We asked Breaux — who for more than a decade was the owner of Tunnicliff’s Tavern in Capitol Hill — to catch us up on what’s happening with Restaurant Week (which this year offered a chance to try out newcomers such as Graffiato, The Lounge at Citronelle, Newton’s Table, Degrees Bistro, Mala Tang and District Commons).
And be sure to keep up with RestaurantWeek coverage — including where you might still be able to snag a reservation, and where to post your own Instagram photos of your dishes — on the GOG blog.
Q. Tell us about the origins of Restaurant Week, which launched shortly after Sept. 11. What was the mission when it started, and how has it changed since then?
Breaux: Yes, the metro DC Restaurant Week promotion started in November 2001 to jump-start restaurant business. Due to the success of the initial one, it was continued with one per year until 2004 when it became biannual, making this the 20th RW. RW is all about giving the consumer a real deal on a delicious meal while introducing an expanded clientele to the restaurant. From the first RW, and as more restaurants participated, the competition was stiff and chefs/restaurateurs increasingly went and go to great lengths to ensure the best deal for the consumer and the best showing of their restaurants.
Q. It feels like Washington has been experiencing a restaurant boom for the past five years. Numbers-wise, is that true? What are some of the dining trends that you’ve observed in recent years?
Breaux: Between 2007 and September 2011 there was an increase in the total number of alcohol-licensed restaurants from 651 to 719 and taverns from 141 to 215 in D.C.
You could almost say the trend is, well, trends. Chefs are always looking for ways to wow their patrons and anything and everything is fair game. (Game? Let’s consider that the next big trend.)
Q. For more than a decade, you were the proprietor of Tunnicliff’s in Capitol Hill. What’s the most important lesson you picked up about working in the restaurant business in Washington?
Breaux:To paraphrase Matisse — “It’s very difficult to make things look easy.” And that is what is required of restaurateurs whenever the open sign is on. No matter what the crisis du jour or moment may be, all must be handled with grace and, unless you’re “back of the house,” also with a beaming smile. It is indeed a tough business, but it is an exhilarating one. Setting the stage for the celebrations of our customers’ special milestones and engendering memories is an honor and a pleasure.
Q. Does the association have a position on the growth of vouchers, such as Groupon and our own Capitol Deal, for restaurants? Good for biz, bad for biz, or is it more complicated?
Breaux:The deals-a-day can be great exposure for a restaurant during targeted time slow periods but must be judiciously analyzed as to exact cost/benefit to the establishment.
Q. Okay, dish: We read that you’re frequently dining out in Washington. How often are you checking out restaurants? Any tips for staying in shape?
Breaux:As is obvious, I love restaurants and the dining experience and am out and about at member restaurants quite frequently in the D.C. region. My husband and I enjoy the pursuit and discovery of new restaurants as well as visiting old favorites on our travels, especially in NYC and in my hometown of New Orleans. We do watch every bite and sip and work out almost daily. However, dining out is not contradictory to staying in shape.