When the Balducci’s location on New Mexico Avenue NW closed in 2009, Bill Fuchs suddenly had a lot of hungry neighbors in the Wesley Heights community knocking on his door. They wanted the president of Wagshal’s, the iconic D.C. deli and butcher shop in Spring Valley, to take over the Balducci’s space pronto.
But at 16,000 square feet, the old Balducci’s location was “too large for us,” Fuchs says this afternoon during a phone chat with All We Can Eat. It was only when the landlord started subdividing the property — thereby creating a space for chef Roberto Donna’s new perch, too — that Fuchs thought he could actually make the location work.
Fuchs’s Wesley Heights neighbors will be happy to learn that he expects to open the 4,000-square-foot Wagshal’s next to Foxhall Square in early 2013, perhaps in February or March. “This is the first time that we put the market and delicatessen together in one space,” says Fuchs, 62, who lives a couple blocks away from the spot at 3201 New Mexico Ave. NW.
“We have a small space, but we’re going to cram it full of what people are looking for,” he adds.
Wagshal’s on New Mexico will be similar to — and slightly different from — the deli and butcher shop in Spring Valley, Fuchs says. It will include the prepared foods, sandwiches, house-made breads and pastries and dry-aged beef that have made Wagshal’s a go-to destination for Washington’s hungry, culinary high-minded hordes.
But the new location also will include sit-down service. Wagshal’s on New Mexico will have “100-plus seats” inside and on the patio, Fuchs says, in a nod to the early history of the deli, which has been in operation since 1925. Well before the Fuchs family (and Socha family, which has since sold its shares) bought the deli in 1990 from Ben and Lillian Wagshal, Wagshal’s used to cater to sit-down customers — until, that is, founder Sam Wagshal got fed up with D.C. diners.
“He was a hardened deli man,” Fuchs says. “He said, ‘If they want my sandwich, they’re going to have to come up [to the counter] and get it.’ ”
All bread baking will be done on site at the New Mexico location; some of the cooking as well, such as the roasting of chickens, the owner says. Everything else will be prepared at Wagshal’s central kitchen in Spring Valley and transported to the new spot, about a mile away.
Wagshal’s on New Mexico will be patterned after the markets in Spain and other parts of Europe, where Fuchs has been traveling on behalf of his import company. The markets across the pond, he says, are more intimate, in part, because the butchers and sandwichmakers are not separated from their customers by big, glass-enclosed cases. To re-create that feeling, Fuchs is importing low-slung, 40-inch-high glass cases from Portugal; they’re about as tall as a jewelry case.
“It’s going to be an entirely different experience,” Fuchs says of the new spot.
The Fuchs family plans to apply for a license to sell beer and wine by the glass, but it will not sell package liquor or wine from the location. The family, it seems, doesn’t want to compete with nearby Ace Beverage, one of the respected retailers of beer, wine and spirits in the city.
Talk about a good neighbor.