Get To Know ‘Immigrant Food’, A New Restaurant Located A Block From The White House
By Kelsey Marie
Passing by the White House as a person of color, or immigrant, has become awkward with the current president being in office. However, the recent opening of a restaurant a block away is making it a bit more tolerable for the weekday lunchtime crowd in D.C.
“Immigrant Food” is a fast-casual restaurant offering dishes from various cultures across the world. The restaurant has a slogan of “United at the Table” and gives diners the opportunity to donate to immigrant advocacy groups.
Co-founder Peter Schechter is a political consultant and has been working on “Immigrant Food” for over a year.
He tells CNN Travel, “This isn’t the America I recognize. … Somehow it has become normal to disparage, to feel you can talk down to immigrants like immigrants are not good for this country. Immigrants have been the foundation of growth and vibrancy. This country has been great again and again and again because of immigrants.”
Schechter is a child of immigrant parents from Austria and Germany and is strongly against the anti-immigrant movement going on across the U.S.
He is currently fighting back and using food as his ammo.
“Immigrants are feeding America. 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 busboys, this is an industry that is dominated by immigrants, even if your restaurant is called McDonald’s,” says Schechter.
There are currently nine fusion bowls and five vegan drinks available at Immigrant Food. The menu is lead by Chef Enrique Limardo who has a fine-dining restaurant, Seven Reasons, just two miles away. His restaurant was recently named ‘best new restaurant in America’ by Esquire magazine.
Limardo’s process for the menu consisted of making a list of immigrant groups in the U.S. and then researching the flavor profile of each cuisine.
“It was like a massive piece of paper, full of notes, like super crazy. And then I started just crossing lines between all of them, and then it was like a spider web, really hard to understand,” Limardo tells CNN Travel.
The dish he is most proud of is the “Columbia Road” which is a fusion of Salvadorian and Ethiopian food, two of the largest immigrant groups in D.C.
“I came up with the idea that we can use the berbere spice that is very common in Ethiopian food, and then in Salvadoran (food), they make a dressing that is made from pepita seeds. And the combination of both, it’s something that is unbelievable. Starting from that point, I just think that everything can be matched if you’re using the right amount, and if you go back in history, and try to find the right spot to connect,” shares Limardo.
Limardo is an immigrant himself, migrating from Venezuela five years ago.
The restaurant has a photo booth where diners can document their visit by taking a photo with a world map and pointing to where their families are from. After taking the photo, they will receive a text message with the words “We are all immigrants!” framing the image.
Diners will also be able to purchase t-shirts and tote bags donning slogans such as “This Land is Your Land,” “Unity is Delicious,” and “Immigrants Make American Great.”
While diners are coming in for good food, they are still thinking of the President’s policies which are making lives hard for immigrant families.
Isha Datta, a diner at Immigrant Food says, “I think the entire administration should eat here. I think this administration has demonstrated through their policies that they do not believe the U.S. should welcome immigrants from around the world, but that’s what this country has always stood for. I think it’s important they’re reminded of our founding ideals and who we’ve always been.”
At the end of the day, Schechter is hopeful that Immigrant Food will become a place where both Democrats and Republicans come to dine.
In the words of Schechter, “The table, the restaurant, has always been a place where people unite.”
Immigrant Food opened its doors on November 12th and hopes to expand to more locations nationwide in the future.
Kelsey-Marie is an NYC girl who currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. You can keep up with her on Instagram at @kelseydashmarie