Mr. Speaker, local dignitaries and restaurateurs, MoCo councilors, friends, Romans, fellow bloggers, blog readers, distinguished guests, and fellow Wheaton eaters:
While economic conditions remain difficult, both locally and nationally, Wheaton’s restaurants persevere. A few have gone, but still more have arrived. Progress can be slow, but progress is indeed being made; platitudes can be irritating, but this is a state of the union parody so what can I do? Ultimately, I am pleased to be able to say that, as we enter the year of the Dragon, the state of the eatin’ in Wheaton is strong — fire-breathin’, even (especially if you eat the curry soup at Song Phat).
In some ways 2011 was a difficult year to be a Wheaton restaurant, encompassing for example the entire life cycle of Gloria’s Island Hut, which arrived to great fanfare in the spring of 2011 only to jerk its spicy chicken back from our gluttonous fists, we hope temporarily, by December. We also lost one of Wheaton’s longest-running restaurants, The Royal Mile Pub, which, likewise, we hope to see back on the track in 2012, once more meeting local haggis-and-scotch needs. Others are surely just scraping by — a tour of Wheaton any evening reveals too many empty seats in too many eateries.
And yet the year saw even more successes: it seems like more than a year ago — but it was early 2011 — that Limerick Pub and Ren’s Ramen opened their Wheaton doors. Asi Es Mi Tierra, Jenny Chinese Express, and Little Caesars also arrived last year, and I am probably overlooking others. Many local restaurants thrived, as Ruan Thai, Nava Thai, Hollywood East, and others continued to garner rave reviews from professional and amateur critics alike. Nick’s Diner, Marchone’s Italian Deli, Elbe’s Beer and Wine — these restaurants (and beverage purveyors) have helped define Wheaton for decades, and they’re still here, still good eats (and drinks).
The diversity of Wheaton’s eateries remains notable; how many population hubs our size have such a mix of cuisines all within about a three or four block radius? The Thai places get most of the press, but we have a slew of Chinese restaurants both old (Paul Kee, Good Fortune) and newish (New Kam Fong, Wong Gee, Jenny Express); Japanese/Korean (Woomi Garden, Moby Dick “Japanese sushi in the Korean Style”! plus Ren’s Ramen); Ethiopian (Dessie); West African (Global Cafe); Italian (Cristina, Lucia’s, the aforementioned Marchone’s); Kosher (Max’s and Shalom, Nut House Pizza); Bolivian (Kantutas); Peruvian (Asi Es Mi Tierra, Cabanita, Chicken Plate, El Pulgarcito de Callao); and too many Salvadoran or Pan-Latin places to mention unless I want to turn this into a Clintonian hour-plus cavalcade of words (which I kind of do, but won’t). Bottom line: we have lots of different kinds of food, most of it quite affordable, and much of it at least pretty good, some truly excellent.
All these restaurants cannot continue to thrive, though, without our help. So I ask you, my fellow Americans, my fellow Wheatonians, to join me in continuing to eat in Wheaton in 2012, spending as many of our family restaurant budget dollars locally as possible. Not every restaurant will survive, but let’s do our part to ensure that the best survive, that our family favorites survive, and that Wheaton remains a nexus of locally-owned purveyors of affordable, diverse, delicious food.
Beyond restaurants, 2011 saw progress of another welcome kind: hell froze over, then quickly thawed, allowing ground finally to break on the Safeway remodel project (The Locally Big Dig?). Nearly two years after Wheaton’s Safeway closed its doors, the structure was demolished, and 2012 will see the new development begin to rise. The new Safeway will not open in 2012, but should in 2013. This is only the first step of a transformation of Wheaton’s core, a transformation that will at times not be easy, and may be slow, and frustrating, and not every outcome will be welcome to every person. I believe, though, that if we are patient, and continue to make our voices heard, and continue to keep ourselves informed, we can help guide the process and ensure that Wheaton’s inevitable development is a net positive for nearly everyone.
We in the Wheaton blogosphere will do our part: along with Wheaton Calling and Hungry Like the Bear, I will continue to highlight local restaurants, cafes, and food-related events; news organizations like (especially) Wheaton Patch and (occasionally) The Gazette also can be counted on for culinary Wheaton content. I will continue to highlight MSM (e.g. WaPo, Washingtonian) mentions of Wheaton food when I notice them. And be sure to keep an eye on Just Up the Pike, in particular, for detailed and thought-provoking Wheaton redevelopment discussions.
I love living, and eating, in Wheaton, and I am glad so many others do, too. This blog averaged nearly 100 unique hits per day in 2011, and while that’s a puny total compared to many blogs, it is about 90 or so more than I expected when I started the thing. So, thank you, readers and commenters and lurkers alike: together, we can help keep Wheaton’s delicious feral culinary urbanism alive and well, in 2012 and beyond.
Now go forth and eat in Wheaton. Thank you.