The already precarious M St. dining scene took a sizable blow over the past month as three different restaurants closed. The decline of restaurants is a long term trend that GM has been documenting for a while. While the recent closures are largely consistent with this long term trend, it is isolated along the eastern end, which has up till now been somewhat more resilient.
The closures (first reported by the Georgetowner) are Unum, Maxime’s (next door) and Pier 2934 (across the street). Unum was a well regarded, if not particularly high profile, restaurant that replaced Mendocino, another relatively well regarded restaurant which closed in 2012. (Mendocino itself replaced the beloved Geppetto’s Pizza, which was the highlight of GM’s family trip to DC in 1986:
Maxime’s replaced the short-lived Rialto, which itself replaced the long-standing Guard’s. Pier 2934 was a reinvention of its predecessor Little Viet Garden as a cajun crab house. This format is apparently popular for Vietnamese restaurants in the suburbs, but this is the second attempt at it in Georgetown that ended in closure (Yummi Crawfish was the other).
According to the Georgetowner, “several insiders said that the plan is to combine the two buildings and open another restaurant, owned by Middle Eastern investors who also own restaurants outside the U.S.”
That doesn’t sound super promising. It sounds like a chain. But who knows?
Until (and if) those changes arrive, the restaurant count along M St. is down three. That brings the total to 23. That seems like a lot, but in 2008 it was 45. That’s almost a 50% reduction in ten years.
As GM mentioned, the restaurants on the east end of M St. have remained a bit more resilient. Moreover, it’s a good mix of high end (Das, Chaumiere) and cheaper eats (Don Lobos, Taj of India). A few have left us from this side (none more beloved than Furins, RIP) but it has seen nothing like the devastation the west side has seen. And where restaurants have closed (like Furin’s or Garrett’s) they have mostly been replaced with other restaurants. Will that trend continue with these three restaurants?
The decline of restaurants on the main drags of Georgetown is a bit of a conundrum. The future of retail shopping in the U.S., particularly in expensive places like DC is “experiential shopping”. And restaurants are almost entirely about the experience. Will it take a similar blight hitting the retail shops before restaurants will reclaim their spot on M St.? We’ll see.
In the meantime, the near future of great dining in Georgetown continues to thrive off of M St. Just walk into the Sundavich/South Block Juice/Grace St. Coffee place on any day and it’s packed, with the average age of about 22 and a standard deviation of about 5 days. (GM feels extremely old there, is the point…) Or go to Chez Billy Sud, or the Sovereign, or wait for Reverie. The point is that fine dining is thriving in Georgetown, and someday it might thrive again on M St. But for now, it’s just walking wounded on M St.