Portrait of Crystal Fernanders, City Paper's Carry-out critic
Carry-out critic Crystal Fernanders Credit: Courtesy of Crystal Fernanders

The amount of interest in City Paper’s first ever carry-out critic position told us a couple things. First, we should have done this sooner! We received hundreds of thoughtful applications that contained a few laugh-out-loud lines. Second, there is a tremendous amount of passion for the carry-out restaurants that help give D.C. neighborhoods their vibe and sense of place.

The best food—the kind that fills you up, calms you down, and helps you celebrate—doesn’t have to be served at a trendy sit-down spot. It can come from corner carry-outs that often have lifespans long enough for multiple generations of a family to savor the same recipe.

Crystal Fernanders will guide you to the local carry-outs most worth seeking out starting in December. The DMV native, who also serves as the general manager of Captain Cookie & The Milkman, will pen one or two carry-out reviews per month.

You might know her food and recipe blog or follow her on Instagram or TikTok. Fernanders has experience testing out new dishes at restaurants ranging from fine dining to fast casual and she always keeps it real for her followers.

Crystal shared her ambitions with City Paper.

City Paper: You’re a DMV native. What did you love about growing up in the area and what keeps you here? 

Crystal Fernanders: The DMV culture, to me, is one-of-a-kind. And I obviously love it enough to have made and kept it as my home my entire life with no plans on leaving. I personally feel that no matter the background, there is something in the DMV for everyone. A lot of people may complain about transplants just wanting to live here because it’s the nation’s capital. But I see it as the non-natives liking us enough to have not chosen another popular city in the country. Love it or hate it, this says a lot about us. 

CP: You cooked professionally for almost a decade at some D.C. hotspots. How will that cooking background help you in writing your carry-out reviews? 

CF: The culinary world is always changing and evolving. There are cool trends here and there. So even with those trends that may be hard to keep up with, I will always have a general idea of what happens behind the scenes. I know what goes into making a dish, from the recipe development to getting the food on the table, and even some of the science behind it. That knowledge still applies with carry-out spots. I also feel like my opinion will be trusted a bit more since I’ve lived it. 

CP: What do you like most about carry-out food and culture? 

CF: With my busy lifestyle, convenience is a big factor when it comes to making sure I’m not hangry. In every corner of the city, there is some type of carry-out spot nearby. I love that I can get my hands on a good meal regardless of what part of town I’m in. What I love even more about it is the different types of cuisine available. My food cravings are forever satisfied, baby!

CP: What are you most excited about when it comes to this new gig? 

CF: I’ve officially been doing this in my free time since early last year and sharing it with my followers. But what has me excited about it this time around are my reviews being a lot more public! This will help the businesses I visit get more recognition and visitors, compared to what I’ve been able to give on my current platform. This is extremely important as of lately with restaurants still recovering from the pandemic. 

CP: What else do you want readers to know about you? 

CF: If you get a chance to check out my social media, you’ll surely learn more random fun facts about me. I’m a cat mom of 2 semi-feisty calicos. I like to make up random melodies when cooking and eating since food makes me happy. I’m slightly addicted to reality TV. I also despise peas. Like, genuinely hate them. Ewww.

But on a serious note, I’d love for everyone to know that food really is a passion of mine, ever since I was a kid with my first Easy Bake Oven (showing my age a bit here). While I have been in different fields in the food industry, my love for food is something that I will never give up. I can’t wait to share my adventures with everyone!!!!

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