How DC Restaurants Are Adapting in the Face of Coronavirus

Some of the city's best eateries are getting creative to keep Washingtonians fed

March 17, 2020 10:40 am
ranch fried chicken emilie's
The new limited takeout menu from Emilie's includes the option of adding a bottle of wine

It’s hard to believe it was just last week that the spread of coronavirus was labeled a pandemic and a national emergency. By Friday, bars and restaurants in the District were reporting daily revenue losses of 30 to 50 percent as people increasingly began to practice social distancing. Staff were sent home earlier, with many shifts being cut altogether.

In the meantime, bars and restaurants were stepping up to bring a new level of cleanliness to their operations. Derek Brown of the usually booked-up Columbia Room told us this weekend that he was experiencing a 45% daily loss as his staff worked diligently in gloves to wipe down surfaces as people left their seats. 

“I know my next paycheck is going to look dramatically different,” says Grady Meier, a bartender at the trendy speakeasy-style bar The Mirror. Meier was also training to mix up drinks at the upcoming Yours Truly DC — an Ace-esque hotel that was slated to open soon in West End. 

We had an interview scheduled later that day to chat with a colleague of his, Michael Francisco, who later called us back to say that both himself and Meier had just been laid off, along with the rest of the hotel’s bar and restaurant staff.

“We came in to train and they let us all know they weren’t going to move forward, because they don’t know when they’re going to open anymore,” says Francisco. “There’s so much happening and there’s such a lack of information that they just can’t. They were very gracious about it, and are paying us for the training session and the following week that we had scheduled. They said that we can all have our jobs back if and when the time comes, but you know, for servers and bartenders, we need to find a job.”

As of Monday morning there aren’t exactly jobs to be had, though. Cities across the country, not to mention entire states like Illinois and Ohio, have in succession decided to close down all bars and restaurants in a Hail Mary attempt to put a plug on the rapid spread of COVID-19. 

Included in that list is the District of Columbia, where the D.C. Health Department confirmed late Sunday that the city had another presumptive positive case of the virus, bringing DC’s overall case total to 17. DC officials then closed nightclubs and placed new restrictions on bars and restaurants, while neighboring Maryland is shuttering casinos and Virginia has banned gatherings of more than 100 people. The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, originally scheduled for April 4, has also been canceled.

Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted out the actions that the city’s bars and restaurants must now take “to comply with the District of Columbia Department of Health’s (DC Health) Emergency Rulemaking to Prohibit Mass Gatherings.” Nightclubs, bars and the dining rooms at restaurants are officially to be closed for service as of 10 p.m. Monday.

Rather than shut down entirely, many restaurants across the city are now pivoting to takeout offerings or at-home deliveries. Some establishments, like Hook Hall in Park View, are attempting to provide relief to restaurant workers through donations. 

bad saint columbia heights
Bad Saint in Columbia Heights is among the restaurants that have pivoted to new delivery programs during the coronavirus lockdown (Bad Saint)

Below, you’ll find five eateries that are going to save your dinners for the foreseeable future, providing attractive meal options for all the families who rushed last week to stock up on cans and are now furiously Googling “tasty bean recipes.” Just keep in mind that changes in law and policy are happening frequently, so call ahead to confirm that the details are current before stopping by. 

Without further ado, here’s how to support some local businesses instead of stress-eating your entire pantry — just remember to do so responsibly, which means as little face-to-face interaction as possible.

Capitol Hill

Emilie’s is offering a special Vietnamese takeout menu from Chef Kevin Tien as well as a selection of pantry items such as dips, ferments and fresh-baked breads. They’ll also be offering 40% off of all of their wines and several heavily discounted bottles at $25 each. Their takeout menu will be available from 3 to 8 p.m., and orders can be placed for takeout by phone at 202-544-4368 or email at

From Emilie’s: “During this time, we will still be including our 4% wellness fee. 100% of this money is budgeted in our business plan to pay for employee healthcare premiums. We are proud to offer free, quality healthcare to our employees, and it is more important now than ever.”

Union Market

This upscale Italian favorite is now offering Masseria a Casa, a new internally run delivery operation launching today, March 17, and delivering seven days per week from 4 to 6 p.m. Chef Nicholas Stefanelli and his team are going to be creating a new Masseria a Casa menu each week, with a different featured meal for two each night. 

The dishes will reflect the Puglian-inspired Italian menu Nick serves at Masseria, with the first week’s menu featuring items like Whole Roasted Amish Chicken, Long Island Duck Confit and Lasagne alla Bolognese. Masseria is also providing the option of having a wine bottle paired with your meal, with the option to upgrade your bottle to one of Masseria’s signature vintages.

Masseria is not partnering with a third party and their entire staff — including the chef — will be hand-delivering each meals using the restaurant’s catering van, their personal cars and even a Vespa. 

2 Amys
Cathedral Heights

Drive over to this Neapolitan pizzeria to grab a much-deserved quarantine pie. They’ve flipped to a carryout business for the foreseeable future, with all to-go orders including a 20-percent service fee to “help mitigate the financial disaster.” Tips will not be accepted.

Bad Saint
Columbia Heights

If you’ve ever tried and failed to get a seat at this no-reservations Filipino restaurant by James Beard Award-winning chef Tom Cunanan, now is your chance. They’re accepting orders over the phone for pick-up at the restaurant, offering dishes like pancit (noodles with bok choy and Calabrian chiles), purple rice tacos or prawns with blood orange and fennel.

Multiple locations

Don’t have a car? You still have amazing options for pie thanks to DC-based chain &pizza. Not only are they offering buy-one/get-one-free pizzas and free delivery, but also offering free pizza to hospital workers. The chain has also taken multiple steps to ensure the safety of their employees, sending an email to staff last Friday night to announce the company was offering free, unlimited pizza to all 750 employees and their immediate families, and raising hourly pay by $1. Workers who have or suspect they have COVID-19 as well as co-workers who might have come in contact with them will get 14 days of health and safety pay. 


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