City Paper is not for tourists
The $25 roasted chicken at Fig & Olive? It’s now $29. Paella? It jumped from $29 to $33. And the restaurant’s signature crostini are now $1 more for a set of three.
In fact, Fig & Olive has increased prices on nearly every single menu item since a salmonella outbreak that sickened diners on both coasts and caused the health department to shut down the CityCenterDC restaurant in September. Representatives of the restaurant declined to comment.
The price hikes range from $1 to $8 per dish. Appetizers and salads got bumped up $1 to $2 each, while entrees are mostly up $2 to $4 each. The biggest increase—$8—is for a 36-ounce bone-in ribeye with two sides; The dish for two was once $49 per person, and now it’s $57. Desserts also cost more. Most were previously $10, and now they’re $12.
As City Paper reported earlier this week, many components of these dishes were not made fresh on-site. While the restaurant touts local farms and “genuine taste and seasonality” at the top of its menu, a lot of the food—from risotto to ratatouille—was pre-prepared at a central commissary in Long Island City, New York. That commissary suspended production in the wake of the salmonella outbreak, and investigators from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration never got a chance to test food samples for the bacteria there.
In response to City Paper’s reporting, Fig & Olive shared the following statement with other media outlets:
“Commissaries are routinely used by upscale restaurant groups that serve a high volume of customers to ensure consistency in food quality and service. We had a commissary that was utilized for specific items by our New York outposts and selectively nationwide, which we closed in September 2015. The vast majority of ingredients served at our restaurants are locally sourced from vendors and farms. Currently all of our dishes are prepared in house at each location.”
It’s possible that the price hikes are related to changes in how and where they produce their food. However, Fig & Olive declined to elaborate to City Paper on what “prepared in house” actually means or how they were able to transition from making nearly 200 food items at a commissary to now making them at individual restaurants. They declined to say if they now make desserts, breads, sauces, and other ingredients from scratch at each location.
“Crisis guru” Gene Grabowski, who’s consulted with food businesses like Blue Bell Ice Cream after food poisoning outbreaks, says he was surprised to hear of the price increases. “I thought the prices were pretty high to begin with,” he says. But the partner in D.C.-based communications firm kglobal says it probably won’t matter to the type of clientele Fig & Olive wants to attract.
“They want upscale people, double-income households. They want sophisticates,” says Grabowski, who dined at the restaurant for the first time a couple weeks ago. “And they’re not going to drive them away with that increase in price.”
Still, Grabowski calls Fig & Olive a “unicorn.” Most restaurants would suffer more from a salmonella outbreak than Fig & Olive has, and they certainly wouldn’t be raising their prices.
“I think they’re raising their prices because they can,” he says.
Here’s a look at the current menu. I’ve added the price increases in red. Pretty much the only dishes that aren’t marked are new.
And here’s the menu at the time of the salmonella outbreak in September:
Photo of Fig & Olive’s now $33 paella by Jessica Sidman