Fri 5 Dec 2008
If you’ve been holding your breath waiting for the new Matchbox to open (I know I’m not the only one…), you can let it out. The wait is over, and tonight’s the night.
After two evenings of ’friends and family’ service, giving their staff a chance to work through some of the usual glitches that attend the opening of a new space, the Barracks Row location will open its doors at 5 PM tonight for their first official night of service. They’re going to save a fortune on Windex now that we can stop pressing our noses up against the stylish wood-and-glass doors and windows, hoping to sneak a peek inside.
Fans of the original Chinatown location will feel right at home as they walk into the new space, located at 521 8th Street, SE. The owners have made a conscious effort to recreate as much of the H Street location’s vibe as possible. Like the original when it first opened, this Matchbox offers fewer than 150 seats (though more will be coming when the weather turns warmer, as they plan to develop an outdoor patio area). Both sites will serve identical menus. They even worked with the same contractors, using the same materials, to make sure the Barracks Row location looked the same as the original.
The inside scoop from owner Drew Kim and a few more photos to tide you over until dinner after the jump.
I got a chance to chat with Drew on Wednesday afternoon, surrounded by the controlled chaos of last-minute preparations. It was clear that everything was well in hand, with most of the remaining work focused on cosmetic details and the sort of prep that you want a restaurant doing as close to service as possible.
We talked across a bar that was fashioned from a shuffleboard table left behind by Coastal Vending & Amusements, the former occupant of the space. It’s a subtle touch that brings a smile and makes for a great conversation piece. Along with the reclaimed wood from a Pennsylvania barn that decorates the walls at either side of the balcony seating and the ‘box seating’ booth that bridges the space between the bar and the dining room, it’s one of the new touches that give this Matchbox a little bit of its own personality.
According to Drew, the Matchbox team knew that they had found the perfect spot for their second DC location as soon as they saw it. He and one of the other owners both live in the neighborhood, so they knew the space could work for their concept. And Barracks Row is ripe for new restaurants and retailers to complement those who made up the revitalization vanguard. As Leah Daniels, who recently opened gourmet kitchenware store Hill’s Kitchen, puts it, “There’s a second wave of development happening at Eastern Market and along Barracks Row. It’s a great opportunity for new and exciting concepts like this.”
Matchbox is committed to offering their full menu through final seating at 10:30 PM (11:30 on Fridays and Saturdays), providing a new option for late-night dining along 8th Street. If you loved it on H Street, you can find it here, whether it’s the prosciutto white pizza (prosciutto+garlic+kalamata olives = a little slice of awesome) or th0se mini-burgers that have been imitated – but never quite duplicated – around town so often that they show up as the subtitle of the Trite Food List thread over at Don Rockwell. Rest assured, Chef John McArthur will be on hand “for as long as he is needed here” to make sure the food is turned out the same way it is at the original. And all of the servers who will be working the new location have already gotten experience on H Street, so they’re familiar with the menu and the service system.
If business dictates, Drew says, they’re going to consider going even later into the night with bar service and pizzas. January 5th will mark the start of their lunch service, which will begin at 11 AM on weekdays. Even before that, we can look forward to weekend brunches beginning this Sunday. Check out Matchbox’s unique takes on brunch classics, including cast-iron applewood bacon and eggs, a prosciutto and gruyere waffle ‘sandwich,’ and their full complement of “Bloody” cocktails (including the Bloody Beer). After this weekend, brunch will be served on Saturdays and Sundays, with plans to bring in a live jazz trio for brunch as early as Sunday, January 4th.
Check out Metrocurean’s post from yesterday for some great live-action shots of Wednesday’s soft service, and then get ready for a crowd at tonight’s opening. Of course, you could always just do what we’ve done in the past to beat the lines at the H Street location – call in an order for carryout!
Matchbox Barracks Row
521 8th Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003