Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ethnic restaurants: in the city or suburbs?

In the Washington Post, economist Tyler Cowen, who also publishes a dining guide for the DC area, discusses why some ethnic restaurants are in the suburbs and why others are clustered around ethnic communities. The article references a lot of suburbs of DC, so if you are not familiar with the area, the article loses some impact. However, there are a few interesting points:

First, Cowen argues that ethnic restaurants are moving into the suburbs as rents increase in the city, ethnic populations move into the suburbs, and American tastes welcome the new flavors:
This new mobility is weakening the whole notion of the ethnic neighborhood. Forget the old Chinatown paradigm: Diffusion is the new model. As a result, ethnic restaurants are more like scattered outposts, drawing from a wide radius. As Serrano points out, "Our competition is not right next door. We compete with . . . restaurants five or 10 miles away."
Cowen also discusses, however, the types of restaurants that are still clustered in ethnic neighborhoods. They tend to be ethnic foods, like Korean and Filipino, that do not appeal as much to American tastes.
Filipinos, for example, are the second most numerous Asian group in the United States (some 2 million, compared with 2.7 million Chinese). But outside of Little Manila in Los Angeles and parts of San Francisco, Filipino restaurants are unusual. The Washington area -- where there are some 34,000 people of Filipino heritage -- has Little Quiapo in Arlington and Manila Cafe in Springfield. But few non-Filipino Americans have a love for fish sauce, vinegar marinade and oxtail. And, as my Filipino friend John Nye has told me, many Filipinos prefer a home-cooked meal.


Anonymous said...

It seems as though ethnic restuarants tend to follow their makers. If you think about what was said in the article, Filipino's like home cooked meals and most ethnic foods don't appeal to the American taste. So why not have Filipino restuarants following the Filipino population? Well because it makes sense. Where the ethnic population is, the ethnic restuarants are. The article does state that most ethic restuarants are in the suburbs and some are scattered throughout the cities. Here's the thing, the opportunity cost of putting an ethnic restuarant in the city is giving up the space to put a restuarant that appeals to more people, since ethnic restuarants tend to appeal more to their ethnicity and not to everyone.

Anonymous said...

Over the years, more ethnic cuisine restaraunts have moved out the urban city life and set up shop in the suburban areas. The main reason for this is because of "a concentration of people from the ethnic community, space at low rents, and a cuisine with potential to appeal to mainstream America" (Washington Post). This is a reason why the ethnic restaraunts are clustered around economic communities; the cost of living as driven people from similar ethnicites together and they form their own smaller communities. The increase in the cost of living has driven some of the smaller, ethnic restaraunts out of the cities and urban areas into smaller, suburban areas, where its cheaper to live and their food might appeal more. One reason why these restaraunts thrive in suburban areas is because of the tastes of the people living there. Many people, including myself, get tired of the same old food and want a variety and something exotic. These restaraunts offer that and they appeal to the curious tastes of Americans. The exotic taste and selection of cuisine at ethnic restaraunts offer an exciting, new experience for food and that appeals to many people these days.

-Chris Templin

Anonymous said...

A restaurant is a business no matter what type of food is served. From a business stand point I can understand an ethnic restaurant wanting to change locations to the suburbs because there are less amounts of ethnic restaurants especially restaurants with the same ethnicity theme. In the suburbs an ethnic restaurant can have a better chance making more profit because the restaurant is not competing with numerous like restaurants. I also believe that in a suburb ethnicities usually are mixed, thus allowing ethnic restaurants to be more creative with their style of cooking. For example, a Chinese restaurant in China Town feels the pressure to cook stereotypical Chinese food because that is what all the other restaurants are doing. However, in a suburb with less competition, ethnic restaurants can be creative with their cooking and not feel as though the restaurant is expected to cook a certain way. Another thought that I have is that I think it is great that ethnic neighborhoods are dispersing, as evident by the ethnic restaurant move to the suburbs, because that means that more people with strong ethnic backgrounds are beginning to feel more comfortable with America’s atmosphere, and the people do not feel like they have to only interact with people of their own ethnicity. I’m not trying to say that people should forget their heritage because I think a person’s heritage and their ties to their heritage is very important, but I do think that people who only interact with others from their ethnic background are not allowing the full melting pot effect of America to happen. Finally, I would be ok if we brought in some Filipino food to try to pinpoint the reason why there are not more Filipino restaurants