Friday Question of the Day – What’s The Best Local DC Chain/Who’s the Best Local DC Restauranteur?

On Wed. Washingtonian Magazine reported that Taylor’s will be opening a 5th store at 1910 14th St, NW (pictured above where Ruff n Ready currently resides by T St.) They note that Taylor’s currently has stores at H St, NE, at Fifth and K St, NW, and in Bethesda. Ed. Note: Thanks to all who sent emails about this. One reader notes that the new store on 14th St. is supposed to deliver to Columbia Heights.

So it got me thinking for the Friday Question of the Day – what is your favorite local DC Chain? I’ve expanded the definition to include multiple bars/restaurants/stores by the same owner ie Jose Andres of Jaleo and Zaytinya among others, fame. Others I’d include would be Cava Grill – who by the by are currently looking to open another spot in downtown/Penn Quarter; the Matchbox folks (recent scuttlebutt tells me that they are also looking for a new space around 14th and T St, NW); Spike Mendelsohn of Good Stuff and We the Pizza Fame, and who else am I missing? The folks from the Buffalo Billiards chain? Any other successful homegrown chains?

One quick side question: Do you think these local chains water themselves down by opening new stores or are they able to maintain the quality that they achieved in their first ventures?

So for the FQotD – what/who is DC’s best local chain and/or restauranteur?

142 Comment

  • Subway.


  • I know this wasn’t supposed to be specifically about the Taylor’s addition on 14th but does this mean Ruff and Ready is closing? I love Taylor’s and R & R is a crazy mess of stuff but it makes me sad to think we have to give up one to have the other.

    • If Ruff and Ready is closing – I think that is sad news. I was just there and bought a piece of furniture there last weekend. I love that place – but agree it is a little bit of a mess, and a hazard to go in (like the humid basement. I would much rather have Ruff and Ready than Taylor Gourmet!

    • So sad to see Ruff & Ready leaving. We’ve furnished our house with MANY of their finds. Sad day!

    • So sad to see Ruff & Ready leaving. We’ve furnished our house with MANY of their finds. Sad day!

  • Sweet Green all the way.

  • My Taylor sandwich had two pieces of meat and a pile of lettuce. For a place that is supposed to be so good, I was pretty disappointed in the execution. Not a fan.

    • +1

      Also, I understand that its an Italian place, but 83% of their sandwiches have pork, which I don’t eat. All sandwich chains in DC suck.

      Where are the Jewish delis when you need them?

      • there used to be this awesome russian deli at eastern market. the problem is the guy was old and sold it. young people here don’t seem to want to start up new delis.

      • “Where are the Jewish delis when you need them?”

        Closed on Saturdays.

  • Oh and I should probably offer an actual answer to the question: How about Teaism? I think it counts, and they have tasty ginger scones…

  • I love Jose Andres – he’s amazing, I wish he could adopt me! My runner up would be Andy Shallal.

    • I tested this out this very weekend: Jaleo one night, Eatonville the other, to celebrate an anniversary weekend. I’ve loved Jaleo in the past, but this time it was totally off. We actually had to send back a dish that was so salty that it was inedible (other dishes that we didn’t send back were excessively salty too). Plus a chilly reception and lackluster service. Next night’s dinner at Eatonville was perfect– friendly service, excellent food, unpretentious vibe, great drinks… and for a fraction of the price. I vote Andy Shallal over Jose Andres.

  • Michael Landrum. Brave enough to open up a fine sit down restaurant east of the river.

  • I would nominate the Logan Tavern/Commissary/The Heights/Grillfish folks — I always get a good meal at those restaurants.

    Also the Open City/Tryst/The Diner trio.

    • applebee’s with better decor and higher prices

      • I love how folks routinely dump on Logan Tavern & Heights for their “low brow” food, but then turn somersaults when yet another burger place opens up.

        • St.Ex/Bar Pilar. All day pork shoulder.

          Marvin/AmICo/Patty Boom Boom/etc.

        • Good burgers are good burgers. Shitty flavored vodka and cold TBM melts aren’t good. Do what you do well, and people like it. Do what you do bad, and people don’t like. I mean, the Heights is TERRIBLE. Commissary is TERRIBLE.

          • Had a burger once at Comissary worst ever! So dry!! Now Stoney’s rocks! At least for immediate neighborhood!

        • I dump on Logan Tavern because it doesn’t have any beer on tap. You can’t call yourself a Tavern and not have taps.

          • When was the last time you were there? They definitely have beer on tap. Are you thinking of someplace else?

          • they def have beer on tap, but their food is absolutely terrible. Same goes for the whole group…it really is just like applebees. If they had good burgers, people would flip for them too.

          • not to mention, the food is TERRIBLE. I used to go only for the hot bartender who no longer works there (or switched his shift)

        • The sad thing is, both Jeff and Steve are right.

        • jburka

          My husband and I always choose Stoney’s before an eatwell group joint. It’s not that they server low-brow food. The problem is their mediocrity!

      • +1. not good.

    • +1 for Eatwell( The Heights ect.) Not many restaurants can say they have there own farm.

  • Not voting for them, but need to update with more “local” chains:

    Burrito Brothers (many now closed)
    Julia’s Empanadas
    Five Guys (FTW, kind of)
    California Tortilla
    Amsterdam Falafel (did anybody ever respond to their offer to franchise for $50k+royalties?)

    and a TON of different restaurant groups (Passion Food LLC, Cactus Cantina+Lauriol, etc, etc, etc, etc.), which shouldn’t really qualify as a local chain IMO. There are just too many and they just don’t compare. In addition, that would include places with sister restaurants transported to Reston, Bethesda, etc.

    • So a “local” chain can’t extend beyond the boundaries of the District proper? What an odd stipulation. How ’bout we define it as ‘Washington DC Metro Area’ chains?

    • I know Five Guys is a DC institution, but there just terrible. Cheap greasy meat on a awful bun. +1 for Julia’s

  • how about mark kuller and the proof/estadio duo?

  • So many good choices. +1 for Sweetgreen, Ray’s family of restaurants, and ThinkFood(Jose Andres), btw.

    Neighborhood Restaurant Group: Rustico, Church Key, Birch & Barley, Columbia Firehouse… All very good.

    Pizzeria Paradiso: Now approximating a chain with new location in Alexandria. On cutting edge of Neapolitan Pizza and Beer Bar trends, still IMHO the best at both.

    That being said, I’d give either Sweetgreen or ThinkFood the title, especially given that they’re the only ones that have moved outside of the DC Market.

    • wow, I thought all these votes for sweetgreen were a joke. I mean, they should be, right?

    • “Pizzeria Paradiso: Now approximating a chain with new location in Alexandria. On cutting edge of Neapolitan Pizza and Beer Bar trends, still IMHO the best at both.”

      We said. Not enough credit is given to PP, I think mostly because they’re established and taken for granted. Good vibe on the customers’ end, and it must have a good vibe internally too, because the staff seems to stick around forever.

      • I used to skip around to Sette, Sorisso, 2Amys, and Posto for pizza, but in all honesty, Pizzeria Paradiso is the best all around. 2Amys is still fantastic, but it’s too cafeteria like for my taste and is far from home.

  • Restaurateur, not restauranter.
    The folks from Marvin/Ice Company et al have cracked the matrix for success.

    • They have. A lot of people on here hate on them, but there is a reason that so many people flock to their establishments – both for dinner and for the after hours at the bar. Their spaces are always so perfectly suited to what their purpose is. I think the food and drink are a big part of the success, but they basically are great at created places that you want to be.

      • Man, the last time I went to Gibson the drinks were DISGUSTING. All 4 of us in my group hated them and I tasted all just to confirm they were gross. What happened to that place?

    • Restauranter/ restaurateur mean the same thing. 🙂

      Also, I think Busboys and Poets have done pretty well with their chain.

      As for the best restaurateur, I’ll give that to Jose Andres.

  • I agree with the one comment. Why is no one reporting about Ruff and Ready closing? Thats the news not what chain is the best, god report on things that matter!!!

  • I think Matchbox is hard to beat when it comes to combination of good food at a very reasonable price point in an attractive environment. There is a reason they are always mobbed.

    I have to ding Andres because I think Jaleo is not good at all (Estadio far superior in my view).

    The food at the Marvin chain is only so-so, but can’t deny they are absolutely masterful at developing enormously popular places with attractive (yet each unique) atmospheres in ideal locations. They have certainly created more good destinations for a Friday night drink than anyone else …

    • I think the one in Chinatown is only mobbed b/c it’s the only restaurant there that isn’t a national chain and it serves pizza. the food there is pretty mediocre in my experience.

      I agree that Jaleo isn’t great. Maybe it’s gotten better, but there was a period a few years ago where the food was seriously bad compared to when it started out. I think Andres spreads himself much too thin.

      • no it isn’t. there are at least 3 other pizza places within a few blocks.

      • “it’s the only restaurant there that isn’t a national chain”
        Wow. Are you kidding me? Did you just get off the Chinatown bus from Timbuktu?

        • easy, killer. I’d really love to know what other options there are in chinatown that are not high-end (so that excludes rosa mexicana, jaleo, rasika, proof, cafe atlantico, oyamel, ping pong). you’re left with fuddruckers, legal seafoods, that crappy tapas chain, hooters, chopt, california tortilla, austin grill, clydes… all places that pretty much suck. the non chains like rfds totally blow too. that leaves matchbox. a non-offensive sit-down place, so they’re always packed.

          I’m not ragging on the neighborhood if that’s what’s got your panties in a wad. my neighborhood probably has more shitty restaurants than yours.

          as for the pizza, aside from Ella’s (crappy) and Vapianos (weird, uncomfortable concept for a friday night), what is there?

          • you sound like you have better taste than me. i’m sure the two other pizza places nearby won’t be sufficient for you.

          • There’s also Nando’s Peri Peri, Hill Country, Teaism, Redline, and District Chophouse. And, even though Chinatown is more like a block, there are some good/decent Chinese restaurants, as well.

            I’d argue with your assertion that Rosa is high-end, too.

          • I haven’t tried the others, but I generally steer clear of teaism and chop house. As for rosa mexicano, gives it three $$$, same as cafe atlantico and corduroy. it’s pretty hard to eat on the cheap there.

          • dude, theres a ton of places, you just need to walk around and look.
            there are 4 thai places. a decent burmese place, a handful of chinese places, a ghanian place, a japanese place, a pho place. you need a golden ticket invite or something?

          • That’s all well and good, anon, but your original assertion was that it’s mobbed because it’s the only place that’s not a national chain. What does whether or not you like it have to do with anything?

          • And there are a huge number of restaurants that are neither cheap nor high end. (I’d actually put Matchbox in that category, as well.) It’s typically right around $30 (or the lower end of the Open Table range) for me when I go to Rosa. Working in the area, I go there often. I’d hardly call $30 for a meal “high end.” I also think that designation is not just about price, but about atmosphere.

          • There’s Urfa Tomato Kebab and Wok N Roll.

          • “I’d hardly call $30 for a meal “high end.”

            wow. well we’re operating on entirely different levels. mid range for me is around $20.

          • So, what do you consider a $60 meal, if $30 is high end?

          • Also, it’s worth noting that there are 14 different main dishes on the Rosa menu that are less than $25, with six of those being less than $20. So, plenty of options that you would consider mid-range.

            The point about Rosa wasn’t my main one, anyway. My main point was that there are, in fact, several different options in the area that are not national chains, a point which you seem to have conceded, since you are now focusing on this secondary discussion.

          • I agree that there are tons of non-chain options in the Chinatown area, but Rosa Mexicano is not one of them. It is very much a national chain, sadly, as it was much better when it was a single restaurant in NYC.

          • This whole thing has gotten distorted! I know that Rosa is a national chain. (And I know that, technically, Hill Country is, too.) My comments about Rosa were only in relation to whether it was a high end restaurant or not and weren’t even close to the main point of my argument.

      • Jose is a GOD

    • Marvin is a chain?? Where is there a Marvin besides on 14th?

      • It’s not a chain, but the owners are a group that own many other ventures, such as The Gibson, American Ice Company, Patty Boom Boom and (I believe) Local 16.

    • I agree. The owners of Matchbox/Ted’s Bulletin/DC-3 have my vote. Consistent great service with consistently good food. PB Choco Naner for life!

  • ESL/Local 16/sushi/Marvin?

  • me

    I’m agreeing with the above poster that mentioned St Ex and Bar Pilar. I love their food (Bar Pilar’s, especially) and the people that run it are super nice. Which has me thinking that I really need to get in there for a piece of buttermilk pie STAT.

  • Best local restauranteur: Michel Richard

    Best local chain: Pete’s Apizza

  • Does “Taylor’s Deli” = Taylor Gourmet?

    • This post has fallen into the annoying DC linguistic localism of adding extraneous plurals or possessives to places, especially businesses.

      At least use the correct name of the business “Taylor Gourmet” not Taylor’s Deli.

    • Seriously, Taylor Gourmet is too much of a gem to have it’s name butchered.

      • Prince Of Petworth

        Let me be clear – I love Taylor’s sandwiches. I love going to Taylor’s. I love that they are opening on 14th St, NW. Never in the years that I’ve been getting their sandwiches have I ever heard someone say – “hey let’s head over to Taylor Gourmet”. They (and I) say – let’s head over to Taylor’s or I’m going to get Taylor’s. Good lord.

  • Only one mention of the fastest growing chain in the country this year….5 guys, cant argue with success like that!

  • What about the folks from Surfside (best tacos ever), Jetties, Something sweet.

  • Michael Landrum/Ray’s The Steaks/Classics/etc. hands down. Fantastic food. Local local local. Gives back to the community. Created the first new sit down restaurant in Ward 7 in decades. Michael is phenomenal.

  • Does the Joe Englert empire count as a “chain”? That would get my vote as long as we are including the Hilton ESL/Marvin/etc. group

  • Michel Richard. Anything else is just a distant second.

  • Seriously, does anyone know what is going to happen to Ruff and Ready? That crazy place is what often lures me to 14th Street. Are they relocating?

    • Bear

      I’d like to know this as well–I’ve gotten some great stuff there! Also, I would not want to be in charge of the build-out for that space–can you imagine taking it from what it is now and making it restaurant-ready? They have their work cut out for them…

  • I would also vote Jose Andres. The guy is crazy and inspired.

    I also linked to your blog on my blogroll. You’re a great source of local news and have great pictures 🙂

  • Lebanese Taverna, Ice Company, Old Dominion Brewhouse, Legal Seafood, matchbox, Pica Taco, corner liquor stores.

  • Spike! B/c I love being a second tier food city!

  • Actually in all seriousness, I like the Matchbox people and Xavier Cervera b/c they’ve helped transform Barracks row to a decent strip. Also have to give prop to Englert for helping transform H. St

    • Agreed– I think those folks tipped the scale for the wave of development that has engulfed Barracks Row in the past couple years. I’m excited that Xavier Cervera is opening a new restaurant on 7th Street, near Tunicliff’s, becuase I think that block could use a boost in the evenings.

  • Neighborhood Restaurant Group for their work with Churchkey, Birch & Barley, Rustico, etc. Yeah it’s a VA company, but Churchkey/BB has been a phenomenal addition to the District.

  • Shout out for Perfect Pita.

  • What, no love for Sala’s? (aka Sala Thai)

  • How about Church Key/Birch and Barley? They also own a ton of restaurants in VA (I know, blech VA) but I think they do amazing things here in DC.

    I would also vote for the owners of Open City/The Diner/Tryst. I love that they are putting in a new place in Columbia Heights

  • Yes, but PoP – WHAT is happening to Ruff n Ready??

  • i’ve said it once and i’ll say it again. this place isn’t a chain, but it needs to be: CRISFIELDS

  • Great American Restuarant group–Carlyle, etc. Fantastic food, always.

  • I think Tryst/Diner/Open City wins out just based on continued popularity, no need to re-invent itself, and new projects in the works. PLUS, they’ve been doing it a long time and were on the “cutting edge” long before their successors like Busboys.

  • Five Guys
    Rays the Steak

    Best Bar
    can’t say all my favorites closed like Aroma

  • Tosca/Posto. Those two are tremendous.

  • I nominate Garrett’s.

  • I’m guessing PoP readers don’t frequent Smithpoint…But what about Bo Blair – Jetties/Smith Point/Bull Pen?

  • Since the question (“what is your favorite local DC Chain?”)at hand is not limited to eateries, I am going to interrupt all the +1’s, spelling correctors, and all the talk about the dreadful Taylor Gourmet (the sub shop with no mayo and barely anything in between the bread) and nominate the people behind the Logan Hardware (Ace Hardware) series of stores in DC.

  • Clyde’s Restaurant Group. They’ve been around for over 40 years and own one of the longest DC institutions, the Old Ebbitt Grill.

  • I know not only local to DC, but absolutely love Homemade Pizza Co.!!! Even though a bit overpriced, I’m addicted!! Also huge fan of Cafe St. Ex, Bar Pilar and Masa 14!

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