Taking a bite out of local eateries

For Cameron Tepfer and Scott Underwood, founders of a college-oriented dining blog, food is more than just an experience – it’s a story all its own.

With an appetite for savory meals, the two GW students walk into a restaurant to capture the experience by taking note of its sights, sounds and, most importantly, its history.

Tepfer, a third-year senior, and Underwood, a junior, launched “Eat the District” this spring as an outlet for sharing their passion for a good meal and dining experience with local college students. Their love of high-quality meals was the main force behind the blog, which can be found at www.eatthedistrict.blogspot.com, they said.

This was especially true for Underwood.

“My mom always took us out to eat, I’ve always had a very food-oriented life,” he said. “And I’ve been fortunate enough to try a lot of things.”

On a sunny weekday afternoon, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, Tepfer led Underwood and two friends to a little-known deli – called Greek Deli – a few blocks from campus that he planned to review. Tepfer and Underwood shared jokes and laughs while waiting in line for their meal, trying to talk over the loud and somewhat eccentric cook in the background who teased customers and staff about their food choices.

But it’s not always just about the food. According to Tepfer, a good dining experience also stems from the story behind the meal. Using the deli as an example, he explained, “You would never hear about the crazy guy in the background making the food,” but these are the details he likes to include in his blog.

While many professional reviewers alert establishments in advance, order a variety of small dishes and take notes during the meal, Tepfer and Underwood like to do their reviews in groups without pen or paper and just enjoy the experience of eating out.

“The group we hang out with has a natural interest in food – that’s kind of our crew and it really just went from there,” Underwood said, adding, “Who doesn’t want an excuse to go out and eat food? It’s a great way to justify going out to eat every weekend.”

Both Tepfer and Underwood hope their blog will give local college students and professionals more dining options close to campus by offering specific information on price, quality of wait staff and, of course, the quality of food.

“Food is one of the greatest things to share with people,” Tepfer said. “Sharing a meal is an overall fantastic experience.”

Unlike most popular dining review publications, such as Zagat, “Eat the District” is unique in that it speaks directly to a younger crowd. “The vast majority of food reviewers are adults and speak from an adult’s voice and budget,” Underwood said. “The fact that we are able to cater to a different set really gives us an interesting niche.”

The blog offers a plethora of options when it comes to food, dining and entertainment. There are two or three reviews published a week, called “check outs,” weekly columns on specific topics such as wine and recipes and a “Going Out Guide” designed to help college students budget their weekend activities.

Both creators of the blog are happy with the public response. “We have steady traffic – which is what we’re looking for,” Underwood said.

While the blog is completely funded by its creators, they realize the D.C. food market’s potential and might consider selling ad space or partnering with businesses in the future.

For now, the two will continue to carry out one of the mantras posted on their Web site: “Tonight, skip the usual. Get out, Eat The District.”

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