Georgetown Restaurants Still Very Independent

The other day a few of GM’s readers lamented that the new Paul Bakery restaurant that is to open next to the Banana Republic is a chain. While it’s fair to complain about the lack of genuinely exciting or even interesting restaurants in Georgetown, one of the things Georgetown’s definitely not is chain-dominated.

As of GM’s latest count, there are 126 restaurants in Georgetown. Of those, only 20 are part of a big chain. An additional 5 more are part of a regional chain (i.e. Five Guys). So even if you lump the regional chains in with the national chains, there are still only 25 chain restaurants in Georgetown. That’s less that 20%. (And the number of chains is unchanged from last year, while the number of independent restaurants has increased).

Is the Georgetown restaurant scene a little threadbare? Absolutely*. Does it seem like no new and interesting restaurants open here? You bet. But that’s a product of a lot of forces, only some of which are controllable.

The two largest factors are the liquor license and the rents. With the Georgetown moratorium, unless you were one of the lucky few that snagged one of the new licenses that were issued last year, you’re stuck buying an existing license, which can run upwards of $70,000. And even if you secure a license, you’ve got to find a good space that you can afford (and that doesn’t require much construction). There just are only so many of those spaces available.

But neither of those factors is likely to change in the near future. Is there anything we can do to attract new and interesting restaurants if we can’t change these two factors? GM wish he knew the answer to that question, but he suspects the answer is “no”.

*Are there places GM still loves? Sure. But most people would agree that the vast majority of Georgetown’s food fare is pretty boring



Filed under Restaurants

9 responses to “Georgetown Restaurants Still Very Independent

  1. 126 restaurants in Georgetown? And the fare is boring?

  2. Charmed

    Compared with the new restaurants opening in the Gallery Place, 14th Street, and even H Street NE neighborhoods, I’m afraid that, yes, Georgetown restaurants are boring.

  3. nancy

    Walk down M Street and Wisconsin Avenue and count the chain stores and restaurants. There may be 101 local restaurants which, if truly locally owned and operated, are very likely struggling to stay afloat in Georgtown’s high rent and super tax district. Chains tend to have more resources. I am still lamenting Georgetown’s number of chain retail and restaurant offerings and will continue to foster and encourage friends and neighbors to give a local, like Furin’s, their business.

  4. carol Joynt

    GM, how many of those non-chains are fast food? How many have an actual chef on premises? It would be interesting to know. Just had this conversation yesterday with some folks, recalling a time when Georgetown was the culinary hub of the city, with many of the top restaurants. Then, the chefs went elsewhere … to better deals downtown, Capitol Hill and beyond. Also, the clientele went downtown because GT had no subway and a cab here at lunchtime is costly and time consuming. But, there’s still dinner. Maybe the village’s overseers should consider a tax break for landlords who welcome entrepreneurial chefs (Spike Mendelsohn, Art Smith, to name two who are interested in finding affordable space). And maybe ABC licenses should be given out on the basis of merit — what will you bring to the community mix — rather than who is first in line. Yes it’s arbitrary, but sometimes that is necessary. There should be a Georgetown Czar of Restaurant Recruitment, and that individual should have experience, taste buds and the soul of a benevolent dictator.

  5. PK

    Could not agree more – it’s sad that there are no places to eat and I have to travel to Penn Quarter or Logan Circle for inventive cooking. The Georgetown landlords must be stopped for being so greedy!

  6. GM

    Carol, here’s the list (sadly a couple have closed since I counted them):

    Café Divan
    Bistrot Lepic
    Casbah Café
    Bean Counter
    Patisserie Poupon
    Georgetown Café
    Pizza Movers
    Basil Thai
    Los Cuates
    Avocado Café
    Kitchen No. 1
    Georgetown Dinette
    Smith Point
    Martin’s Tavern
    Prince Café
    Café Milano
    Peacock Café
    Mai Thai
    Tuscany Café
    3rd Edition
    Ching Ching Cha
    Lighthouse Café
    Café Cantina
    Bangcock Joes
    Tony and Joes
    Riverside Grill
    Fishers and Farmers
    Sweet Green
    Aditi Indian Cuisine
    Rhino Bar
    Crepe Amour/Georgetown Wing Co.
    Harmony Café
    Modern Lounge
    Pizzaria Paradiso
    Quick Pita’s
    Go Fresh
    Tackle Box
    J. Paul’s
    Bistro Francais
    Sea Catch
    Mr. Smith’s
    Old Glory
    Mien Yu
    Ristorante Piccolo
    Moby Dick
    Paper Moon
    Cannon’s Seafood
    Café La Ruche
    Canal Express
    Zenobia Lounge
    Miss Saigon
    Innovations Lounge
    Thunder Burger
    Fino Italian
    Vietnam Restaurant
    La Chaumiere
    Don Lobos
    Taj of India
    Café Tu a Tu
    Bourbon Steak
    Zed’s Ethiopean
    George’s King of Fallafal
    Café Europe
    Canal Walk Burgers
    Georgetown Deli
    Hunan Express
    K’s Deli
    Truffles Belgian Chocolates
    Griffin Market

  7. Thanks, GM. I count about 23 actual restaurants, excluding burger joints, pizza parlors, fast-food/carryouts, saloons and the several businesses that are no longer. For example, by my measure, I count Clyde’s as a restaurant, but not Rhino Bar, Pretzelmaker or Wingo’s. Griffin Market, now closed, was a carryout, not a restaurant. I love Georgetown Dinette, and buy food there, but it’s more a deli/carryout than a restaurant, which (again to me) means tables, chairs, tablecloths, wait staff, reservations, a chef on premises, specific menus for lunch and dinner … Also, I make a distinction between chefs and cooks. Both important, but not the same job.

  8. If there is to be a Czar of Restaurant Recruitment for Georgetown (something BID should consider since BID is comprised of mostly landlords) then I nominate the only man in town for the job: Richard J. McCooey, who founded and owned The 1789 Restaurant for decades, as well as The Tombs. His taste in decor, ambiance, food and staff is impeccable. Richard is a Georgetown legend. I would go so far as to elect him as Mayor of our fair village, with complete rule over not only our tastebuds, but merchant mix and student behavior as well.

  9. Pingback: Neighborhood News Roundup: Happy Paws Dance Edition - City Desk - Washington City Paper

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