For good ethnic food, head west

When people ask me why I live in Virginia despite working in DC, one of the answers is that I’d miss the restaurants out here too much if moved into the District. DC has the high-end trendy places, but Virginia has the hole in the wall ethnic restaurants I love to go to. And people in Virginia always seem willing to explore the city. Getting DC residents to come out here is like pulling teeth. Living in the suburbs provides the best of both worlds.

Writing in the Washington Post, GMU economist and ethnic food expert Tyler Cowen devotes an entire column to this “exurbanization” of good ethnic dining in DC.

Of course, the District, with its lobbyists and international organizations, continues to be a center for expense-account dining. But the good ethnic restaurants downtown are either trendy (think Rasika and Indique, both of which reinterpret Indian for upmarket American eaters), or cater to the wealthy international crowd (such as the Spanish Taberna del Alabardero near the International Monetary Fund and World Bank). For the best buys, though, you have to get in the car and head out to the sprawl. These days, the most authentic, spiciest food comes at cheap, ugly strip malls, far from the District and miles from the Metro.

The article provides an interesting look at the diffusion of ethnic restuarants in the DC area, describing how they have shifted from urban enclaves to suburban malls as rents in the District have risen and immigrants have become more mobile. Read the whole thing.

Foo writers and readers in the DC area should also check out Tyler’s dining guide. It’s a great way to find obscure places to try out.

[This post was originally published at EatFoo(d) on 9/3/06.]