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Boxcar Tavern, American at Eastern Market - Chef Brian Klein Comes from Senart's Oyster and Chop House

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Boxcar Tavern (originally to be called "Boxcar Bistro") opened December 30th. The original concept was for a wine bar, but it opened as a gastropub with a wine program. The executive chef, Brian Klein, was also the opening chef at Senart's.

The interior looks much the same as Cervera's other restaurants, most closely resembling Senart's and then Lola's. It's a shotgun style, long and narrow. The buildout took many months, extending out into the back alley.

I've always liked the look of his places--and he does the interior design elements, such as lighting and seating, on his own. He's very talented at this. They are comforting and pleasant. I am beginning to hit a point of fatigue, though, which is why it took me a month to go here.

The staff were lovely. I got a Victory Pils on tap ($6) and a Boxcar quesadilla, with Duck Confit, Pulled Pork, Red Onion, Roasted Pepper, Melted Cheddar & Gruyere ($11). The quesadilla was small. Even though it had been cut into quarters that were stacked on each other, it was, when pulled apart, really small. The texture was mushy. Okay, I'm no food critic, but I couldn't have told you what the meat was in it if I didn't know. It came with sour cream and an avocado-ish spread that were not anything special.

I like enough of the food at his other places not to give too much weight to one quesadilla that was so-so. The fatigue has set in, though. I know he thinks that his places don't all look the same, but that's because he's looking at what are minor details to everyone else.

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I am beginning to hit a point of fatigue, though, which is why it took me a month to go here.

No kidding - this is now his fifth bar or restaurant in a three-block span, and they all look exactly the damn same. And as he prepares to open another three (three!) restaurants/bars fairly soon, I can only imagine that they too will have the same damn style elements as every other place he's opened.

It's honorable to do your own design work, but when you apply the same basic elements to every restaurant you open, and you're opening all of them so close to each other, you have a problem. It makes it so much worse when your menus aren't terribly dissimilar from one another, either - at that point, you're basically opening up the same restaurant three or four times. (And I know the menus aren't exactly the same, but the cooking styles and flavor profiles from each of Chesapeake Room, Senart's and now Boxcar are so closely related that if they were all next door to each other and you told me all the food came out of the same kitchen, I'd believe you 100%)

Maybe I'm wrong on this one, but I can't imagine that there's anybody on the Hill who'd consider dining at two of Xavier's establishments on consecutive trips out to eat, because they'd be repeating yourself. And if you're hitting that point of fatigue (such as in Pat's case, where it took a month for the first visit because of the feeling that it'd be exactly the same), then what's the damn point of opening the new place to begin with?

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I completely agree with the above sentiments and am so confused really by the business model he seems to be applying. As Fuzzy said, you would never go to two of his places on back-to-back nights (or even a few days apart), so he's basically competing with himself. Barracks Row and this section of the Hill has come such a long way but the preponderance of all Xavier's places eliminates the ability for a variety of innovative, diverse place to take root (like what we've seen on 14th St NW). Its a shame really. In fairness, I like stopping by most of his spots for drinks, but just could do with having 2 of them.. not 8.

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I also agree with most of what's been said here, though I won't miss the health/fire/safety hazard the H&D has become. The chain-like growth of his restaurants is not in itself a bad thing, but in an area with a paucity of other good places it soon becomes overbearing and monotonous. Still, it is city officials and ANCs that make the decisions to grant permits for this kind of expansion, so I wouldn't place the blame on Xavier.

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Plus he is ruining the Hawk & Dove. That alone is reason to boycott his restaurants.

If you want to get even more upset, he's got the Finn macCool's and Hawk 'n' Dove signs hanging inside Boxcar.

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It's like his trophy case! Although I was never much of a Finn's fan. I don't go to Molly Malone's much but he has vastly improved the beer selection there. Finn's beer list was terrible.

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I saw this piece right after my last post, or I would have just put it there. This has information on the two restaurants he's opening by the ball park. (It's actually four places opening soon, not three; these two plus Pacifico on Barracks Row and the Hawk).

According to the author of this piece, Xavier's restaurant group is now the official caterer for the Nationals and will be doing their clubhouse food this season.

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I completely agree with the above sentiments and am so confused really by the business model he seems to be applying. As Fuzzy said, you would never go to two of his places on back-to-back nights (or even a few days apart), so he's basically competing with himself. Barracks Row and this section of the Hill has come such a long way but the preponderance of all Xavier's places eliminates the ability for a variety of innovative, diverse place to take root (like what we've seen on 14th St NW). Its a shame really. In fairness, I like stopping by most of his spots for drinks, but just could do with having 2 of them.. not 8.

I also agree with the sentiment that these restaurants are all so similar that it's easy to get fatigued by the concept. Having said that, if he wasn't filling the seats, I'm guessing he would stop building/buying. In a similar vain to the Hamilton's original concept to be overflow capacity for Old Ebbitt, if, as a businessman, he is turning away 5 guests for every 1 who is able to get a seat, he's not competing against himself but merely expanding his capacity. The loser in this occasion won't be Xavier himself as when his places stop filling up, he'll stop investing the money to build them - but it will be the neighbors who are devoid of options.

Why not deviate the concept more and provide different looks and menus? I'm guessing he can't keep up. With the number of places he's opening - its both much faster and much more affordable to stay within one's comfort zones. Suppliers of both food and decor at the ready, willing to deal at lower prices because he's such a prolific customer.

Still doesn't make the people who live around 8th St any happier, but from a business perspective I can see his rationale.

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Once the Neighborhood Restaurant Group brewery and bar opens at The Yards, all of Cervera's places in Southeast will be white noise (and I'm usually more 'pro' his places than 'con').

Lets not forget that one of the biggest issues with that area, and believe me I spend quite a bit of time during basbeall season down there, is residential.There has to be a good mix of residential and retail that fits that market to survive. Without the development of afforadable and reasonable housing down there, it eventually ends up becoming a wasteland of low vacancy properties that never gropws business, but yet spurns it for fear of paying too much while living house poor. I was down there not too long ago looking around and with all the happy feelings of growth, it still needs suipport. The group that is doing The Yards complex, residential and retail, actually were the ones who developed the old Tobacco warehouses in Richmond, just east of the Bottom. It took quite some time to develop the Hill in Richmond, and other than Millie's most of the places came and went. The process for business owners is to step cautiously, lower expectations, and who knows, maybe talk to the guys who own Justin's and see what the vibe is overall. They were doing decent business in late October, long after the Nats season was over, so they must be doing something right with the people who live in that area.

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Once the Neighborhood Restaurant Group brewery and bar opens at The Yards, all of Cervera's places in Southeast will be white noise (and I'm usually more 'pro' his places than 'con').

Ditto. It would not surprise me if that place becomes as big of an attraction as the stadium. And with that great, mostly still undiscovered waterfront park next door I'm sure most people won't mind the enivitable 2 hour wait as much.

But I'm sure Xavier will rake in some business with the overflow.

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I completely agree with the above sentiments and am so confused really by the business model he seems to be applying. As Fuzzy said, you would never go to two of his places on back-to-back nights (or even a few days apart), so he's basically competing with himself. Barracks Row and this section of the Hill has come such a long way but the preponderance of all Xavier's places eliminates the ability for a variety of innovative, diverse place to take root (like what we've seen on 14th St NW). Its a shame really. In fairness, I like stopping by most of his spots for drinks, but just could do with having 2 of them.. not 8.

I've only eaten at one of his places--a decent, but not especially memorable lunch at Chesapeake Room--so I can't speak to their general quality. But one of the reasons I haven't been a customer is that none of them have particularly intrigued me as "must tries"--particularly at the dinner price points of Chesapeake and Senart's. I guess if I'm going to pay low to mid-twenties for entrees, I'd rather spend my dining dollars at places where I have more confidence in the quality and overall dining experience.

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Fitz Hahn chimes in

"All of his bars share signature elements, so after you've been to a few of them, they start to feel the same."

"Directly across from Eastern Market is Boxcar Tavern, which opened Dec. 30, and he has plans for three more nearby bars to open this year."

[One is the Hawk & Dove, where will the other two be?]

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Fitz Hahn chimes in

"All of his bars share signature elements, so after you've been to a few of them, they start to feel the same."

"Directly across from Eastern Market is Boxcar Tavern, which opened Dec. 30, and he has plans for three more nearby bars to open this year."

[One is the Hawk & Dove, where will the other two be?]

Pacifico and the two by the ballpark (though I think only one of those two is opening this year).

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If you want to get even more upset, he's got the Finn macCool's and Hawk 'n' Dove signs hanging inside Boxcar.

Anyone who wants to be faux upset over the loss of Finn MacCools shouldn't be older than 22. Hawk 'n' Dove is a shame though. And the design fatigue is definitely starting to show in the neighborhood. It made sense to make Molly Malones like Lola's when it was only those two and Lola's hasn't expanded. Now it seems a little weird at best, and you can certainly argue it's a bit lazy.

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Anyone who wants to be faux upset over the loss of Finn MacCools shouldn't be older than 22.

I didn't like Finn's all that much, but I went there occasionally. It's the trophy case aspect of it that Tweaked mentioned that got to me.

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I also agree with the sentiment that these restaurants are all so similar that it's easy to get fatigued by the concept. Having said that, if he wasn't filling the seats, I'm guessing he would stop building/buying. In a similar vain to the Hamilton's original concept to be overflow capacity for Old Ebbitt, if, as a businessman, he is turning away 5 guests for every 1 who is able to get a seat, he's not competing against himself but merely expanding his capacity. The loser in this occasion won't be Xavier himself as when his places stop filling up, he'll stop investing the money to build them - but it will be the neighbors who are devoid of options.

Why not deviate the concept more and provide different looks and menus? I'm guessing he can't keep up. With the number of places he's opening - its both much faster and much more affordable to stay within one's comfort zones. Suppliers of both food and decor at the ready, willing to deal at lower prices because he's such a prolific customer.

Still doesn't make the people who live around 8th St any happier, but from a business perspective I can see his rationale.

Who does this sound like?

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I have been told that Boxcar is under completely new ownership, no longer part of the old restaurant group(s).  The owner is a woman and I did not take note of her name and have forgotten it.  I don't know when the ownership changed.  I do know the last time I had food here (nachos), it was not very good.  I go here so infrequently, though, that it's not too useful a data point.  I have a friend who loves the butternut squash soup they rotate through sometimes as a weekly special.  So, that's two data points.

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The hand cut fries are reason enough to go here. I also enjoyed the meatloaf. It seems like this has become a new haunt for the old Mr. Henry's crowd.

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Per Capitol Hill Corner, Xavier Cervera is back in place as owner of eight of his old restaurants. (Boxcar Tavern is now independently owned and separate from the group.)

So neither Boxcar Equity Group nor Xavier Cervera owns Boxcar Tavern, which is now an independent restaurant.

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