Things That Matter

A New Restaurant Called Immigrant Food Just Opened Up Steps From The White House And We Stan

Sometimes we read a news story that just makes us exclaim: “Wow, these people are seriously shading like a boss! Damn!”

Humor and directness are great assets when it comes to political activism. When it comes to confronting anti-immigration views with elegance and wisdom, one of the best strategies is actually showcasing the richness of multiculturalism and the vast benefits to local culture that diversity brings. 

Introducing Immigrant Food, a literal melting pot of deliciousness from all around the globe

Credit: immigrantfood / Instagram

The restaurant, located at 1701 Pennsylvania Avenue, D.C.,  brings fusion cuisine to a new level, in unexpected ways that defy culinary conventions. For example, pickled platanitos on a Vietnamese noodle salad. One of the staples of Latino food, the humble banana is given a German treatment and thrown into a Southeast Asian dish. The restaurant’s mantra is simple: “We celebrate America’s story — the story of immigrants”. Amen! Take that, bullies! 

Chef Enrique Limardo and political activist Peter Schechter have taken adventurous paths and basically mixes dishes that have nothing to do with each other…until now.

Credit: immigrantfood / Instagram

Diversity is at the core of the new restaurant, which seems to be a sort of cachetada con guante blanco to those who refuse to admit that any healthy democracy needs cultural diversity. As Forbes reports: “Immigrant Food is the brainchild of political activist Peter Schechter who refers to this dining concept as more “cause casual” than fast-casual”.

So yes, it is food with a cause… and the cause is reminding us that diversity is at the core of any democratic society. Schechter told Forbes: “Rather than having a great business that then gives a portion of the profits as an afterthought to a cause, our cause is baked into our business model. We wouldn’t function without the cause.” As reported by CNN, Schechter is no spring chicken in political spheres, being described as “a seasoned political consultant and veteran of Washington’s think tank scene”. 

Just look at this symphony of colors and flavors: Ethiopia meets El Salvador!

Credit: immigrantfood / Instagram

At first sight the food from African and Central American countries have very little to do with each other, but if you think about it there is more in common that one might think. Ethiopian food is a delicious mix of grains, beans and sauces, and Salvadorian cuisine shares many of these core ingredients. Ethiopians and Salvadorians are two of the most vivid and active migrant groups in recent years. BTW, this is the Columbia Bowl and it looks just delish.

As chef Limardo told CNN in regards to how this dish came into existence: “I came up with the idea that we can use the berbere spice that is very common in Ethiopian food, and then in Salvadoran (food) they make a dressing that is made from pepita seeds. And the combination of both, it’s something that is unbelievable. Starting from that point, I just think that everything can be matched, if you’re using the right amount, and if you go back in history, and try to find the right spot to connect” . And it is right spot to connect that we all have to strive for, not only in food but also in life in multicultural societies.

The menu will change constantly and feature fusion dishes based on the traditions of 40 countries.

The menus will be supported by NGOs such as the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, Ayuda, the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, CARECEN and CASA. The menus will reflect the needs of the associated NGOs and basically speak to the causes of the time through culinary expression. In off-hours the restaurant is used as a space for these organizations to organize events such as meetings and English classes. Clients are also invited to make a donation when they pay the bill, and the sum is divided among the partner organizations. 

Seriously, can we please eat some of these platillos espectaculares.

Credit: immigrantfood / Instagram

We really hope that this restaurant remains open for a long, long time, and that others are inspired by the operation and message of what could very well become a Washington D.C. icon. After all, immigrants are deeply attached to the food and hospitality industries in the United States.

It is immigrants who sudan la gota gorda harvesting the fields, it is immigrants who bring their dishes and mix them with ingredients from other parts of the world (other than Native American dishes, no food is totally endemic to the country), it is immigrants who work in the kitchens as cooks, and it is increasingly immigrants such as top Mexican chef Enrique Olvera who are dictating the pace and trends in the industry. Immigrant Food is sort of stating the wonderful obvious: immigrants enrich any society through hard work and creativity.

As Schechter, the mastermind behind Immigrant Food and who is himself a product of Austrian and German migration told CNN: “This isn’t the America I recognize… 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”. Preach! 

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