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Neighborhood Watch!

Literally! Thanks to WETA Television, the public broadcasting station serving the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, viewers can watch two different program series to learn about restaurants, cafes, and other eateries in their own backyards!
Neighborhood Eats — an exclusive WETA TV 26 production created for this region — is a 30-minute companion to the long-running WETA Neighborhoods series. It takes viewers through a variety of local neighborhoods where the food scene is vibrant and thriving, thanks in large measure to local patrons. The most recent Eats episode featured restaurants in Del Ray (Alexandria, VA), Silver Spring (MD), D.C.’s Adams Morgan/Mount Pleasant neighborhood, and in D.C.’s Southwest quadrant.
“We look for neighborhood places where the customer base is from the community they serve,” says WETA executive producer Glenn Baker. “It could be a new place open for only a couple of years or a mainstay that has been there up to 20 years, as long as there is an interesting story.” As an example, Baker noted the Evening Star Cafe in Del Ray, which has a garden on the rooftop where the restaurant’s fresh produce is grown. Other featured Del Ray eating establishments were the café and biscuit house Stomping Ground and Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap, which bakes its thin-crust pizza in a floor-to-ceiling wood-burning oven.
Silver Spring’s featured Neighborhood Eats restaurants included La Casita Pupuseria & Market — serving pupusa, the national dish of El Salvador — Denizens Brewing Company, and Urban Butcher, where meats are aged and butchered in house. The Adams Morgan/Mount Pleasant dining destinations were Federalist Pig, Sakuramen Ramen Bar, Purple Patch, featuring classic Filipino recipes, and Pleasant Pops, with its crowd-favorite ice pops. Station 4 and Cantina Marina rounded out the episode’s restaurant tour in Southwest Washington.
The other WETA food program — Check, Please! DC — follows a different format. In each episode, three citizen reviewers recommend one dining spot for review by the other two guests. After anonymously trying each restaurant recommendation, the guests join the show’s in-studio host to discuss their experiences. “The premise for this program is that it’s not experts, or specialists, or food reviewers. It’s more like listening to a recommendation from your best friend,” says WETA’s Baker. Citizen reviewers apply to appear on the program.
Check, Please! DC is hosted by Rose Previte, founder of Compass Rose, which won a 2017 RAMMY for Casual Restaurant of the Year. Her newest restaurant, Mayden, opened just before Thanksgiving in the alley of the Manhattan Laundry Building complex (1346 Florida Ave., NW). “She has insights that only a restaurateur could have,” says Baker.
Spanning the entire District-Maryland-Virginia area, Check, Please! DC covers a wide array of establishments and cuisines from the region’s diverse offerings. From special occasion destinations to strip mall gems, the first six episodes have taken viewers on a journey of culinary discovery, featuring everything from Laotian “jungle” cuisine to Uyghur hand-pulled noodles to southern Mexican fare to old-fashioned comfort food.
WETA Executive Producer Glenn Baker says WETA plans to produce 12 new episodes of Check, Please! DC each year. He sees a real connection between public broadcasting and local eating. “Restaurants are about bringing the community together. That’s part of our WETA mission, too.” Baker says that in an age where people are isolated behind their devices, “restaurants are our idealized social space. It’s where friends, family, and others come together for a shared experience. It’s not just a meal. It’s a real commitment to the community.”

MORE INFORMATION on Neighborhood Eats, Check, Please! DC, and other WETA programs and services can be found at www.weta.org. On social media, visit www.facebook.com/wetatvfm on Facebook or follow @WETAtvfm on Twitter.

About the Author

LISA KEATHLEY is the managing editor of Foodservice Monthly.

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