Ruby Tuesday Will Chinatown Columbia Heights

While you were reading the WashPost article today about the slow creep of chains into Dupont Circle, my mind was a little farther east and north.

First, Dupont Circle is not the poster child for suburbanization of DC that would be Chinatown, or what’s left of it anyway. I said bye bye Chinatown a little late, when Hooters moved in, but right after the MCI Verizon Center opened, the signs were clear.

Fuddruckers, Legal Sea Foods, with just a sign in Chinese, shame the neighborhood’s name. These are chain restaurants that cater to the Center’s outside the Beltway crowds and killed the neighborhood’s character.

Oh and before you try, don’t even think of using the remaining Chinese restaurants as an example of Asian hold outs. Those are as authentic as McDonalds.

So what’s the next neighbourhood to be sanitized? Well walking home last night I saw a sign, this sign, on the rebuilt Tivoli Theatre building: Ruby Tuesday’s.

This is the sign of the end. This sign of what I feared with the new Target, suburbia invading in 500,000 square foot stores.

Out goes color, out goes local ownership. In come the chains, in come standardization. In comes those who think Ruby Tuesday’s is a selling point. And out goes those who enjoy a little variety in their lives.

Variety that does not come in pieces of “flair”.

21 Comments so far

  1. Max (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 12:21 pm

    As long as no one eats there, it’s all good. I think the chain restaurants are popular in Chinatown due to the number of unoriginal tourists mulling around. Last time I was in Columbia Heights (God knows why), I saw no tourists. Zero.

    I’ll tell you why I’m starting to give up on Chinatown though. I saw a movie there about a week ago and was a little afraid for my life. The people surrounding us were talking on their cell phones throughout the entire movie, and just before we arrived there was a stabbing. I’m very, very close to dedicating my movie watching to the Georgetown theater instead. The only reason for me to go back to Chinatown is for the pizza at Matchbox, and even then I think I’ll order it to go.

  2. Maia (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 12:36 pm

    As long as Full Key is on H Street, there is an authentic holdout to the old Chinatown.

  3. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 1:20 pm

    Wow, Wayan, your self-loathing has hit new lows, you refuse to shop at Target?

  4. Jenn L (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 1:27 pm

    The development beast is just getting faster and faster, isn’t it? Has Columbia Heights even gone through the funky little small-business shops phase yet? Right to Ruby Tuesday’s. Eeew.

  5. wayan (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 1:28 pm

    You mis-read Tom. I don’t mind a Target run once a year, which is about all I can take of Big Box retailing. What I do mind is a Target plopping down in my neighbourhood.

    This means traffic of a sort I’d rather not have. Traffic that will be looking for the comforts of Ruby Tuesday’s and the like. Traffic that will suburbanize Columbia Heights.

    If I wanted Target or Ruby Tuesdays next door, I’d live out in Arlington with you.

  6. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 1:30 pm

    God forbid you have affordable variety goods in your neighborhood, Wayan, that would really suck.

  7. wayan (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 1:39 pm

    God forbid I have a huge national chain store with 500,000 square feet of local merchant killing floor space to give me the “pleasure” of buying more stuff I do not need. Or a chain restaurant where all the profits flow back to an anonymous corporation buying bland ingredients from Sysco.

    I’ll take a mom & pop restaurant, who sometimes get an order wrong or a corner store with a 10-15% mark-up any day. There I’ll have people I know, people who care, not surly Target minimum wage slaves or too-perky servers required to wear flair.

  8. Xian (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 1:39 pm

    Actually, there was a little basement place not too far from the Center that had pretty good Chinese. I took a friend of mine who had spent a few years in China there for dinner, and the old man running the place was more than happy to serve us something not on the menu (can’t remember what it was).

    The place is called New Big Wong. Classic, right? I’ve been there four of five times. The food’s good and last time I was there, the price was very reasonable.

  9. chris (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 1:53 pm

    I’m not sure that a ruby tuesday’s will suburbanize or even do well in CH because the Target and other big-boxes there won’t be frequented by subarbanites. They already have their big box places to shop.

    Subarbanites and tourists come down to Gallery Place for the verizon center and for its proximity to the mall. They’re the ones bellying up to the trough that is ruby tuesdays and fudruckers. Let them have there cheesecake (factory) and eat it too, its hard enough as it is getting into the good restaurants in Gallery Place (Rasika, Matchbox, etc.).

    Those subarbanites and toursits ain’t comin up to Columbia Heights. Hell, they don’t even know that its there, except for the occasional murder on the news.

  10. Don (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 1:58 pm

    The pleasure of buying more stuff you do not need? What the hell do you buy in those places? If I’m in Target or Wal-mart it’s for clothing, food, auto parts or toiletries, none of which are optional in my life and all of which I have to buy enough of that I’d just as soon get a low price so I can spend the money on the things that really matter to me – good food, live music, art or theater.

    “All or nothing” is just lazy thinking. Personally I love having these pedestrian things become commodities so I can spend less more quickly and get on with the things in my life that matter, like eating at places that aren’t Ruby Tuesdays. If the kind of people who want that homogenized dining experience are over there and not taking up seats in Ray’s the Steaks, Murky Coffee or Matchbox…. suits me fine.

    All of which are establishments, by the way, that demonstrate that success is there for the well-run, quality establishment even in the proximity of Ruby Tuesdays, Fuddruckers, Ruth Chris, Starbucks, Carabou Coffee ad infinitum.

  11. Carrie (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 2:18 pm

    As a resident of Chinatown, I’d much rather see a Target than a damned Ruby Tuesdays. At least then I could buy some groceries. There are still some pretty authentic Chinese places. Full Kee, being one of the best in addition to Becky Cafe, Wok and Roll, etc. etc. Plus Chinatown does have the more innovative restaurants like Zengo (which I actually hate), Matchbox and a few others. I agree though…the Hooters, Ruby Tuesdays and Legal Sea Foods makes me feel like I’m living in Falls Church or something. Well except for the destitute homeless folks begging for money or singing about Jesus by the metro. Like others have said, the Chinatown neighborhood is supported by people who come in from VA or MD for concerts or “DC dining experiences” as well as being near the Convention Center, you get all the out of towners. The repeat of this phenomenon in Col. Heights would have me far more concerned.

  12. Tiff (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 2:49 pm

    I’m with Don- when I need toothpaste and trashbags, I don’t care about the ambience and character of the store- I want them fast and cheap. I’ll save my hopping from unique little local store to store for Christmas shopping. Shopping for the basic necessities is not a cultural experience for me, but dining is, and I’d like to have enough time left over when I’m done to go wait in line at Ray’s or Matchbox (neither of which are hurting for business). How am I going to have that kind of time left over? By not having to go to 8 different stores to finish what’s on my list. Viva la Big Box retailer, and if people who don’t care about the quality of their dining experience want to go to Ruby Tuesdays for, essentially, fast food, that’s one less person in front of me at the already crowded Matchbox.

  13. dl004d (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 3:01 pm

    There are indeed still Chinese “hold outs” in Chinablock.

    Have you ever been to Chinatown Express (746 6th St. NW)?

  14. darpino (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 3:20 pm

    Full Kee
    New Big Wong
    Chinatown Express

    and my fav, Tai Shan

    Four oldies but goodies in one block – each bringing their own cuisine and character for years.

  15. Cant_picture_it (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 3:44 pm

    Chinatown has become the Disneyland of DC. It would be sad for CH to go that way. It comes down to economics. You can look at this two-fold:

    (1) developers bring in retailers because they are willing to spend the money on their hiked up rental/leasing rates. If the neighborhood is made up of more Wayans than Segway-riding turistas, big chain retailers will realize they can’t make money and end up closing for the lack of business –

    Result A: make way for another big chain retailer.
    Result B: make way for local entrepreneur.
    Result C: sit empty until the owner decides to lower their rental/leasing rates.

    (2) get off your asses and get involved with a citizens group and attend zoning review meetings. Complacency has become prevalent in the neighborhood and in order to fight developers from ruining your neighborhood, you have to make yourself heard in large numbers! I work on the peripheral of the real estate industry and I can tell you that citizen groups have an impact on development.

    Unfortunately, developers’ visions of the “new town centers” are akin to Disneyland, not Mayberry or Columbia Heights in your mind’s eye.

  16. Phil (unregistered) on August 14th, 2006 @ 10:33 pm

    I’ve been a Mt. P resident for almost 7 years now. I’ve been waiting for the Target for a long time. But, I wasn’t waiting for Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, Staples and a Ruby Tuesday. If I had wanted Pentagon Row or Silver Sprung I would have moved there.

    I don’t mind big box retail and I don’t mind chain restaurants. I just want to know why there is a Ruby Tuesdays in Chinatown, Columbia Heights, and near McLean Gardens. If we’re going to have a chain, why not something more interesting like a ChopHouse or a Ted’s Montana Grill? Ruby Tuesdays is like so Bennigans.

  17. IntangibleArts (unregistered) on August 15th, 2006 @ 9:12 am

    Phil: Alas, it seems these big retailers travel in packs. Or herds. No doubt Target only considered it because of the promise of all those other zombie stores keeping it company.

    According to yesterday’s update on CHnews, we’re up to a possible total of THREE coffee places in the same block: In addition to Kudo Beans, now we’re looking at a Caribou & Starbucks.

    So it seems we’ve achieved competitive saturation before anything actually opens. We’ll probably have a 2-year shakedown and die-off of the more redundant places, to be followed by gawd-only -knows. We really won’t see the result of all this until about 2008 at the soonest. I only hope there’s a teeny shred of local character left…

    One saving grace is, of course, CH aint no tourist zone. So it’s up to us locals to vote with the wallet & keep it groovy.

  18. Cant_picture_it (unregistered) on August 15th, 2006 @ 10:10 am

    It’s definitely about demographics and economy. What’s the balance of affluent, middle class and lower class (those who are eking out a living by working two jobs)? How many of those people have been determined as potential Target customers? Obviously, someone has done some research and have determined that there are a lot of caffeine addicts in CH.

    It is about voting with your wallets and getting involve with the community to make your neighborhood the way you want it.

  19. MtP_resident (unregistered) on August 15th, 2006 @ 1:51 pm

    All right, do I have to be the first one to bring race up? No one should believe that Columbia Heights is going to become some sort of nouveau Chinatown/suburbanite destination. The stuff that’s going in there is for locals. And my guess is that the people complaining about Ruby Tuesdays are the same ones who are begging Whole Foods to move there. I.E., the kind of white bobos who look down their noses at chain restaurants like Ruby Tuesdays. My guess is, if you poll the black residents of Columbia Heights, they’re excited that a reasonably priced, unpretentious sit-down restaurant is coming to the neighborhood.

  20. Fat_Albert (unregistered) on August 15th, 2006 @ 3:12 pm

    Yo brutha! That’s where I take my ho’s on a date. Don’t be knockin’ Ruby Tuesday! Cheap booze, all you can salad bar AND greezy, fattenin’ on-trays. You know I like that. Hey, hey, hey.

  21. Robis (unregistered) on August 16th, 2006 @ 9:13 am

    Tom said, “God forbid you have affordable variety goods in your neighborhood, Wayan, that would really suck.”

    We don’t really need affordable variety goods in our neighborhood. We have Metro, which will take us 15 minutes away to two perfectly functional Targets along the Green Line. Just like the issue of Whole Foods, is it really that big a chore to ride public transportation for 15 minutes to get those affordable variety goods? If you’re going to Target, you’re making a day of it anyway, and you know it.

    MPT_Resident said, ” My guess is, if you poll the black residents of Columbia Heights, they’re excited that a reasonably priced, unpretentious sit-down restaurant is coming to the neighborhood.”

    Have you seen the menu for Ruby’s in Chinatown lately? It’s all hamburgers now, and there’s every reason to think that will be the trend in the MP location as well. That means far from being a reasonable priced sit-down restaurant, it is actually an overpriced burger joint.

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