The Perils of Equality


I'd say the reason DC's ultra-high end dining scene doesn't hold up to some of the country's other major cities isn't only that our area isn't as big as a New York or a Chicago, but also that its economic structure is too egalitarian. Despite DC's high poverty rate, the metropolitan area is one of the wealthiest in the country. But it's wealthy in the sense of having lots of moderately well-off folks who get puzzled at the idea that $200,000 a year is a lot of money. What it doesn't have are many movie stars or hedge fund wizards or executives of huge companies.

If you go down one ratchet from the places like Per Se that David Park is wondering about, DC is full of excellent options (I like Zengo, Capital Grille, Ten Penh, Jaleo, DC Coast) but these are places that a decent swathe of Washingtonians can afford to go to now and again for a special occasion. I find the hyper-inequality on display in centers of financial services, entertainment, and technology is responsible for many things I find annoying, but it does create some positive externalities in terms of supporting the existence of institutions that wouldn't otherwise exist. At the end of the day, I don't think the fact that Pharaoh was able to build the pyramids makes the unjust political system of Ancient Egypt a good idea, but inequality is good for restaurants both in terms of driving demand for high-end food and creating a supply of restaurant labor.