DC Rebels Against Restaurant Charging $1,000 per Couple

DC’s food scene has been becoming fancier lately (and more expensive).  It’s gotten to the point where the happy hour prices for drinks are comparable to full-priced drinks in other cities.

restaurant dinner

DC also did not get hit by the economic crisis as much as other areas, so this area has had more disposable income (and for a longer period of time).  So it makes sense that this phenomenon is happening.

But it looks as if the city has a limit.


The Shaw Bijou is opening soon and Washingtonian Magazine covered it with this beginning:

When it opens on November 1, the Shaw Bijou will be one of the most expensive dining experiences in Washington—and one of the rare places where reservations are binding, and all sales are final.*

“The ability for us to ensure that all of our costs are covered on a night-in and night-out basis allows us to source the best products we can,†says general manager Greg Vakiner of the policy. “With only an eight-table dining room at our price point, for us to have a table of four guests not show up could be a large hit for our bottom line. Using this method, it allows us to plan everything in advance, and ensures that we have the staff and infrastructure to deliver the experience as intended.â€

Ticketed reservations for chef/co-owner Kwame Onwuachi’s first-ever restaurant went live on Monday—and clock in at an eye-popping $962 for two 13-course tasting menus with wine pairings (both $185 per person), tax, and automatic 20-percent gratuity.

The article created a bit of a stir on social media.





So has the DC scene changed to the point where this sort of price point will be welcome?

According to the Washington Post, it has:

The people criticizing the Shaw Bijou’s prices would probably say that this is not the Washington they know, either. Is the city of half-smokes that kind of place? It is now. The Michelin Guide arrives next month, in the wake of a series of expensive restaurant debuts this year: Pineapple and Pearls, with its $250 all-inclusive price, opened April 7, and Eric Ziebold’s Metier, with a $200 tasting menu excluding drinks, opened April 26. The Georgetown restaurant 1789 just reopened as a prix-fixe restaurant, at $85 to $109 for its tasting menus. And Minibar, the current record-holder for the most expensive restaurant in the city, raised its prices this year, from $250 to $275, with beverages costing up to $500. The price was $65 when Minibar debuted in 2003.

The Washington Post article also discusses how this criticism took the restaurant off guard.

But from reading the article, it looks like a large percentage of this criticism is circumstantial.  Jose Andreas, a fixture in the DC area, has built up a reputation.  His restaurant is Minibar, quoted in the article above.  It’s comparable in price to Shaw Bijou but not in reputation.  The article states this is the chef’s first restaurant, so he hasn’t been “tested”.

In the case of the Shaw Bijou, the chef was on Top Chef on a season I didn’t pay attention to.  But there is a discussion in the comments here about his arrogance on the show.  That doesn’t give me confidence that this experience will live up to the price.

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. 240pp including tax & tip. Not sure about DC but pretty normal by LA standards.

    I don’t do wine pairings though because under 21.

  2. I can live pretty well on $1000 for an entire month in some relatively nice countries.

  3. They really seem more concerned about the binding reservation aspect. I can’t imagine a couple willing to pay over $1000 for a dinner really has to worry much about losing it. If people will pay then the I don’t care if Shaw Bijou is there to take their money or not. You know what they say about a fool and their money.

  4. I agree that seems a bit on the high side, but if you take the average 2 Michelin star resteraunt in France 1000 usd for a couple is not so far fetched. The question is how can they charge those prices without a 1-2 star rating? Let’s see what the michilen guide gives them next month (if anything), as without a high rating I don’t see how splashing a grand makes sense.

  5. I worked with Kwame at Dinner Lab…a pop-up dinner club. I tweaked a “red velvet beet cake recipe for him to keep the bright reds.

    I received an offer to work at The Shaw Bijou as the Garde Manger Chef de Partie, but that was almost 2 years ago, he got too big headed, stop returning calls, stop answering texts/emails… Just hope he doesn’t float away with that ego…

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