DC's Best Restaurants Offering Once-in-a-Lifetime Meals to Raise Funds During Coronavirus
Wanna book a private throwback Himitsu dinner? Now you can.
If you’ve ever dug toné bread into Maydan’s brightly hued spreads or felt the warmth of its open hearth, then, by proxy, you know chef Christopher Morgan. He helmed the kitchen of the award-winning restaurant when it opened back in late 2017; the following year, it shot to the top of Bon Appetit’s coveted Best New Restaurants list.
Despite the restaurant’s continued success (it was awarded its first Michelin star in 2019), Morgan recently struck out with fellow Maydan chef Gerald Addison to pursue an ambitious venture of their own. They were only two weeks away from opening their new restaurant in Navy Yard, Bammy’s, when the coronavirus pandemic struck.
“Obviously everything happened with COVID-19 and we decided not to open. Prior to the restrictions being put in place by Mayor Bowser, the initial fear was, well, what are we going to do with our staff? A lot of our staff left their previous jobs to come work for us,” Morgan told InsideHook.
He worried not only for his staff, who were eventually able to apply for unemployment benefits, but also for undocumented workers — those who he says are “very much the backbone of my restaurant and all other restaurants throughout DC and the country.” After a few days of going stir crazy at home, Morgan decided he had to take action to figure out a way to help.
All it took to get the ball rolling was a serendipitous conversation the chef had with a friend from No Kid Hungry, who informed him about a recently launched nonprofit in Philly: Save Philly Eats. He raised his virtual hand to take on the nonprofit’s same mission but for DC, raising money for struggling restaurants and bars through enticing offerings such as Zoom cooking classes and “IOU” private dinners for months down the line.
“I just started cold calling and emailing people, and played the role more or less of a chef facilitator, trying to use as many of the contacts I’ve made over the years and relationships that I built to get people involved,” says Morgan. “It’s basically a platform for restaurants and bakeries and bars and events spaces and whatever — anyone that’s tied into the hospitality industry at all — to bring in real money now to help them get through this tough time, and that money can be used in any way they want.”
Those looking to support restaurants can now visit Save DC Eats’ digital marketplace to book anything from a 10-person Lao cooking class from Thip Khao to a backyard lamb roast for 15 cooked by none other than Morgan and Addison. Digital offerings that you can take advantage while still sheltering at home include a Wine and Murder Mystery Night hosted on Zoom by Dio Wine Barv — your answer to a more creative quarantine date night option than binging Netflix before falling asleep together on the couch.
Also selling rapidly are private throwback dinners by James Beard semifinalist chef Kevin Tien, who shattered the hearts of many DC food lovers when he and former co-owner Carlie Steiner decided to close shop on the tiny-but-mighty Himitsu in Petworth.
Morgan says that many of the offerings are starting to sell, and new offerings are being added nearly every day, including lower price-point items like a Chaia DIY Taco Box that includes fixins’ and lagers for four.
“We’re just cruising now and we’re really excited that people are starting to notice that we’re there. You know, this is a real fun way for people to not only help us weather the storm, but they can also feel good about the fact that it gives them something to look forward to, and for me that’s like the best thing,” he says.
“I think all of us are trying to stay optimistic throughout this really uncertain, difficult time, and having something that you can easily purchase that you’ll feel good about and will give you something really cool to look forward to, whether it’s a party at home, or a meal kit, or even a private dinner at your house in four months — there are a lot of options for everybody, and it really does help restaurants and their staff.”