A D.C. Restaurant Celebrates What the White House Demonizes

A restaurant and its customers take a stand on immigration

Caroline Hatchett
Published in
7 min readNov 18, 2019


Photo by Irena Stein

Food has always been political, but the current state of the union is prompting some food industry folks to bring politics front and center. That’s the case with the new D.C. restaurant Immigrant Food, which opened last week a block from the White House.

For the new restaurant, Argentinian Ezequiel Vazquez-Ger and Venezuelan Enrique Limardo — the duo behind Seven Reasons, crowned the №1 restaurant in The Washington Post’s Fall Dining Guide — team up with Peter Schechter, the former director of the Atlantic Council’s Latin America Center, who came to the U.S. by way of Italy and Latin America.

Schechter dreamed up the concept last year as a way to honor his immigrant parents. He said the partners were in before he could even finish his pitch. “We looked to what Nike did with Colin Kaepernick, and what Patagonia is doing [with climate change]. It’s increasingly imperative that businesses lead the way,” Schechter said.

Owners Peter Schechter, Ezequiel Vazquez-Ger, and Enrique Limardo. Photo by Irena Stein

While Immigrant Food takes a decidedly more casual approach than Seven Reasons, it also directly challenges the Trump administration’s stance on immigrants. And yet few need a reminder that restaurants have always been about immigrants. Just last month, Brett Anderson fawned over D.C.’s dining scene by listing 10 establishments that make it a great restaurant city. Nine of them are helmed by an immigrant or first-generation American.

Immigrant Food debuted on the day the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on DACA in a space adorned with traditional rugs, woven basket lanterns, and photos of immigrants eating and sharing meals. A soundtrack might include Bollywood music, rhumba, Senagalese pop, or Algerian acoustic guitar. The menu of fusion bowls displays culinary hybrids: The Columbia Road bowl borrows flavors from Ethiopians and Salvadoreans, two of DC’s most populous immigrant communities. Berbere-rubbed steak and lentils represent Ethiopia, while Salvadorean flavors come from queso fresco, alguashte (a pepita-based sauce), and pickled loroco…