What does a professor of economics know about ethnic food?
Actually, this one, Tyler Cowen, is someone you should know about and follow, particularly if you live in the DC-VA-MD area (tho many of the things he has to say about eating out are applicable to cities and suburbs around the US).
Three years ago I blogged about Cowen on MillersTime (here and here), writing, “For those of you who know of Cowen, you are familiar with his penchant for seedy, small, ethnic restaurants in the DC area. How he finds all of them and still keeps his day job as an economist at George Mason University and his prolific writing output is beyond me. But he is a treasure, despite (or perhaps because of) his sometimes over enthusiastic reviews or his opinionated posts.”
If you don’t know about him and his Ethnic Dining Guide, you’re in for a wonderful find. Forget the Washington Post, the Washingtonian, Trip Advisor, or Zagats. Cowen is a one man eating machine who simply loves finding and reporting on local restaurants and grocery stores and has been doing so for almost 30 years. I don’t think he earns any money from this love (his day job is at GMU where he’s the Director of the Mercatus Center for economic policy), but if you’re looking for the best, the most comprehensive guide (free) to ethnic restaurants in this area, check him out:
Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Guide* – April 2016. Start with this.
Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Blog – April 2016. Also, check out this blog version because it often contains Cowen’s latest passions or finds.
Six Rules for Dining Out – Atlantic Monthly, May 2012. An article Cowen wrote a few years ago that contains some of his thinking about approaching eating out in general, ethnic, trendy, ‘top rated’ restaurants, etc.
(*Note. If Cowen gives a phone number for a restaurant, call it before you head out. In some cases, a restaurant may be closed or may have gone out of business and that is not always reflected in his massive list of area ethnic restaurants.)
PS – Update 4/26/16. I was reminded by a reader that one of the strengths of Cowen’s list is that he not only leads you to a restaurant you might not know, but he also gives advice about particular dishes to order. He believes it’s not just about choosing a restaurant but equally important is knowing what to order at that restaurant. His guide is certainly helpful in giving suggestions about what he has liked at particular restaurants.
Also, because Cowen has so many restaurants on his list (and he has a day job not related to food), he does not always have the latest info (Mixtec, in DC, for instance has now been closed for almost six months, and Masala Art, the Indian restaurant on Wisconsin Ave. in DC has gone down hill, perhaps a victim of too much success and the distraction of opening a second restaurant near Arena Stage.). That is a reason to check his blog and not only rely on the massive guide. He adds new ‘finds’ (check out his “Current Favorites” list on the right hand side of the home page of the blog), and he also sometimes updates reviews of previously recommended restaurants.