The Washington Convention Center has struggled for years to find the right businesses to occupy its exterior-facing retail spaces along Seventh, Ninth and N streets NW. On Monday, Events DC, which oversees the city's convention business, announced that three restaurants and one grocery store will debut there, in addition to a barbershop and an Urban Athletic Club.
The four concepts will join an existing Sbarro outpost, but unlike the chain pizzeria, these additions come from notable local figures, such as "Top Chef" alum Spike Mendelsohn and future contestant Marjorie Meek-Bradley. Though they're still in the early planning stages, here's what's been confirmed so far.
Morris will be "the version 2.0 of the Sheppard," says Vinoda Basnayake, who co-owns the upcoming craft cocktail bar alongside celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn. The Sheppard was forced to move after its Dupont Circle space came under new ownership. That gave the partners an opportunity to rethink their concept of a hidden, no-photos-allowed bar.
"We wanted to open a non-gimmick cocktail bar," Basnayake says, later adding, "We didn’t want there to be more attention on the gimmick than the product."
At Morris, the partners want the focus to be on the cocktail program by David Strauss, the former cocktail manager at Le Diplomate, whose menu will pay homage to D.C.'s drinking culture. Basnayake hopes the bar will open in February or early March.
Smoked & Stacked
Marjorie Meek-Bradley knew she was on to something when only half of the pastrami she made for Ripple's brunch would reach diners. Staff, she says, would devour the rest while it was still hot from the oven. So before long, the chef started thinking of opening a grab-and-go pastrami shop, where she could serve the smoked meat all day.
The result is Smoked & Stacked, a fast-casual concept debuting in spring 2016. "It's a really good location to build something that's familiar and unique at the same time," she says. Meek-Bradley has plans for a limited menu featuring pastrami, smoked chicken and pastrami-flavored portobello sandwiches.
The Unconventional Diner
Details are slim on this concept, which is backed by John Cidre of Mintwood Place in Adams Morgan. But it sounds like an ambitious project because it's not expected to debut for at least a year. "It'll probably take the greatest amount of build out," says Events DC president Greg O'Dell.
Union Kitchen Grocery
According to co-owner Jonas Singer, the food incubator's upcoming grocery store will resemble its Capitol Hill location, where fresh vegetables and pantry staples are sold alongside products made in Union Kitchen. "The idea is to be your everyday neighborhood grocery store," Singer says.
The main difference between the old location and the new one? The Shaw outpost will probably have a more robust selection of alcohol and prepared foods, plus a bigger floor space. Though an opening date hasn't been pinned down, Singer expects the store to be ready by spring or early summer.