qualify as “ghost”?

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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Posted in Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Bailey's Crossroads, Centreville/Manassas, Crystal City/Pentagon City/National Airport, Economics of Dining, Eden Center, Fairfax, Falls Church/Seven Corners, Herndon/Reston/Ashburn/Chantilly / Dulles Airport, Leesburg/Winchester, McLean, Merrifield / Mosaic, Springfield, Vienna/Tysons, Virginia | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Will Covid-19 expose the ghost firms?

Comfort foods make a comeback

    Comfort foods from big brands are seeing a resurgence, executives say, as consumers seek familiarity and convenience amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Many shoppers have favored fresh and specialty brands over Big Food’s processed products in recent years, while others have opted for cheaper store brands. Now, the world’s largest makers of packaged foods say frozen pizza, pasta sauce, and mac and cheese are rising in favor as consumers in lockdown eat at home.

    Nestlé SA NSRGY 3.04% became the latest to detail the trend Friday when it reported stronger organic sales growth for the first quarter driven by Americans stockpiling its DiGiorno pizza, Stouffer’s frozen meals and Hot Pockets sandwiches. Baking brands like Toll House and Carnation also performed well, it said…

    Overall, U.S. store sales of soup rose 37%, canned meat climbed 60% and frozen pizza jumped 51% for the week to April 11, according to research firm Nielsen…

    “We’ve seen time and time again that big brands tend to do well when people are feeling anxious and under threat,” Chief Executive Alan Jope said. He added that he expects the shift to larger brands to last a couple of years.

I wonder how general this trend is. I have seen data that readers are buying more long classic novels, and I am struck by my anecdotal observations of satellite radio. I am driving much less than before (where is there to go?), but per minute it seems I am more likely to hear “Hey Jude” and “In My Life” on the Beatles channel than in times past. Who wants to go out for their periodic 20-minute jaunt and have to sit through 6:34 of George Harrison’s “It’s All too Much”?

Here is the full WSJ story by Saabira Chaushuri. As for food, I am more inclined to consume items that can be easily shipped and stored, and if need be frozen. That favors meat and beans, and disfavors fresh fruit and bread. Frozen corn is a big winner, as are pickles. The relative durable cauliflower and squash do better than some of the more fragile vegetables, such as leaf spinach. I am not desiring comfort food per se, but I do wish to cook dishes requiring a relatively small number of items (otherwise maybe I can’t get them all), and that does almost by definition overlap with the comfort food category.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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Posted in American, Food Stores | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Pickles are underrated

You are going to be running to the refrigerator for snacks anyway, so why not make the most of it? Pickles are cool, fresh, delicious, and just the right size for snacking. At the same time, they are not too delicious, and they are pretty good for you, more so than say chips or candy. They store well too. I have been ordering from Number One Sons (kimchee too, and they deliver in my area), while one very smart reader (Alex R.) recommends Oregon Brineworks, especially the spicy ones.

Soon I’ll be turning to books and movies for your lockdown.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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