Shutdown Chow Down: Government Closed, Restaurants Still Open

By Linah Colgrove, Foodable Contributor

In the face of a government shutdown, it’s eerily quiet in Washington, D.C. these days. The metro and the Beltway are far less crowded, entrances to national parks and monuments are blocked; the city is seemingly closed for business.

But Washingtonians still need to eat. And, given the circumstances, many of us now have good reason (and plenty of time) to drink, too. If there’s any silver lining in the government shutdown, it’s that many Washington area bars, restaurants, and even grocery stores are offering discounts and freebies to their downtrodden customers.

While most of the deals require the presentation of a government ID, some offers have been extended to the general public – the service industry painfully aware that this shutdown really does affect so many of us. Fortunately, several area news sources, including The Washington Post’s Going Out Guide, have been keeping tabs on all of the deals being offered and updating them regularly.

A Humorous Deal

The generous trend seemingly started with a handful of deal announcements from restaurants offering not only sympathy in the form of discounts, but also humor in the way those deals are accessed. BLT Steak is offering a “raw deal” discount on oysters for $1 vs. the usual $3 for anyone with a government ID.

All area Nando’s Peri-Peri restaurants are offering free butterflied Peri-Peri chicken breast to all Federal Government employees with an ID through their "Boneless Chicken, Spineless Congress" promotion.

Arlington’s Bar TNT offers a “Furlough Foolery” cocktail special on a fall-inspired punch with bourbon, apple and celery.

At Cleveland Park’s Pulpo, all alcohol is 50% off with either a Federal ID or “a compelling argument that [you’ve] in any way been inconvenienced or even annoyed by the furlough.”

Photo Credit: Soupergirl via Facebook

Photo Credit: Soupergirl via Facebook

Takoma’s Soupergirl created a “Furlough Fiesta,” offering 10% off on soups and salads, and a serious Seinfeld-ian promise to Members of Congress: “No Soup For You!”

Furlough Freebies

While the laughs are needed at this tumultuous time, free food is definitely welcome when work – and as a result, pay – is nonexistent.

Within the same day the shutdown was announced, Chef José Andrés promised Federal workers a free sandwich between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. at both locations of his flagship restaurant Jaleo, and also at Oyamel and Zaytinya. It’s worth mentioning that he promised that this deal would last every day that the government shutdown lasts – a lofty promise, but he’s definitely putting his money where his mouth is.

An area favorite, Flying Dog Brewery is offering free brewery tours, and Bryan Voltaggio’s Range, a familiar Frederick transplant to D.C., is offering all government workers a free Margherita Pizza for as long as the shutdown lasts.

A few days into the shutdown, Whole Foods announced it would be holding a free Sunday spaghetti dinner (complete with a salad and a roll) at all area locations for all customers – government ID or not.

In an effort to not only feed government workers but entice policymakers to actually do something, Carmine’s is offering free private meeting spaces to members of Congress and the President to work out the government shutdown, in addition to a gin drink special called the “Olive Branch.” And speaking of the prez, Taylor Gourmet is most likely getting a ton of new business after Obama and VP Biden held an impromptu "press conference" inside the D.C. sandwich shop recently. Its three locations are offering a 10% discount to all government workers with an ID.

Furlough’s Future

No one can say how long the shutdown will last and when D.C. will be back to business as usual. It will take time for this city to heal. While so many Washingtonians are frustrated and angry about the widespread impact of this shutdown, it’s nice to know that even if the politicians aren’t paying attention, the service industry is. And it’s refreshing to see that so many area bars and restaurants are willing to take a hit to help their fellow citizens.