A restaurant that celebrates the culinary influences of immigrants in the United States has opened just a block from the White House and it’s called Immigrant Food.
While the issue of immigration in the United States is highly charged, especially inside the White House these days, just a stone’s throw away in the nation’s capital Immigrant Food is loudly proclaiming the benefits of immigration not only on the country’s food scene but as a whole.
The brainchild of seasoned political consultant and veteran of Washington think tank scene Peter Schechter, the restaurant serves dishes that blend cultures on the plate like a dish that combines Vietnamese spicy-rice noodles with pickled bananas.
The fast-casual restaurant, which caters to a lunchtime crowd, also gives diners the chance to engage with immigrant communities by volunteering or donating to advocacy groups all under the banner – ‘United at the Table’.
As a child of German and Austrian immigrants, Schechter says he’s been looking for the right concept for about a year. "This isn't the America I recognize,” he told CNN. “Somehow it has become normal to disparage, to feel you can talk down to immigrants like immigrants are not good for this country. Immigrants have been the foundation of growth and vibrancy. This country has been great again and again and again because of immigrants."
This idea at Immigrant Food is expressed in the menu of nine fusion bowls and five vegan drinks on tap. For Schechter, you simply can’t separate the world of food from immigration as they are one and the same. "Immigrants are feeding America," he says. "All of the industries that make food, whether it is the picking or the shucking or the meatpacking or the slaughterhouses, (or) in restaurants, the servers, the busboys, this is an industry that is dominated by immigrants."
The menu is the work of chef Enrique Limardo, whose fine dining restaurant just two miles away, Seven Reasons, was included in Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in the United States. Creating delicious fusion cuisine for Immigrant Food wasn’t easy. To do it he created a list of the biggest immigrant groups in the US and defined flavour profiles for each cuisine.
"It was like a massive piece of paper, full of notes, like super crazy. And then I started just crossing lines between all of them, and then it was like a spider web, really hard to understand," Limardo says.
He then looked for ingredients and flavours that could cross cultures and cuisines to create dishes like ‘Columbia Road’, a mash-up of Salvadorian and Ethiopian cuisines and ‘Mumbai Mariachi’ blending Indian, Mexican, and Greek, or ‘Stockholm to Dublin,’ inspired by Irish, Scandinavian, Polish and Russian recipes.