The Washington Post

Wagshal’s to open deli/butcher shop in Wesley Heights

Bill Fuchs, right, and son, Aaron, are taking their dry-aged meats to Wesley Heights, where the family plans to open a Wagshal's next year. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

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.

An architectural rendering of the forthcoming Wagshal’s on New Mexico. (Wagshal's)

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.

Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section and as the $20 Diner for the Weekend section, a double duty that requires he ingest more calories than a draft horse.


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