New D.C. restaurant makes a very unsubtle point about immigrants

Photo: SerrNovik (iStock)

Immigrant Food is a brand-new restaurant in Washington, D.C. It serves—you guessed it—nine “fusion bowls,” each named for the multiple immigrant communities that inspired it. It opened last week just a block away from the White House. No, it’s not subtle, but the current president of the United States is not a creature known for his subtlety.

It’s maybe not surprising that Peter Schechter, one of the co-owners of Immigrant Food, used to be a political consultant before he got into the restaurant business. Food, he believes, can be a potent weapon for the resistance against the current administration. In addition to food and drinks menus, Immigrant Food has an “engagement menu” with suggestions for volunteer action customers can take to help immigrants, including teaching English, answering the phone on hotlines, visiting detention centers, and conducting mock ICE interviews. The restaurant also has upstairs space available for advocacy groups and will post information about immigrant policy issues on its website.

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“Immigrants are feeding America,” Schechter told CNN. “All of the industries that make food, whether it is the picking or the shucking or the meatpacking or the slaughterhouses, (or) in restaurants, the servers, the bus boys, this is an industry that is dominated by immigrants, even if your restaurant is called McDonald’s.”

Schechter himself is the child of immigrants from Austria and Germany. Inside Immigrant Food is a world map where customers can pose for a selfie pointing to the countries their own ancestors immigrated from; the restaurant will send back a photo as a text message with a frame around the image that says, “We are all immigrants!” There are also T-shirts and tote bags for sale with pro-immigrant slogans.

At this point, the food is beside the point, but the chef, Enrique Limardo, who also has a Latin American-inspired fine-dining restaurant in D.C., put a lot of thought into the menu anyway. He made a list of all the major immigrant cuisines in America and looked for common ingredients and flavor profiles. “I just think that everything can be matched,” he said, “if you’re using the right amount, and if you go back in history, and try to find the right spot to connect.”

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Aimee Levitt

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.