The Dabney, one of the most ambitious local restaurants in recent memory, will open tonight in Blagden Alley, officially marking the D.C. debut of former McCrady's chef de cuisine Jeremiah Langhorne.
A culmination of Langhorne's experiences to date — his childhood in rural Virginia, his lessons in foraging at Noma in Copenhagen and his years working with Lowcountry pioneer Sean Brock at McCrady's in Charleston, S.C. — the Dabney will open with a compact menu of nine small plates and family-style entrees. Langhorne declined to share the menu, which he creates daily based on products available to him — and on his research of the historic cookbooks of Maryland and Virginia.
Many of the dishes will be prepared in an open-fire hearth, the centerpiece of the 60-seat restaurant. They'll be priced between $8 for smaller plates and $32 for family-style entrees.
For Langhorne, one of the primary functions of the Dabney — other than to feed his guests well — is to encourage and nurture the growth of Mid-Atlantic gastronomy, which he believes was stopped dead by industrialization, war and American interest in other cuisines. It's a philosophy borrowed from Brock, the James Beard Award-winning chef who has helped rebuild the Lowcountry pantry, whose indigenous ingredients had long been dormant.
“My goal is to continue this region’s development and movement as far as gastronomy is concerned,” Langhorne told me earlier this year. “The idea is not to re-create [historic recipes]. The idea is to learn from them and pick up where they left off.”
Such an approach to running a restaurant is not for the faint of heart. As Brock told me recently, "I call it an illness, because it comes with health concerns."
"It’s not healthy to be this obsessive and passionate and hard-working," Brock added. "It’s exhausting physically and mentally, and that’s why very few people do it, because it takes 10 times the amount of work that anybody would ever want to do."
Langhorne has been preparing for Saturday's debut since he moved back to the Mid-Atlantic in late 2013, and the Post has been following him for more than a year now. You can read about his journey to opening night in the links below. Or you can just dine there tonight, starting at 5:30.
The Dabney, 122 Blagden Alley, no phone yet. Hours: 5:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday, and 5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Mondays. The restaurant will accept only walk-ins for now until its Web site and reservations system are up and running.
Read more about Jeremiah Langhorne and the Dabney: