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American Flatbread, Broadlands - Closed


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#1 Al Dente

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Posted 31 May 2007 - 11:32 AM

American Flatbread at The Broadlands

From their website:

Coming soon: American Flatbread Kitchen in Ashburn, Virginia.
Slated to open May 2007, Ashburn Hearth in The Broadlands will offer our all-natural menu featuring local and organic ingredients grown in their community. Hello Virginia!

American Flatbread at The Broadlands
43170 Southern Walk Plaza
Ashburn, VA
(703) 723-7003

I've never been to one of their restaurants, but their frozen white pizza is delicious if you cook it just right. If I'm ever out that way, I'll have to check it out.

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#2 DanCole42

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Posted 31 May 2007 - 01:28 PM

They started up in Vermont as basically an add-on to a B&B/restaurant. The guy who does it, George, is part Native American (I think). He built his pizza oven with his bare hands with mud and rock from a nearby river. All the ingredients are high quality, delicious, and local. It is, if I may be so bold, the most perfect pizza in the universe.

The frozen versions are nothing compared to the real thing.

If the Ashburn location is anything like the original, I may die.
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#3 Joe H

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Posted 31 May 2007 - 03:09 PM

Franchise: http://www.americanf...ed_bakeries.htm

I've been to the original and while it's not Pepe's or Sally's it's still really, really good. There is a "feeling" to it, too. Their frozen is the best frozen pizza of anyone (on a pizza stone with olive oil drizzled on top) and I agree that it has nothing in common with Vermont. Still, "like minded people" are franchises and Ashburn ain't going to feel the same as the Green Mountains. And, I haven't said a word about crust.

American Flatbread may become the Five Guys of 2007, meaning sprouting everywhere with some much better than others.

And, THEY OPEN TOMORROW (Friday, June 1st) @4:30PM.

#4 mdt

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Posted 01 June 2007 - 06:47 AM

American Flatbread at The Broadlands

From their website:

I've never been to one of their restaurants, but their frozen white pizza is delicious if you cook it just right. If I'm ever out that way, I'll have to check it out.

As with anyone that touts "all-natural menu featuring local and organic ingredients grown in their community", what do they do during the winter months to get ingredients? It will be interesting to see if this place can make it in Ashburn.

#5 wineitup

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Posted 01 June 2007 - 07:32 AM

Here's an interesting article about the company and the troubles you can have when starting a business.
www.foodericksburg.com

#6 Joe H

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Posted 03 June 2007 - 06:48 PM

If American Flatbread were at Wisconsin and Macomb it would have a line down the block waiting for it to open at 4:00PM. There would be long threads, replete with photographs of the pizza on websites like this, Chowhound and eGullet. And Sliceny would have already had numerous articles stoking excitement for the first real franchised outpost of the original Vermont landmark.

But it's not in Washington, neither Georgetown nor Dupont Circle nor Adams Morgan (where it should be). It's in a nondescript new strip shopping mall in the homogonized suburban outpost of Ashburn, Virginia (Ashburn!!!) where in the late afternoon vans outnumber cars in the parking lot four to one. One hundred and twenty four seats and one man made clay, wood burning pizza oven that bakes six pies at a time, moved several times to different spots in the oven over a five minute period.

On this, their opening weekend, most of the tables featured families, families almost all sharing one of three pies: pepperoni and peppers, sausage or tomato and three cheese. The six other pizzas they feature were nowhere to be seen. (i.e. sundried tomato and mushroom with caramelized onions and three cheeses, Kalamata olives with sweet red peppers, goat cheese, rosemary, red onions, mozzarella and garlic or pulled pork with chili bbq sauace and swiss chard with garlic and chives-among others).

This last is a special pie since virtually no one in Ashburn has taken the opportunity to taste it. It IS the single best pizza in the entire Washington, D. C. area and, yes, I am including MaComb street, the 5200 block of Connecticut and P street as well as M street. It is the signature of a truly great pie that has received virtually no fanfare from anyone-yet someone, somewhere should be on a rooftop with a trumpet blowing their lungs out to let the D. C. area take out a map and find their way to the hinterlands otherwise known as Ashburn.

It is a great pie, certainly more worthy of New Haven than the imposters on Connecticut avenue. The pepperoni and peppers is also very good, yet the pepperoni is quite oily and may actually detract a bit. Still very, very good but not on the level of the "bbq" pizza. As Pepe has become a legend for its clam pizza so should American Flatbread for its pulled pork with chili bbq sauce and swiss chard. It really is THAT good!

American Flatbread celebrates local farmers and suppliers noting their sources for many food items on the menu. They note that their pies are made with "100% organically grown wheat milled in a white flour with restored wheat germ, filtered water and kosher salt and fresh year." Their pizza baker is young and genuinely stoked to spread the word of the Flatbread; a real credit to their spirit as well as a fine baker. And the hand made clay oven IS the best pizza oven in the D. C. area where the wood burns literally in the middle flanked by shelves on either side with space for three pies on each. For myself the crust actually approached Wooster street in New Haven, it was that good.

Curiously, most tables had three or four people. Almost without exception they were all sharing ONE pie. American Flatbread's pizzas are not cheap: they are probably the most expensive in the D. C. area. Perhaps even any area I have been to anywhere. The bbq pizza was $20, pepperoni and peppers $19 and sausage $19. The pies are big. They are filling. Still, a pie should be shared by two, not by four. The menu also had a salad and two desserts, apple pie and a homemade brownie. No Diet Coke or Coke but excellent root beer along with 15 or so wines by the glass from a short but interesting list.

In Ashburn families are into sharing. They are also not into trying the unfamiliar. And that is my concern. I sincerely hope that American Flatbread is successful where it is. The owners plan on opening next in Reston and closer in. But for now they are stuck with their first outpost in Ashburn, a town where families need to be "educated" what to try. My guess is that it is going to be a hard go despite how delicious their pizzas are, or how crunchy their charred crust is-far superior to Comet, by the way! I actually doubt that most in Ashburn know what they have in American Flatbread or that really funny looking wood burning oven in the middle of room is Mecca for those who include pizza in their Last Supper.

In the meantime if you beat a path to their door-and you should, even if you live in Old Town Alexandria, or Fairfax for that matter both of which ache for a place like this!!!), don't expect much in ambience either inside or outside the door. Just go for the pie which is truly great, even by Macomb street standards.

#7 bilrus

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Posted 03 June 2007 - 08:00 PM

I went yesterday and lucked into being able to carry out two pizzas. Apparently they aren't planning on doing carry out as I was turned away by the girls working the door, but a woman who appeared to be one of the owners said they'd be willing since I was there at a time that wasn't too busy. Two more people arrived in the next five minutes asking for take out too. They may want to reconsider the policy or they are likely to lose a lot more business than just the people they turn away. It is a way to get people to sample the goods in an area that I'm sure consumes more carry out pizzas than eat in.

The pizzas we had were very good - a mushroom with caramelized onion and one with the same mushrooms and onion with sundried tomatoes and a very good locally made maple and fennel pork sausage - sweet and smoky with a nice crust that could have had a little more "rise" in the edge of the crust that you can get from a really hot oven and maybe a little more salt in the dough.

I was tempted by the special Joe H described but even I (who has been known to throw money at food in the past) balked at the price of $22 for what was described as a 12 inch pizza. It turns out that the pizzas are oval and bigger than a standard small Domino's 12 incher but the prices range from $13 for a basic cheese to $19 for the sausage with most in the higher end. Joe's right - Loudoun County may have the highest median household income in the country, but of my neighbors, most have several kids and not a lot of extra disposible income. They are going to be scared off from buying 2 or 3 pizzas for their family and spending nearly $75 or more for pizzas a salad and drinks.

I hope they do well - I'm sure I'll be back regularly. This is already the best pizza in Loudoun County and could be the best restaurant in Ashburn.

Also as a post script - two doors down from AF a new place is set to open called Calallo Cuisine. I tried googling but couldn't find anything about it, although the signage promises Caribbean cooking. Looks interesting.
Bill Russell

#8 Joe H

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Posted 03 June 2007 - 10:26 PM

"They may want to reconsider the policy or they are likely to lose a lot more business than just the people they turn away. It is a way to get people to sample the goods in an area that I'm sure consumes more carry out pizzas than eat in."

Bill, I think you are exactly on the mark with your observations: Two pizzas with four drinks, tax and tip IS $75 and this will buy pizza and Cokes from Domino's for probably every weeknight-not just one. I'm also surprised that they don't do carryout-even Sally's, Pepe's and Santarpio's (one of the owners grew up in Boston on their pizza) have carryout. Obviously, I really liked this place-a lot with one particular pie putting it well over the top for me. But I see this concept working better in a much more urban location that may be less dependent on what seems to be almost exclusively family dining.

Also, when we were first served the bbq pizza a family of four walked by our table and the mother asked me which pizza it was-"it really looks good!" Later, with half of the pie left, I walked over to her table where she and her three children were sharing one pepperoni and pepper pizza and asked if she would like to try a slice. She said yes and offered the first bite to her 9 or 10 year old son. He quickly asked what it was. She said it was a pulled pork bbq pizza. He made a face and pushed it away! My point is that I don't think a lot of families are adventurous to try something like this. My wife suggested to the owners that with the restaurant half full, perhaps they could bake a bbq pizza and, with fifteen or so small slices, give them out to each table. She said they had discussed this the first night since no one was ordering it.

The real shame is that it is a special and may not be offered much longer if it doesn't sell. For me, this is their signature pie. My other concern is that excepting a salad and two desserts there is nothing else but nine pizzas offered.

My hope is that Sietsema visits it and writes about it. People have to find out about American Flatbread-it has to become a destination. Unfortunately, it is in an extremely difficult to find brand new shopping center which almost nobody in Ashburn even knew existed (we stopped in three gas stations asking for directions and were given the WRONG directions by a person who answered the phone at AF. I also discovered that not all Loudoun county maps have all of the streets printed on them; such as the street AF is on! The shopping center is still under construction with paving ongoing in the parking lot.) For anyone going there take the Toll road past Dulles airport and when you come to exit six (about four or five miles past Dulles) turn left. The shopping center is several blocks away and fronted by a 75,000 square foot Harris Teeter. American Flatbread is in a second, separate smaller center about a quarter mile beyond it.

As a side note I suspect that this Harris Teeter and perhaps several other new grocery stores are impacting the Dulles Wegman's. Recent weekend visits have found what I believe are somewhat smaller crowds in Wegmans. The Ashburn Harris Teeter is a really nice store.

#9 Joe H

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 09:29 AM

You're changing the topic. I wrote about an extraordinary pizza restaurant which I believe has the best crust (because of its oven) in the entire D. C. area. I offered specific reasons for why I believe there are problems unique to starting a store like this in the outer suburb of Ashburn, VA. As Bill mentioned there ARE differences between Ashburn and Glover Park or elsewhere in a city like Washington. I am not taking a shot at Ashburn; rather, I am talking about ALL similar suburbs. You can replace Ashburn with Manassas, St. Charles City, Millersville or Frederick. It may be wealthier and perhaps more educated but it is still populated with a majority of chain outposts similar to other outer suburban neighborhoods around the United States. Typically, these are family and typically familiar.

American Flatbread was opened in Ashburn because, in the owners' words, they live there. Obviously, I wouldn't have done this. Obviously, I would have opened in D. C. or in Old Town, Bethesda, close in Arlington or anywhere which has a somewhat different demographic.

Regardless of all this, I sincerely and deeply hope that the problems I anticipate do not happen. I honestly hope that I am truly wrong and this restaurant proves wildly successful and enduring.

But I want to move this digression back to the purpose of what I wrote: there is, indeed, a great pizza in the Washington area that has gone unnoticed, unmentioned and even this morning with no mention on Chowhound, still undiscovered by most who frequent boards like this or food blogs. Talk about the personal implications of demographic value judgments elsewhere. The purpose of this board and this post is to talk about pizza and the unique problems to opening a very personal and eclectic but limited restaurant in what I think is an unlikely location.

Thank you.

#10 Joe H

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 09:38 AM

Remember, 2 Amy's has a FULL menu. There are appetizers and alternatives to pizza. AF has a total of 9 pizzas, one salad and two desserts. There is NO Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola. Only Dominion Root Beer. No carry out. They open after 4:00 on weekdays and after 3:00 on weekends. 2 Amy's is open for lunch, sells Coke and has carry out. You can walk to 2 Amy's, there's a bus stop within steps and you can hail a cab on the street. None of these are options for AF. 2 Amy's is considerably less expensive.

But, for me, American Flatbread's pulled pork pizza is a better pie than even the pizza margherita at 2 Amy's.

#11 DonRocks

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 09:52 AM

But, for me, American Flatbread's pulled pork pizza is a better pie than even the pizza margherita at 2 Amy's.

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#12 mdt

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 10:19 AM

But I want to move this digression back to the purpose of what I wrote: there is, indeed, a great pizza in the Washington area that has gone unnoticed, unmentioned and even this morning with no mention on Chowhound, still undiscovered by most who frequent boards like this or food blogs. Talk about the personal implications of demographic value judgments elsewhere. The purpose of this board and this post is to talk about pizza and the unique problems to opening a very personal and eclectic but limited restaurant in what I think is an unlikely location.

Did they do much to advertise the opening? They just opened in May 2007. How much more on top of things could anyone be? If it wasn't for Al Dente's original post I would have never heard about it.

I look forward to trying it, but Asbhurn at dinner time is not even close to convenient.

#13 bilrus

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 10:24 AM

Did they do much to advertise the opening? They just opened in May 2007. How much more on top of things could anyone be? If it wasn't for Al Dente's original post I would have never heard about it.

I wouldn't have heard about it either and I live five minutes away. And they actually didn't even open in May - Friday was their first day of business.

Not offering anything but root beer might be strike against too.

They do offer other canned sodas other than the Root Beer, but at something like $2 a can.
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#14 Joe H

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 11:48 AM

Bill, they don't have any Coke or Pepsi products. I asked and the answer I was given is that they only want "natural" or "organic" suppliers and national soft drink brands don't seem to fit this standard. Of course, they don't at Whole Foods either but in this environment I think a lot of kids may influence a family decision just on the basis of the availability of a soft drink.

For pre-opening publicity I would direct anyone to the thread on Comet and the numerous posts long before their opening. I also thank Al Dente because without his first post I wouldn't have known about this either-and I've been to and loved the original in Vermont. I'm just suggesting that given the kind of "cult" status of frozen American Flatbread and its infrequent availability at Whole Foods there would have been a buildup, perhaps a buildup similar to Comet if it had opened in D. C.

#15 Al Dente

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 12:15 PM

I also thank Al Dente because without his first post I wouldn't have known about this either-and I've been to and loved the original in Vermont. I'm just suggesting that given the kind of "cult" status of frozen American Flatbread and its infrequent availability at Whole Foods there would have been a buildup, perhaps a buildup similar to Comet if it had opened in D. C.

Hey, my pleasure. I look forward to trying it (of course I'm a bit afraid of going out to Ashburn-- I always seem to hear that banjo from Deliverance when I go ;) ). The only reason I knew of it was because one of Whole Foods' buyers told me about it.

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#16 mdt

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 12:16 PM

Riiiiight -- that would explain why an Indian restaurant featuring that very bland, boring Indian-Chinese cuisine just opened in Ashburn.

Must be that out west county envy creeping up. S ;) I don't think it was put there because the general populous of Ashburn wanted it. Here is a quote from the Post that pretty much sums it up.

Mirchi (Hindi for chili pepper) is one of several new ethnic eateries in booming Loudoun County, where the number of Indian immigrants more than tripled between 2000 and 2005, according to the latest Census Bureau figures.

For pre-opening publicity I would direct anyone to the thread on Comet and the numerous posts long before their opening. I also thank Al Dente because without his first post I wouldn't have known about this either-and I've been to and loved the original in Vermont. I'm just suggesting that given the kind of "cult" status of frozen American Flatbread and its infrequent availability at Whole Foods there would have been a buildup, perhaps a buildup similar to Comet if it had opened in D. C.

You are proving my point. There were a ton of posts about Comet because the owners had an existing restaurant and people heard about it there, not to mention other news sources. How could there be a build up if no advanced PR was done? This place is in an out of the way strip mall in Ashburn that was hard enough for you to find with a map and calling them on the phone. It appears that this place did not do much to advertise things before they opened. Their choice? Who knows? I am sure that if the Post, City Paper, some random food blog, or someone would have written about it ahead of time this board and others would have commented. I also think that there has been a pretty good deal of press for a small family run place that just opened 3 days ago!

#17 Joe H

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 12:28 PM

I hope that all of this doesn't distract from my original post #6 where I raved about the bbq pizza which I feel would alone be cause for a very long thread.

Of course, now, if someone drives from say, La Plata or Fredericksburg to eat pizza in Ashburn it's going to REALLY have to be a damn good pie. I'm suggesting that the one pie-the pulled pork bbq pizza-would be worth a drive from, say, at least Waldorf (perhaps not La Plata) and Dumfries (perhaps not Fredericksburg).

But this is from someone who has driven from Reston to New Haven and back in one day just for a good pizza. Or Trenton. Or Brooklyn. Or....

#18 Joe H

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 05:13 PM

This is the link to American Flatbread's outpost in CA: http://www.foodremem...t/menupage.html They have a bakery there which services West Coast Whole Foods and Wild Oats markets as well as a restaurant which is open Friday and Saturday from 5 until 10 to serve pizza. Curiously they have two sizes of pizza with the smaller very fairly priced AND they also have soft drinks! REAL Diet Coke and Coke!!!

This is Fodor's take on the Waitsfield, VT location: http://www.fodors.co...operty_id=46009 This, by the way, has take out and is open for lunch!

In Vermont American Flatbread is known as much for beer as for pizza. Serious. This is a really interesting thread discussing both:
http://beeradvocate....4/?view=beerfly

This is the Burlington, VT location which also has two sizes of pizzas including the smaller but much more reasonably priced: http://www.flatbread...com/intro.shtml

I predict: within one month Ashburn will have a smaller and less expensive pizza as well as Coke and Diet Coke and, yes, take out!

...there is precedent!

#19 SVT

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 09:04 AM

I had dinner at American Flatbread on Sunday night. They'd only been open for three days, so I think it's too early to draw too many conclusions, but a few initial impressions:
--They do 'half-n-half' pizzas--we did a half punctuated equilibrium, half Virginia sausage. The punctuated equilibrium is the much-vaunted olives/red peppers/goat cheese/mozzarella/red onion flatbread. The Virginia sausage is pretty self-explanatory, but also had caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms. Both halves were good.
--In my opinion, this was not the best pizza that I've had in the area--2 Amys is better, and Comet may be as well--but again, they've only been open for three days. I was impressed with the some of the flavors--particularly, the herbs, sausage, and sun-dried tomatoes on the VA sausage flatbread were very good. I was less impressed with the mozzarella, and the organic tomato sauce was lacking in punch.
--I do wish that they would have left the flatbread in the oven for another few minutes. I didn't ask anything about cooking times or temps in their big clay oven, but I would have loved to see a bit more char on the crust of my flatbread. It appeared that all of the flatbreads were cooked similarly, so this is their style.
--As has been mentioned, for now (and perhaps into the future) they are pretty dogmatic about beverages. I didn't look too closely at their wine offerings, but the beer menu was pretty limited, and the non-alcoholic beverages seemed to be limited to cans of 'natural' (whatever that means) and organic sodas and spritzers. I had a Dominion Oak Barrel on tap, and was happy with that.
--Coming from DC, I thought that the prices were not outrageous and the flatbread was decent-sized. Our flatbread fed two of us comfortably, and cost us $19. That's not horrible by any means for quality ingredients, and when we go to 2 Amys, we pay more for two pizzas that feed us the same amount.
--The place is big! When we were there, there were maybe 4-5 other tables occupied. I'd be interested to see how the flatbreads change when the oven is really cranking them out, 2 Amys-style.
--If we are out in the area, we'd go again.

#20 Joe H

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 09:55 AM

If you go again please consider the unlikely special: pulled pork with mild bbq sauce and Swiss chard w/ garlic and chives. That is the pizza that I think is better than 2 Amys Margherita. I should also note that we have slices of that and the pepperoni left over and when I look at the char on the bottom of both pies the "bbq" pizza does have quite a bit more. This is the crust that I thought approached Pepe's and Sally's.

#21 Al Dente

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 11:23 AM

the non-alcoholic beverages seemed to be limited to cans of 'natural' (whatever that means)

It means cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.

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#22 SVT

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 12:20 PM

It means cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.

Not to split hairs, but doesn't the FDA consider HFCS to be natural as well (at least for now)?

Regardless, the beverage selection at American Flatbread was very limited, given the current choices of natural and organic beverages that are available. Perhaps this will also change as they continue to grow.

#23 Al Dente

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 12:51 PM

Not to split hairs, but doesn't the FDA consider HFCS to be natural as well (at least for now)?

The FDA does many ridiculous things...

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#24 B.A.R.

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 02:54 PM

I'm no statistician, but I would venture a guess that most of the populace would consider a $19 pizza a luxury item. I cannot wait to try it (and I'll get the BBQ pizza, too), but in order for a minimal service restaurant to succeed (six pizzas, $2 can sodas, draught root beer, some beer/wine, no take-out, dinner only), they're going to need a lot of volume. I wish them well.

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#25 ol_ironstomach

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 03:58 PM

But, for me, American Flatbread's pulled pork pizza is a better pie than even the pizza margherita at 2 Amy's.

Intriguing report, Joe. How sweet/tangy/copious is the sauce? Because the sauce is the thing that typically turns me off about bbq pizzas, even at otherwise great pizzerias.

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#26 Camille-Beau

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 06:52 PM

If you go again please consider the unlikely special: pulled pork with mild bbq sauce and Swiss chard w/ garlic and chives. That is the pizza that I think is better than 2 Amys Margherita.

How do you compare 'better' when the two types of pizzas are so different. BBQ vs. tomato/basil/mozz... Just asking.
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#27 Hannah

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 08:44 PM

Observations from tonight's dinner at American Flatbread:

1) That's some seriously good pizza. Nice, chewy crust with about the right level of char and great toppings (the maple-fennel sausage is out of this world). Definitely better crust than Paradiso's - no soggy middles to worry about.

2) The no-carryout policy seems to have bitten the dust - we saw at least 10 pizzas leave the building while we were there. This may or may not vary with the level of business in the dining room - it was slightly less than half-full when we got there.

3) There didn't seem to be any shortage of families - the place wasn't packed, but there were several families with kids of various ages in tow. At the same time, there were a few more families who came in, looked at the menu, and left.

4) I suspect any variance in char level noted over the previous few days is based on them still getting used to the oven. There were a few "test pies" being made that would go in for baking, come out of the oven, and get a good looking over and under before disappearing into the back of the house.

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#28 bilrus

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 09:04 PM

There were a few "test pies" being made that would go in for baking, come out of the oven, and get a good looking over and under before disappearing into the back of the house.

That was a good trick when I worked at Pizza Hut (at age 16 my first and last restaurant job). "Accidentally" misorder a pizza for a table that happended to have exactly the toppings you like.
Bill Russell

#29 pizza man

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 08:59 AM

I swear I saw 1 of these places in an airport somewhere..

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#30 Al Dente

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 10:30 AM

According to the AF rep I just spoke to, the Ashburn location is a franchise owned by some folks who became fans of the pizza while vacationing in Vermont and wanted to bring it back to their homeland out in the exurbs.

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#31 mdt

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 10:37 AM

According to the AF rep I just spoke to, the Ashburn location is a franchise owned by some folks who became fans of the pizza while vacationing in Vermont and wanted to bring it back to their homeland out in the exurbs.

I wonder how much quality control HQ has over the product. I will make the trek one of these days. Too bad they are not open for lunch as that would make the trip much easier.

#32 jiveturk21

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Posted 01 July 2007 - 08:13 AM

We were sitting in Fairfax last night and I was in the mood for pizza. Unfortunately, a stop at Tony's or Pomodoro's wasn't going to do the trick last night, I wanted something different, something great. Do I head east into the city or do I head west out into the suburbs, the deeper suburbs?

While I have always been a fan of 2 Amy's, more for their dishes OTHER than pizza, and Pizzeria Paradiso, we ventured out to Ashburn to try American Flatbread and see what it was all about.

We got there late, about 9:45 (they close at 10:00), well after the families took their turn with the place earlier in the evening. There was still one family of six at a table and two people at the bar when we walked in, they were obviously shutting down for the evening. But, that didn't keep them from being very gracious to us, chatting us up instead of ignoring us and shoving us out the door. I loved that, it definitely made us feel very welcome, not something that we get in restaurants these days. It does help that husband and wife ownership team live a few blocks away, but it was still a pleasant surprise.

Anyway, the service, as I alluded to, was great. Very helpful, very courteous and very willing to talk about anything and everything. The wine list was strong, not something you see out in the suburbs. Carefully planned, not a huge markup, not so big that it is overwhelming, something that you definitely need late on Saturday night. And, the food, the food was superb!

We had the salad special to begin - some greens with grilled zucchini, tomatoes and mozzarella. The viniagrette was the standout of the dish, it tied everything together. I would have enjoyed a few more pieces of zucchini and smaller greens, I hate having to cut my salad into smaller pieces, but overall it was a solid start. Oh yeah, the mozzarella was awesome!

After the salad, we sat down to the New Virginia Sausage, a great mix of sausage, sundried tomatoes, carmelized onions, mushrooms, a blend of cheeses and lots of fresh herbs. Everything seemed to be in great proportion, amazing flavor and the crust was perfect! Yes, you heard it hear, the crust was perfect. Good amount of char, no soft or soggy parts, it was simply perfect. In fact, in my humble opinion, and it is very humble, but the crust here is the best that I have had in the city. Sorry, but it is true.

Now, let me tell you something, I grew up here. I did not grow up in NY or Chicago or Connecticut or anywhere else that is known for their pizza. So, I have no preconceived notion of what pizza is supposed to taste like, I just know when it is good. And, I am telling you, the pizza at American Flatbread is damn good.

So, after the pizza, we only finished half of it, and lots of conversations with our waiter and the owners, we got a slice of apple pie and ice cream. This was the only disappointment of the night, it was OK, but fell short of expectations. I don't think that they make it on the premises, but whoever does make it could use a bit more sugar or cinnamon or nutmeg, it just didn't have a lot of flavor.

Overall, I love this place. I am going to go back there again, probably not often, because that is not my style, but when I want a good pizza, this is where I will head. And, you know what, you guys should too.

#33 DanCole42

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Posted 01 July 2007 - 05:10 PM

Anyone know how late they're open on Sundays?
-Dan

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#34 Joe H

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Posted 01 July 2007 - 09:38 PM

Now, let me tell you something, I grew up here. I did not grow up in NY or Chicago or Connecticut or anywhere else that is known for their pizza. So, I have no preconceived notion of what pizza is supposed to taste like, I just know when it is good. And, I am telling you, the pizza at American Flatbread is damn good.

Thank you for trusting my earlier opinion and trying American Flatbread. For my wife and I it is, indeed, special.

#35 DanCole42

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Posted 02 July 2007 - 10:32 AM

So I hopped over to American Flatbread after a show at the Comedy Spot (great family-friendly fun). Here's my rundown:

My family and I used to go up to Vermont every winter when I was a kid, so I was basically raised on this flatbread stuff. The Ashburn location was a little disconcerting at first... I was used to seeing this pizza made in a rustic country inn, not the sort of exurb outdoor malls that spring up like weeds. It's OK, though, the walls were dotted with information about local farms, as well as pithy sayings in George's trademark handwriting... things like the "five faces of food." And there, in the center of it all, was the woodburning oven that I grew up with.

One note, though - my review here is not biased with childhood nostalgia. At that age I was too young to fully appreciate what I was eating!

The staff was exceedingly warm, welcoming, and friendly. I requested a seat by the oven, and the pizzaiolos seemed to be having a blast making the flatbread and took a genuine interest in whether or not we were enjoying our food (we were). I would not have expected this level of service in the sorts of restaurants you normally find in strip malls like this, but there it was.

Now, the food. I had the special salad with zucchini, mozzarella, tomato, and greens in a light vinaigrette. The greens were fresh but otherwise unremarkable. The dressing was a little light for me. But the zucchini, mozz and tomato were all amazingly fresh. The zucchini was grilled and sweet, the mozzarella was creamy and a little salty, and the tomato was probably one of the best I've ever had. I was disappointed there were only two of each - I would have payed double the price for a salad that was just the zucchini, cheese, and tomato - forget the lettuce!

For dessert my wife and I had the apple pie and brownie. After seeing them put the pie in the oven, I was very disappointed to find it slightly cooler than room temperature, as well as lacking any real flavor oomph. The brownie was good - light and chocolaty, and it was real vanilla ice cream. All in all I wasn't blown away by the desserts.

The wine list is impressive, and the descriptions given on the menu were very helpful for a wine noob like myself. I had a glass of an Argentinian merlot.

Now on to the star of the show: the flatbread. We got half new Virginia sausage, half sun-dried tomato. It was every bit as good as I remembered it. The mushrooms on top had a deep, woody flavor that was accentuated by the char and light smokiness of the perfectly-textured crust. The cheese was relentlessly spirit-warming, and the sundried tomatoes and sausage were among the best pizza toppings I've ever encountered. My wife, who grew up outside New York and is about as big of a NY pizza snob as they come, said it was like "eating happiness." She even ate her crusts... she NEVER eats her crusts... AND said it was the best pizza ever.

In conclusion, come for the awesome service, approach the salad warily, skip the desserts, and enjoy as much flatbread as you can with as much wine as you can. Oh, and tell your friends about it - that place was EMPTY!

I've eaten pizza all over the country, at many establishments, and take the cuisine very seriously. This, and its counterpart in Vermont, is the best pizza you will find anywhere outside of maybe Italy.
-Dan

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MORBO: The challenger's ugly food has shown us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside.

#36 JeffC

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Posted 02 July 2007 - 10:43 PM

Based on the reviews above, my wife and I made the trek from Silver Spring to Ashburn. It's late, so this will be brief.

It was worth the drive, even with the eight bucks it cost to drive the Dulles/Greenway toll roads. The pizza is a special as advertised--we had a "split" pizza, my half being the sausage, hers the basic three cheese with organic tomato sauce. Both sides were delicious, but I particularly liked the sweet flavor of the sausage with the just enough mushrooms,carmelized onions and sun-dried tomatoes. Geri likes her pizzas simple--wherever we go, she always gets the basic tomato/cheese pizza--and she loved her half.

We shared the salad special, the greens with basil/lemon vinagrette. I'll break the tie on the two above reviews and give the salad a big thumbs up. Delicious, especially the dressing.

Tonight was a perfect top-down night for the roadster, so the drive out was a pleasure. How often we'll feel like making the drive remains to be seen, but the pizza is so good that it'll be hard to stay away.

#37 Heather

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Posted 03 July 2007 - 07:21 AM

For dessert my wife and I had the apple pie and brownie. After seeing them put the pie in the oven, I was very disappointed to find it slightly cooler than room temperature, as well as lacking any real flavor oomph.

Dunno about you, but that suggests to me that the desserts are frozen.

The wine list is impressive, and the descriptions given on the menu were very helpful for a wine noob like myself. I had a glass of an Argentinian merlot.

What was impressive about the list? And how does a self-described wine noob judge the impressiveness of a wine list? I am being serious here, not trying to be mean.

I've eaten pizza all over the country, at many establishments, and take the cuisine very seriously. This, and its counterpart in Vermont, is the best pizza you will find anywhere outside of maybe Italy.

I'm curious to know if you've been to the places that Joe H rhapsodizes about.

Our daughter is going to camp in Leesburg at the end of July. If I can figure out how to get to Ashburn from there then we will check this place out. Is the pulled pork pizza a regular menu item, or special? The website only lists specials for the Vermont locations. ;)

#38 DanCole42

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Posted 03 July 2007 - 08:12 AM

Dunno about you, but that suggests to me that the desserts are frozen.

This is a distinct possibility.

What was impressive about the list? And how does a self-described wine noob judge the impressiveness of a wine list? I am being serious here, not trying to be mean.

I know you're not. I could tell the list was "impressive" because I didn't recognize any of the wines on the list! Usually there'll be a Robert Mondavi or some French vineyard I'll recognize - but these all seemed obscure to me. The fact that next to the names of the "obscure" wines were descriptions of each wine written in-house tells me that a lot of thought went into putting the list together. Plus, not only did I enjoy the wine I ordered, I found myself able to easily recognize the flavors being described.

I'm curious to know if you've been to the places that Joe H rhapsodizes about.

No, I have not been to Two Amy's or Comet, but PLEASE do not let that affect your decision to dine there! Regardless of whether it's the "best pizza in DC," it's DAMN GOOD FOOD, and well worth the special trip.

Our daughter is going to camp in Leesburg at the end of July. If I can figure out how to get to Ashburn from there then we will check this place out.

It's not hard. Coming from DC, take the Dulles Toll Road to Exit 6 - turn left at the exit. When the road ends, turn right at the stop sign - American Flatbread is up ahead on your right before the housing development.

Is the pulled pork pizza a regular menu item, or special? The website only lists specials for the Vermont locations. ;)

It is a special, and does not seem to be currently offered. When we went, the special was this very good-sounding "beef ragu" pizza. Had this not been my first time there, I would have gotten it - but I wanted to stick with the classics.
-Dan

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#39 Joe H

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Posted 03 July 2007 - 11:34 AM

In several of my earliest posts on this thread I noted my concern about the suburban location supporting this kind of place. I am convinced that if this was "in town" or in, say, Old Town or Reston Town Center or downtown Bethesda this place would be enormously successful. In D. C. it is direct competition in terms of quality to Two Amys, Comet, etc. (For those who have been could you imagine the same pizza in Adams Morgan? In a funky old building with the same pizza oven, not a nondescript strip mall building?) I honestly think the crust is almost as good as Pepe's and Sally's. Still, the post which noted that American Flatbread was almost "empty" is a real concern that may plague its continued success. For me this is a "downtown" pizza experience, not a suburban one. For all those on here who are impressed with Comet I would suggest a trip to Ashburn might find a superior pie. I also might actually put American Flatbread up against Trenton's DeLorenzo's on Hudson Street. Hmm................ Certainly lacks the ambience but, for me, the pie goes one on one with it.

By the way, we were not impressed with what we thought were overpriced desserts. Five dollars each or something like that for an anemically small brownie and good, but not especially good apple pie. If the price had been three dollars I would have a different attitude. For us, American Flatbread is a place to skip dessert. The wine list was very short but, I thought, fairly priced and had some interesting wines. Overall, for the kind of restaurant this is, a plus.

#40 hm212

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Posted 03 July 2007 - 11:53 AM

Bill, they don't have any Coke or Pepsi products. I asked and the answer I was given is that they only want "natural" or "organic" suppliers and national soft drink brands don't seem to fit this standard. Of course, they don't at Whole Foods either but in this environment I think a lot of kids may influence a family decision just on the basis of the availability of a soft drink.

You are definitely correct.

To only have natural may be a great ideal, but to make it in Ashburn (or most of the outpost burbs), they are going to have to cater to the family. My kids would not be happy without a coke or pepsi product with their pizza. I would think many of the masses would be similar.

#41 clay@americanflatbread.com

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 01:22 PM

I have enjoyed reading all of your comments and feedback on this forum. Thank you for your support and for your comments. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on your American Flatbread Experience.

Some answers to what may have seemed vague about American Flatbread:

1. George Schenk, the founder of American Flatbread is not “Native American” he began building stone ovens from the intriguing childhood and young adult cooking experiences he had in the Boy Scouts. His educational training is in biology, which has impacted many of his decisions as a cook, chef and builder of his unique ovens. The oven was a success of an experiment he busied himself over 25 years ago with fire and bread. His research of traditional Quebec wood fired ovens is what led to his personalized design that creates superior flatbread.

2. For those of you who are familiar with the original location in Waitsfield Vermont, you are correct the look and feel is different. The challenge and goal was not to make a cookie cutter copy of what is in Vermont, but rather, create a platform for “sharing the food” with the local Ashburn community and surrounding areas. I think the following excerpt that was written in criticism of American Flatbread choosing Ashburn as a community does well to explain our choice.

Excerpt from a letter written by George Schenk to Burlington Free Press writer Ed Shamy in his critique of Ashburn as a location:

“So why did we go to Ashburn?

Because in the end it seemed that kids and their families in Ashburn – as much as anywhere – need and deserve meaningful food; great food should not be just the province of the hip and the green and the lucky, but something that is available to as many of those who ask as we, and other producers of good food, can sustainably provide.

One of my hopes for the Ashburn sister bakery is that food and ideas of American Flatbread help stimulate deeper conversations within the greater Ashburn community about the relationship between good food, good health and healthy environments, and that through its purchasing the Ashburn bakery is able to showcase the excellent food from local farms that is still available – directly benefiting these small farms – and maybe act as a catalyst for a larger community conversation about the role and value of small farms in our communities. We will not stop bulldozing farm land until we value the good food that comes from it and see the importance of small local and regional agriculture to our environment, our health, and our sense of community.

The values of socially responsible business practices that are at the core of American Flatbread are not unique to Vermont, but they are well rooted here, and that commonness and success gives us all courage.”—George Schenk

3. Many of the comments I have read note the price point of the Flatbreads. Your observations are correct about the price being high compared to Domino’s or Pizza Hut. Very simply, we have no desire to be Domino’s or Pizza Hut. Too often we (as American consumers) are left with food choices that are mediocre at best. Anyone who has made food knows that time, skill and choosing the best ingredients is what creates superior flavors and textures that we all crave. Buying ingredients that are local, organic, hormone-free is not cheap. Organic products are generally 15-20% more costly than the conventional alternatives. So too, is produce and meat, which can be more expensive from your local neighborhood farmer. The time and labor that we put into hand shaping, and fermenting our dough is purposeful and for legitimate reasons, these methods affect the crust that is so special.
So often in our communities, food choices like this are not available to people because they are found only in restaurants providing the same ingredients starting at $25 dollars a person. By sharing this food communally with your table we believe you get to experience the special flavors and textures of this food at a price closer to $10-15 dollars a person.
It is important that you analyze what you deem valuable. If you are satisfied committing your food dollars to Domino’s, you may be missing what American Flatbread is providing. We realize what we (in the American Flatbread organization; including our customers) feel is valuable may be beyond what the Ashburn community is currently prepared for—the vision is to positively change how Americans view their food choice through educating our customers; when we provide a positive American Flatbread experience, I believe we are accomplishing this goal.

4. Coke & Pepsi:
--it is true that our California bakery serves Coke, which is made from a Coke plant that uses natural cane sugars. Our main interest in not carrying Coke and Pepsi products is our belief that by not buying high fructose corn syrup products we represent a stance for change against the over use of HFCS. You would be fascinated by this link.

http://www.greenopti..._corn_footprint

Furthermore, we are interested in stimulating local food, and food products. Recently we had a local soda jerk in Vermont approach us with a really amazing Root Beer made from local sassafras roots that we have “on tap”—the flavor is amazing! Those are the kind of entrepreneurs/artisans we want to partner with and support. We think this is ultimately better for our customers and in the interest in changing the industrial food model.

5. Take Out: your initial observations have been noted. Thanks for the feedback. Our policy for To-go’s is: to-go flatbread depends on current demand - if we have guests waiting for a table and our oven station is busy we aren’t able to accommodate to-go’s. If we think it is feasible to make a to-go for a guest we will do the best we can. If you would like a to-go, please ask and we will do our best to field your request.

6. All of our desserts are made in-house. As for the apple pie, I believe we have taken necessary steps to correct what sounded like recipe execution problems. I would encourage you to try it again.

7. You are right that Scott and Janice Vasko, owners of Ashburn Hearth, visited the restaurant in Waitsfield and are fans. They have 50 years of combined experience in the food and restaurant business. Furthermore, they have recognized and appreciate the values of American Flatbread and are committed and respectable members of their home community of Ashburn, VA.

#42 DanCole42

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 01:43 PM

Clay-

Great first post!!! As you can tell from my comments, I'm a HUGE fan of both the original Vermont location and the new on in Ashburn.

Any plans to open for lunch? ;)
-Dan

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MORBO: The challenger's ugly food has shown us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside.

#43 bilrus

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 02:17 PM

I think most of the readers here agree wholeheartedly with your company's philosophy.

Unfortunately, we are in the minority in the community at large, and even more so, I fear, in Ashburn. Our comments on the other thread (or at least mine) were more focused on our hope that my neighbors in Ashburn who don't particpate on food boards or give much thought to what they put in their mouths appreciate it as much as we do and are willing to make the "investment" in it.

As for the product - I've stuck very strictly to a no-carb diet for the last four weeks and I know that a few slices of your sausage pizza is going to be my first cheat (reward for continued success?). Hopefully I can hold off a while longer.

Good luck. I wish I could be a better customer.
Bill Russell

#44 jrichstar

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 03:49 PM

Clay, that was an excellent summary of both AF's philosophy and reactions to posts-to-date. I keep thinking about the post in the American Flatbread thread which insisted that the place need to have Coke and Pepsi to satisfy the kids. Certainly a troubling statement on what people accept as being OK for children to put in their mouths.

It's incredibly refreshing to see an enterprise like American Flatbread come to our area to help educate and implement a vision such as yours. We are lucky to have you.

#45 DanCole42

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Posted 14 July 2007 - 01:38 PM

Anyone know what kind of wood they use in the oven?
-Dan

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#46 clay@americanflatbread.com

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Posted 25 July 2007 - 06:39 PM

We only use hardwood. In Vermont, Maple and Beech are first choice, although in southern states oak is more available and an excellent alternative. Hardwoods burn at a higher BTU and provide a superior crust to other fuels.

Anyone know what kind of wood they use in the oven?



#47 Malawry

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Posted 27 July 2007 - 06:41 PM

My family just drove 40 miles to AF to have our second dinner there. We liked our first visit so much that we were willing to make another drive just to eat there again. We shared the same sausage pizza others have described. There's something about the quality of the mushrooms and the way they cook in the oven that makes them really woodsy--you know how mushrooms are always described as "woodsy" or "earthy"? These ones really are. And I love the slight hint of sweet maple flavor in the sausage. The highlight, though, is definitely the crust. Ohhh, that crust. Thin but not too thin, crisp yet chewy, flecked with charred bits. Very very tasty.

We shared the lone salad on the regular menu tonight: greens with celery, carrots, hijiki, sesame seeds and house-made fruit vinegar. It was ok...I like the bitter/umame flavor of the seaweed...but I preferred the lemony dressing and sweet grilled zucchini of the special salad with house-made mozz that we shared on our first visit.

Service is friendly and we were in and out relatively quickly without feeling rushed. (A big plus when you have a baby in tow.) Note that almost every party had at least one child along--this place is very kid-friendly, but if you're looking for a downtown vibe you're not finding it in this place.
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#48 wdcbrucefan

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Posted 29 July 2007 - 10:29 AM

Today's Post features AFB on the front page in a piece about locally grown produce.
http://www.washingto...ml?hpid=topnews

#49 brian

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Posted 29 July 2007 - 11:06 AM

American Flatbread is a Vermont-based pizza company that stresses using local, regional and organic ingredients in all of its products. Its frozen pizzas are sold in Whole Foods and gourmet grocers nationally.

:angry:

#50 Joe H

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Posted 29 July 2007 - 02:37 PM

Today's Post features AFB on the front page in a piece about locally grown produce.
http://www.washingto...ml?hpid=topnews

I am glad to see American Flatbread receive this kind of attention. If the Ashburn location is successful more will be opened over time in the D. C. area.




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