PoP Preview: Matchbox Opening Friday at 14th and T Street, NW

14th and T St, NW

A couple of weeks ago we noted how awesome the renovated Matchbox was looking at 14th and T St, NW across the street from St. Ex. I’m happy to say it is looking equally, if not more awesome on the inside. And they’re opening Friday. From a press release:

matchboxfoodgroup is thrilled to announce its newest location at 1901 T Street NW, set to open Friday, November 30, just over a year after announcing plans for the space. The new kitchen will be under the direction of Executive Chef Jeffrey Richardson, who has been promoted from his previous role as sous chef at the group’s Capitol Hill restaurant. General Manager Michelle Hebert will shift her talents from Assistant Manager at the group’s Rockville, MD restaurant to her role leading the new 14th Street operations.

matchbox 14th Street will be open for dinner daily from 4pm until 10:30pm Sunday through Thursday and until 11:30pm on weekends. Weekend brunch will start at 10am with all day service. The menu will feature many “go-to” favorites like 3.6.9 mini burgers and spicy meatball pizza that guests have grown to love. In addition, a selection of popular dishes from other locations will be offered alongside Chef Richardson’s original entrees like braised beef short ribs with turmeric vegetables and fingerling potatoes in a coconut curry sauce, and seared sea scallops with pork belly risotto.

The 25 foot bar features 23 beers as well as eight wines and one prosecco on tap – one of the largest selections of draught wines found in Washington. Seating for 25 winds along the long bar past not one, but two of matchbox’s signature wood-fired pizza ovens, enclosed by a pizza bar. Every seat in the house has a dramatic view of the three-story tall exposed brick façade.

Design elements new to matchboxfoodgroup include striking exposed rustic wood staircases that connect three levels of seating supported by original exposed girders with each level overlooking the lower. A cantilevered recycled wood chef’s table overlooks the kitchen offering unique re-mastered tree trunk stool seating for eight at the rear of the restaurant. Two floating box tables offer a more private experience, suspended alone high above the main bar between the second and third floors.

This matchbox will also have a permanent “to-go” station near the back of the restaurant complete with its own entrance on T Street. The full menu will be available for phone-in and online carry out orders. A large patio will stretch the length of the T Street façade, dotted with seasonal landscaping and modern brushed metal fixtures. Additional seating around an inviting fire pit sits directly on the corner of 14th & T.

The building on 14th Street was erected as a bowling alley and billiards hall in 1907, became an automobile showroom in 1920, transformed into Club Bali, a well known Jazz club featuring artists like Etta James in 1943, and was most recently the rehearsal hall for the Arena Stage theatre company. matchboxfoodgroup has embraced the building’s past incorporating as many historical features as possible to preserve its spirit, all the while staying true to the rustic vintage style for which matchbox is known.

Check out how awesome the inside turned out:

First floor entry

1st floor bar

Lots more photos after the jump.

First floor booths

Stairs to second floor

Second floor booths

Second floor

Suspended booth view front to back

Suspended booth closeup

Suspended booth view back to front

Old matchboxes throughout

Pizza oven lit for first time

Pizza ovens

Sweet outdoor patio

81 Comment

  • As a local chain restaurant goes, Matchbox is one of the better options. Too bad they won’t be open for lunch; hopefully that changes in time.

  • All of the pizzas that I’ve had at Matchbox have been overpriced and unremarkable. Really, to justify the $25 cost of a 14″ pizza, the product should be truly amazing, in contention for the best pizza that any of its patrons have ever had. At the very least, the pizza should be in the running for the best in DC. The truth is that their pies don’t even come close. We all know where the money is going–into the decor. I don’t know why this Matchbox opening warrants all of the coverage that it has received. They can really fix up a space, but their food is just bullshit.

    • I don’t recall $25 pizzas. Must have been a while since I’ve been to matchbox. I’ve always liked their fire and smoke pizza. Nothing else though.

      • Yeah, I don’t recall the pizza being nearly that much, but I’ve only been a couple times, the most recent being about a year ago. Also concur about the fire and smoke pizza- good stuff.

        Hope the chain really hasn’t gone downhill recently as some others have commented. Obviously that would be a big bummer.

  • Their large sized pizzas run about $20-$22. Their small runs about $10-$14, on par with pricing at 2 Amy’s. Their crust is nothing special and I’d say the quality control has gone down a bit as they’ve expanded but the food is still decent and the mini-burgers were still good the last time I had them (in their Rockville location). The roasted chicken I had there was nice prepared as well. This is a welcome addition to 14th Street and its recent small plate/wine bar saturation.

  • Seriously. WTF happened to Matchbox? Their pies used to be airy with a nice crisp char. The last two at the 8th Street shop were just bad; the crust was thin, buttery, and crackery like frozen pizza. The burgers/sliders are still solid and cooked to order and the place is always packed, so I’m sure the place will do just fine.

    • I wish I knew why Matchbox went downhill. The last time I was at the Chinatown location my pizza was really oily and bad. A new location would have been exciting 5 years ago, but now, not so much.

      • Ditto on the oily pies – like wet wax paper with too much cheese on top. I only stop in occasionally for the non-pizza side of the menu and the beer list is always nice. Even in Montgomery County where that’s hard to do.

  • Love Matchbox and can’t wait. Welcome neighbor! I’m around the corner–say hi!

  • I am thrilled to have Matchbox in the neighborhood. I have been to both the Chinatown and Eastern Market locations and each and every time I have received an awesome meal. Their pizzas are by far the best in DC!!!

    • By far the best in DC??? Really now?

      you need to take a trip over to H & Pizza my friend

      • I also think Pete’s is better…

        • So many better places in DC than Matchbox. This person obviously doesn’t get out much past the 14th Street/Chinatown corporate corridor.

          H Street pizza is better, but not amazing. Pizza Pete’s, Two Ami’s, Vace Deli and Menomale are incredible and leagues beyond Matchbox.

      • Never trust another persons opinion on pizza.

      • I think H & Pizza sucks.

        • I think it’s decent pizza. However, it just takes too damn long to get your pie. It would be different if you can sit down and order. But 20-25 minutes in line on your feet really sucks. And I only went there during times when H Street was dead (think Tuesday at 9pm). I can’t imagine what it’s like on a busier night.

          • I was thinking of grabbing a bite to eat after my yoga class on H Street tonight, and was considering either H &Pizza or Taylor Gourmet. Which one would you guys recommended? Even though I live nearby I don’t get fast food very often so I’ve never tried either. I’m from South Jersey so I’m both a hoagie snob and a pizza snob. 🙂

          • Really, a pizza snob because you’re from S. Jersey? Never heard of that one before. I’ve heard of Chi-town pizza snobs, even New Haven pizza snobs, NY pizza snobs but S. Jersey!?

          • Jersey “tomato pie” is a distinct species of pizza, different from NY/New Haven pies.


          • Thanks, monkey, I didn’t know that.

          • I wasn’t really talking about styles of pizza but where I’m from. We get good pizza in NJ, and I’m not trying to claim I’m from NYC just because my home state borders it.

          • I didn’t know about that either, and I grew up in an Italian family near Trenton. We do refer to pizzas as “pie,” and maybe our tomato-to-cheese ratio is a little better than in other parts of the country (every pizza I’ve had in DC has had way too much cheese for my liking)… but dumping tomato on top of the cheese is something I haven’t heard of.

          • Utica’s the place for real tomato pie.

        • Haven– newish place in Bethesda– serves up a non-cheesy tomato pie that a lot of folks in my office like.

  • This looks remarkably similar to every Cosi, ever.

  • Their fire and smoke pizza is in my top 3 pizzas ever. I really hope this is on the menu at this location.

    I know people like to be haters, but I really don’t get it. That is fine with me though, the place is crowded enough as is. Feel free to go elsewhere 🙂

    • I agree. However, those that are on here posting about how much they dislike Matchbox will be some of the first ones in the door Friday to check out the new place.

      • Heh. If only. To SirDouchy’s point, fair point. However, I can’t think of any DC restaurant that is quiet or reasonable noise level to have conversations with diners unless a restaurant is mostly empty. I’ve been told the cost to sound-dampen is prohibitive to be effective, which is why people don’t do it but instead of putting millions of dollars into swanky interiors, why not do nice AND sound-dampening techniques?

        • Couple of reasons why I think restaurants don’t spend money on sound-dampening: First, hard surfaces look cool. Brick walls, metal chairs, loft spaces, etc. are trendy. I know there are other things they could do besides tablecloths and carpets, but when a place is loud, it amps up the liveliness and makes it feel busier. Busy=popular=lots of people and their $$.

          • Money or the cost of effective sound-dampening is the main reason, according to commercial designers. It makes sense. Noise doesn’t equal busy, packed or good necessarily. You’d think that at least some of the DC restaurants would try working on improving noise levels because it’s one of the biggest complaints about DC restaurants. If you can put millions of dollars into a renovation that are pretty meaningless, I think it makes sense to put some of that towards sound-dampening efforts. No, I’m not part of the upper-aged set nor are the complaints about the noise levels in dining establishments.

    • For all of us who can’t get enough of the fire and smoke pizza:


      I haven’t gotten the crust right yet, but the sauce/toppings are right on. Soooo gooooooood.

  • I have to admit that the outside of the building is very attractive. Inside, all I can think is how loud it will be!! There’s a lot of hard surfaces and tall atrium spaces in which sound will just resonate.

  • I can’t speak to the quality of Matchbox recently because it’s been a long time since I’ve gone with the exception of the cinnamon buns on a toasty cold morning. Anyway, I digress, if I didn’t know that this was matchbox, I would have thought that this was a pretty fancy nice restaurant instead of the chain, local it may be, is. Kudos for taking a long-vacant space and doing with it what the space deserves – beautifying. The decor, though, I think belies the casual chain it is to soon become. It’s a little disconcerting. Anyway, the outdoor space is beautiful and as with the Standard, that outdoor patio will be packed in the warmer months.

  • Pizza Paradiso in Dupont is still my favorite. My roommate and I picked up a carry out pizza from teh 8th ST NE location once. We got a large with maybe two toppings, and it was about $30 with tax. Utterly ridiculous–and an earlier poster was right, you’re paying for the decor whether you eat inside or not!

    • I meant to say, from Matchbox’s 8th St location

      • I live near the 8th Street location and don’t really think of it as a pizza place. The other food on the menu is a lot better, and I’ve also had great brunch items there. It’s definitely not my first choice to eat out, because it’s somewhat expensive and always crowded, but it’s on the top of my list of places in the neighborhood to take non-adventurous eaters.

  • I wonder how Matchbox will do in a location that’s a bit off the beaten tourist track and presumably has more competition from the U St. and Columbia Heights restaurants? I agree with the positive comments about the fire and smoke pizza, but in my opinion many of the sellling points of the Chinatown Matchbox related to its location. It’s been my go-to place when out-of-town work colleagues come to DC and want to grab a quick dinner somewhere close to their hotel. I’ve found it’s a nice sit-down restaurant atmosphere, but less likely to require reservations and more moderately-priced than some of the other Penn Quarter joints. When I’m with a group of work people that I don’t know very well, I also like that Matchbox has a large menu that can accomodate a variety of tastes–informal fare like pizzas and sliders, chicken and fish dishes for those who want a more traditional main dish, a few vegetarian options, etc.

    • 14th and T may be “off the beaten tourist track” (thank goodness) but certainly is a prime location for a new neighborhood restaurant.

      • I don’t think it’s any further off the tourist track than the Barracks Row location which is always packed.

      • 14th and T off the beaten tourist track? Have you been near there in the last few years? The place is crawling with visitors on the weekends!

    • If location alone determined whether a restaurant would make it or not, look no further than Lauriol Plaza. Its a hefty walk from the nearest Metro and is not close to hotels (except for the Hinkley Hilton) and is prety much packed at all 4 levels year round. I think Matchbox will do just fine at the 14/T location.

      • I will never be able to understand the popularity of Lauriol Plaza. I admit it is a great building, but such crappy food and always long waits. Don’t get it at all.

        • Couldn’t agree more. But don’t underestimate the ability of mediocre restaurants to generate buzz that fills the seats. A lot of the most talked-about restaurants and bars in DC wouldn’t last in cities with more options.

          • Kinda sorta agree with you. However, you gotta remember that up until a few years ago businesses did not want to be in DC. The crime rate was high; we were the murder capital of America; and Marion Barry was mayor. Now, thanks to the vision that some former leaders had for this city DC is “rebuilding.” More annd more people are moving into the city and and new businesses, including restaurants, are opening. So, to be a city that is only a few years old (practically), I think DC has a great selection of good restaurants.

          • I lived around the corner from Lauriol. It sucks. The margaritas are pretty good, but nothing special.

            Here’s the secret to Lauriol’s success: Maryland
            There’s always a line of MD license plates waiting to get in their lot. People from MD love them some Lauriol Plaza crappy Mexican food for whatever reason. The place is a tad “scene’y” in a low class way, the food is pretty affordable, and it’s within stumble distance of the Adams Morgan weekend sh#tshow.

          • Yep, zero_sum’s cracked the formula. Also, hysterical mobs will flock to anything that has a large roofdeck.

          • what places do you like?

          • Who talks about Lauriol plaza? The place *never* had any buzz. Never.

        • I like the margaritas and fajitas, and the chips and salsa are great. Don’t get the Lauriol hate. It’s not amazing, but reasonably priced decent food.

          • Disagree about its affordability. Sure, it isn’t expensive, but the food they serve here is worse than the cheap Latin food eateries elsewhere in DC. Throw in the newish Mexican places in Columbia heights and I’m even more perplexed at this place’s continued success. Perhaps I should try to the fajitas!

          • DC is only a “few years old”?

            That is silly new comer talk.

          • Ha, “DC is only a few years old”…self-centered drivel. Lauriol has remained popular (though never buzzy) because it appeals to a nearly universal common denominator as well as any place can. Newfound foodies may deny it, but it’s easy to rally a group around margaritas, free chips and salsa, and a massive outdoor space.

    • Good synopsis of reasons to go to Matchbox. I do think you underestimate the 14th & T location though. Tons of foot traffic, much of which on the weekends is not those residing in the immediate neighborhood. Plenty of residents who have out of town guests will take them here before venturing out to check out the nightlife of the U St. area.

    • This place is going to rake in money.

    • Seriously? 14th and U? Off the beaten path? Oh my. In case you may have missed, when 14th street is written up in the NYT as the hot strip in DC, you better believe that it’s a destination point for tourists and locals alike. It might not be in Monument Row or Museum Mile but don’t underestimate that it’s a destination spot.

    • I know this point has been made ad nauseum but 14th Street is the actual epicenter of foodie Washington for Washingtonians. Chinatown is little more than a tourist dumping ground and cafeteria.

  • Matchbox 14th & T:

    PoPville has spoken! Please immediately rip out the thousands of dollars in renovations, fire all you new employees and turn that building back into a dump that contributes little in local taxes.

  • Allison

    I gotta say, their bloody mary burger is delicious and probably the best hangover food on earth. And I don’t even like bloody marys!

    • +1 (though I love Bloody Mary’s)

      I think the best part of Matchbox is their brunch. Decent frittatas, the aforementioned Bloody Mary Burger, surprisingly good waffles, a tasty breakfast pizza and more.

      They also make some great Bloody Mary’s and have a separate menu dedicated to the brunch beverage. Last time I went it was at the Barrack’s Row location and they had live jazz, which was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.

      • +1 to the brunch at Matchbox. It’s very good. Compared to other Barracks Row restaurants on a weekend morning I think the wait is actually SHORTER at MB.

  • Incorporating historical features? Not sure about that, unless they are talking about the outside. Inside it looks like a modern industrial space. Rustic vintage? Also, curious. I would not classify this space as rustic vintage, would never think to describe it in those terms.

  • i’m not a foodie and i don’t aspire to be one, but this place looks great.

    • Not sure if I would consider this a “foodie” (aka gourmet and/or unique) place as it is a regional chain with two other locations in the District (along with their sister restaurants DC-3 and Ted’s Bulletin). But their food is pretty decent.

  • I find Matchbox’s pizzas to be disappointing, especially in comparison to the all the buzz about the place.

    Given the buzz, I’m sure the 14th Street location will do well… but I would’ve preferred to see that space renovated and occupied by someone else.

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