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Matchbox, a DC-Based American Chain Employing an Aggressive National Expansion - Now Controlled by Thompson Hospitality

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Re: the coming Capitol Hill 8th St. SE location: I observed a Matchbox "3-6-9"-branded delivery truck this AM near the new location. Perhaps things are getting close to complete?

Also, today's Post Home section has Chinatown Matchbox manager searching for home furnishings... Which has absolutely nothing to with any of this.

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Re: the coming Capitol Hill 8th St. SE location: I observed a Matchbox "3-6-9"-branded delivery truck this AM near the new location. Perhaps things are getting close to complete?
Tuesday's Tomchat said maybe September.
Co-owner Ty Neal informs me that the future Matchbox (521 8th St. SE) is currently "a beehive of activity with the trades." Construction and other setbacks have his team joking about a launch "sometime in 2008," although "the end of summer" -- September, maybe? -- is their actual target.

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Re: the coming Capitol Hill 8th St. SE location: I observed a Matchbox "3-6-9"-branded delivery truck this AM near the new location. Perhaps things are getting close to complete?

Also, today's Post Home section has Chinatown Matchbox manager searching for home furnishings... Which has absolutely nothing to with any of this.

The truck may have to do with wood working equipment. The owners do almost all of the millwork for their restaurants. Including the tables with the matchboxes inside.

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I ate at Matchbox for the first time since the expansion last night. I experienced similar bafflement about the hostess-imposed wait mentioned above. My friend arrived first to put our name in and was told it would be a 45-60 minute wait. After about 30 minutes, I decided to check in, mostly because I am almost 9 months pregnant and was tired of standing.

The hostess looked at me and said, "I said it would be 45-60 minutes, but it's is busy so it will be 60. It is now 7:02, so you have 28 minutes left". Wha? I didn't even know how to reply to that and sure enough, at precisely 7:30 pm, we sat down and there were many open tables around us.

The miniburgers were terrific as always. They have that recipe down pat. We chose to have them with gouda cheese which didn't really add much. The onion strings were also great. So crisp and greaseless.

The pizzas, however, seemed dramatically different from last time I had them. I split a Q Special with a friend because I loved it last time. This time, the crust was almost paper thin and there was no edge around the pizza because it was so thickly covered in cheese. Now, I LOVE cheese, but this was just too much. The pizza was just dull and lacking in flavor.

Service was great, I wish I remembered our server's name.

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We had a pleasant pre Who concert experience at Matchbox recently. They have happy hour specials until 7 and have upgraded their scotch selection-I had a nice pour of McCallan cask strength for $15 and the manager, seeing my order, came over for a chat and bought us a shot of Redbreast Irish. We hung out with a couple of fun schoolteachers attending their first Who show. Matchbox small pizzas are $2 off and are plenty for one hungry or two light eaters. Also draft beer specials.

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The post above about mentioning too much cheese shocked me. I ate at Matchbox for the first time a few weeks ago and was severely disappointed with the pizza. My boyfriend and I split a "create your own," and while the bacon and artichokes were delicious, there was barely any cheese or sauce to be found. Generally, I ask for light sauce because I can't stand a drowned pizza, but to be honest, I'll take Ella's pizza over Matchbox any day.

Also, the service was ridiculously slow. We went on a Monday evening at about 5:30, the place was dead, and we were right by the kitchen. Yet our waitress was NEVER to be found after she brought our drinks (a different server delivered our pizza). When she finally brought the check and I asked for a refill on my soda, she gave me a surprisingly surly look and all but huffed off. I'm not sure why she was trying to clear us out so fast, because as I said, they weren't busy.

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The post above about mentioning too much cheese shocked me. I ate at Matchbox for the first time a few weeks ago and was severely disappointed with the pizza. My boyfriend and I split a "create your own," and while the bacon and artichokes were delicious, there was barely any cheese or sauce to be found. Generally, I ask for light sauce because I can't stand a drowned pizza, but to be honest, I'll take Ella's pizza over Matchbox any day.

Also, the service was ridiculously slow. We went on a Monday evening at about 5:30, the place was dead, and we were right by the kitchen. Yet our waitress was NEVER to be found after she brought our drinks (a different server delivered our pizza). When she finally brought the check and I asked for a refill on my soda, she gave me a surprisingly surly look and all but huffed off. I'm not sure why she was trying to clear us out so fast, because as I said, they weren't busy.

Bravesjade - Sorry to hear about your experience!! Wish I had a valid excuse for you but I don't.... Would like to offer some perspective though - The part of the restaurant where you were seating was "dead" because two of the three servers in the atrium by the kitchen did not arrive until 5:30. Due to the Caps game at 7 that night, the rest of our restaurant was completely full. We were also dealing with a computer system failure which stopped food orders from getting from our servers to the kitchen. Again, our issues should not be your problems but communicating them to you might makes our performance issues a little easier to understand.

Computer issues have nothing to do with surly service though. If you're interested, I'd like to have you and your boyfriend in for another pizza on us so I might be able to hear the rest of your story, put a face with the name, one way or another address the service issue and maybe have the chance to win you over as a customer.

If you are ever in the restaurant and have difficulties, please let me or someone on my management staff know so we might have the opportunity to address the issue!

Sincerely,

Chris

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Potato Valley Cafe?

I also second the Clydes on the Walk option. 3-5pm sandwiches are discounted also ($1-2 off, iirc)

Does anyone know if Clyde's still does this? I remember taking advantage about a year ago, but they didn't seem to be offering the promotion over the summer.

Speaking of discounted food in the late afternoon, does anyone know if Au Bon Pain in PennQuarter does half priced pastries/cookies at the end of the day?

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I, on the other hand, have had two great meals at Matchbox recently. The spicy meatball pizza has replaced prosciutto white as my go-to pizza. I like that it has heat versus knock-you-over-the-head fire. There's a slow burn that builds.

On one of my recent visits, I had my parents in tow. While Mom and I shared pizza and mini-burgers, Dad's sweet tooth won out and he ordered a brunch special of French toast. When the server described the dish, it sounded like too much stuff going on (fruit, bread stuffed with some kind of cream, special syrup, etc.) but the bites I tasted were delicious and I know I'll be tempted to try a breakfast item next visit. Neighboring tables consumed lots of the egg dishes (served in small cast iron skillets). I can't speak to how they tasted, but they too looked tempting.

Service has never been Matchbox's strong suit (IMO). The hostesses are nearly always surly or indifferent (or both) and more than once, I've been made to feel that they'd rather joke with other staffers than find me a seat. But service at the tables has been friendly and well-intentioned these last two trips.

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I had miniburgers at Matchbox last Sunday, an they were as usual. Still probably among the best in the city. I was at the bar, where the service was slooooow. But, once I got food, it was the same old, same old.

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I, on the other hand, have had two great meals at Matchbox recently. The spicy meatball pizza has replaced prosciutto white as my go-to pizza. I like that it has heat versus knock-you-over-the-head fire. There's a slow burn that builds.

On one of my recent visits, I had my parents in tow. While Mom and I shared pizza and mini-burgers, Dad's sweet tooth won out and he ordered a brunch special of French toast. When the server described the dish, it sounded like too much stuff going on (fruit, bread stuffed with some kind of cream, special syrup, etc.) but the bites I tasted were delicious and I know I'll be tempted to try a breakfast item next visit. Neighboring tables consumed lots of the egg dishes (served in small cast iron skillets). I can't speak to how they tasted, but they too looked tempting.

Service has never been Matchbox's strong suit (IMO). The hostesses are nearly always surly or indifferent (or both) and more than once, I've been made to feel that they'd rather joke with other staffers than find me a seat. But service at the tables has been friendly and well-intentioned these last two trips.

Jennifer - Thanks for the kind words on the food. Glad we've maybe gained a new customer or 3 for Sunday brunch! As we prepare for the opening of Capitol Hill, we've added a few more talented culinary types who are helping Chef Jon raise the bar for a menu that goes way beyond pizza and miniburgers (not that there is anything wrong with the classics though).

We've known for a while about our need to improve the host stand and I think we now have a staff that is ready and willing for the challenge. Our staff is young, eager and willing to please. They have reminded us to hire for attitude and train them properly and we'll get the results we (and you) are looking for.

I hope that you might keep me posted about any future interactions with our staff (good or bad). We do try to get better every time we come in the building! Next time you're in, please ask for me so I might be able to put a face with the name and thank you in person.

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I had miniburgers at Matchbox last Sunday, an they were as usual. Still probably among the best in the city. I was at the bar, where the service was slooooow. But, once I got food, it was the same old, same old.

Glad to hear the consistency of the food was up to snuff... Sorry about the timing of everything else. Hard to believe two years ago we weren't even open on Sundays! Now, its the third busiest day of the week!! We've added a second bartender at the main bar and are getting ready to bring a bartender in just for making the drinks for the dining rooms so the folks at the main bar can focus on you.

I'd appreciate it if you kept me posted on future experiences!!

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After a lot of blood, sweat and tears, matchbox Capitol Hill arrives this Friday. Here's the 411:

Dinners only: with the exception of Brunches, for a period of 2-3 weeks or until we are comfortable with our food quality, staff and overall operation. We will make a follow-up announcement on this.

Brunch: first Brunch will be served on Sunday, December 7 from 11-3.

After this date, we will be open for Brunch on both Saturday and Sunday. We are also planning to have a jazz trio for brunch as well.

Hours of Operation: Initially open at 5 pm for dinner. When we go to 7 days, lunch and dinner, we will be open at 11am with a last seating at 10:30PM, Monday thru Sunday.

Reservations: No reservations at this point. We will be seating on a first come first served basis until we feel comfortable with our progress.

Seating: 135 Seats initially, and in the spring and we will add an additional 24 seats outside. Bar Seating for up 15 guests with about 1/3 more area compared to our Chinatown location.

New Menu items we rolled out in Chinatown recently with excellent response, and to be included for Cap. Hill launch:

Appetizers:

pan-fried bistro crab cake

coconut red curry / pineapple tempura / frisee salad--$ 14

bacon wrapped shrimp & grits--$11

tillamook cheddar grits / chorizo

Entrees

crab cake sandwich

lump crab / lettuce & tomato / tangy roasted pepper remolaude / toasted brioche roll / house-cut fries--$14

seared sea scallops --$22

herb risotto / wilted spinach / coconut red curry

jonny mac’s market fish—mkt.

ask your server about today’s presentation

fried chicken two ways--$18

a leg stuffed with chicken pate and a crispy boneless thigh/macaroni & cheese / wilted frisee with bacon

roasted tomato linguini--$14

ciabatta croutons / fresh mozzarella / fresh basil

Desserts

molten chocolate cake--8

vanilla gelato / crème anglaise / caramel / crispy chocolate wafer

chocolate chip bread pudding--8

banana / rum caramel / fresh whipped cream

trio dessert--15

molten chocolate cake / sorbet trio / house-made doughnuts

gelato cookie sandwich--8

coffee gelato / chocolate ganache / crème anglaise

chocolate chip waffle--8

almond gelato / chocolate ganache / crème anglaise / candied pecans

coffee & doughnuts--8

house-made doughnuts / espresso kahlua crème

New Brunch items:

frisee lardon salad--9

poached eggs / apple wood smoked bacon vinaigrette / tomatoes / onions / garlic croutons

prosciutto and gruyere waffle “sandwich”--13

fresh melon / maple honey-mustard

bloody mary burger--12

fried egg / bloody mary mayo / cheddar / gouda / mixed greens / mustard vinaigrette

fresh fruit waffle--11

strawberries / bananas / raspberry whipped cream / maple syrup

New Features and Details:

We stripped the building at 521 8th Street SE to its studs before we began putting it back together.

It is vintage 1920’s, and originally housed an A&P grocery.

It was last used as a vending machine warehouse.

Customers will see new features such as exposed wood beams, backlit barn wood siding from a 1860’s Pennsylvania barn and 3 foot skylights.

In addition, the bar top and pizza line are made from an abandoned oak shuffleboard table that we found when we first went into the space. We did procure some shuffleboard pucks and sand in case customers want to play a late night game.

Another new feature is what we have christened the “match-box” or “ the see and be seen” booth is a finished, rough hewn oak box that can seat up to four guests and will have a views of the dining room as well as the bar. We have had some interesting reactions to this, mostly positive! We also see it as being a bit of sculpture…

Familiar features:

Mezzanine level

Distressed metals and custom handrails painted matchbox red

Pizza oven in the main dining room

Cozy booths

A 10 top communal table

2 top and 4 top seating

Exposed vintage brick

Oak Bar

Inset matches in tables:

(See our Orioles-Nats Table, NFC East Table

Clint Eastwood and Hello Kitty table, among others J)

Green:

As part of our green effort, we have included more natural insulation from hay, straw and plaster on the walls, more plants to act as natural air purifiers, low-voc paint, barn wood siding and an enormous amount of recycled brick. In addition, we used original vintage wood from our demolition to trim out and box in pipes and windows. Our bathrooms are now equipped with high efficiency Dyson hand dryers and we have completely eliminated the use of paper towels. (If further questions, our consultant is Adrienne Spahr at www.greenlivingconsulting.com)., 202 557 1032)

Finally—we will be updating our matchbox Capitol Hill portion very soon on the website. We do not have a contact number yet, although customers can access these updates at www.matchboxdc.com

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A non-food question for Christopher: I'd swear that in the past I've noticed a Matchbox box truck in the paddock during SCCA events at Summit Point...which of you Matchbox folks race?

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After a lot of blood, sweat and tears, matchbox Capitol Hill arrives this Friday. Here's the 411:

I work a few buildings down from the Barrack's Row location and have been greatly anticipating your arrival! Welcome to the neighborhood. I can't wait until you start serving lunch, since I usually try to high-tail it out of the area once 5:30pm hits.

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Couple of answers/responses to the last few posts:

8 Track - Take-out? Absolutely. A couple of the owners live in the neighborhood and helping to fill the take-out void was definitely part of the decision to make Barracks Row our next location.

Dave - Without being 100% certain, my guess is you saw Mark Neal's truck at the races. One of the partners, Mark is a bit of a gearhead who has his own airplane, loves cars and is also the in-house general contractor when construction is going on.

Elyssa - Good to hear you're excited! We're going to spend most of December trying to make sure our staff is up to speed with dinner and brunch. You should be looking for lunch sometime after the 1st of Jan. When I know its coming, I'll keep you posted.

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Mark me down as another very excited Hill resident. I can't imagine this will be anything less than extraordinarily successful. And Matchbox is so well-known and loved that perhaps other newcomers can ride its coattails. There is definitely still a lot of Barracks Row storefrontage that is ... less than optimally utilized.

(Plus, the takeout news is very welcome, especially for this parent of a feisty two year-old.)

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I ate at the new Barracks Row location on Friday. I have only been to the Chinatown location once before. Overall, everything ran very smoothly - not at all what I expected on opening night. There seemed to be a good size crowd, we arrived early - 5:45ish - and the bar was full, but not packed. Got a table in a few minutes on the upper level. We got the sliders and a couple pizzas.

The restaurant is beautiful. It will make all the other restaurants in the area look bad. Definitely more than repainting the walls and throwing up a few paintings from the region that the food is based on, which is pretty much what everyone seems to do.

When we left around 7, the bar was packed and there were at least 10 people waiting outside - which is saying something seeing how cold it was.

I can't wait to go back! Welcome to the neighborhood!

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I went to the new Matchbox last night, and am happy to report an excellent opening, with the burgers and pizza better than what I've had at the Chinatown location for at least a couple years.

The Miniburgers ($8 for 3) are almost as good as they were under Greg Glufling. Ordered medium-rare, they came out distressingly well-done looking, but one bite was all it took to realize that they were done under high-heat, and the middle was a near-perfect medium-rare+. The meat was juicy and flavorful, and the onion straws were better than they've ever been, even after they got (inevitably) cold - Matchbox seems to have gotten the formula down, as these things retained their interest long after reaching room-temperature. My only qualm is the brioche bun, which was a bit dry - it's going to be tricky for Matchbox to pull these off, but a little brioche is exactly what you want soaking up these juicy burgers. They could be a little less tall (the height doesn't help the upper dryness); yet when you mash them down, you squeeze the juices from the miniburgers - this is a delicate balancing act bordering on being a Catch 22.

I'm pleased to alert my chef friend that a Matchbox Meat ($14 for a small) was as good as any pizza I've ever had from Matchbox, and that's saying something. Although I've insisted that the Chinatown pizza has been on the decline for awhile now, this reminded me of why I used to love this pizza so much. The pepperoni on this pie is as good as it is at 2 Amys, and everything is in balance, right down to the beautifully charred crust. I just now finished two pieces for lunch (yes, thrown into the microwave for 30 seconds), and it was still fantastic. A great pizza from Matchbox!

Between the above two items, and the Ma Po Tofu I had the night before at Great Wall, any notion of salt deficiency was long, long out the window. With that in mind, the Crispy Seared Salmon ($20) seemed forced into the meal, and somewhat on the bacony-macho end of the spectrum. Our server asked how we wanted the salmon, and it arrived medium-rare just as we ordered it. The top level had a good sear, and it was a fairly generous portion of fish. It came resting on a large mound of Tillamook cheddar grits, surrounded by three attractive bundles of bacon-wrapped haricots verts, the bottom of the plate having the barest hint of tabasco herb butter. Had I been eating normally (sushi the night before, a chopped salad for an appetizer), I would have appreciated this moderately hearty preparation much more than I did.

Bell's Two-Hearted Ale on draft is $6 a pint. The atmosphere looks great - clean as a whistle, but also comfortable and lived-in, like it's been in full swing for years. This meal makes me remember why I used to find myself at Matchbox's bar on such a regular basis. This is an impressive opening.

Cheers,

Rocks.

P.S. I can't be ALL positive: Dyson Airblade = Nasty, Ping-Pong Ball Waiting System = Lame.

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Bob and I decided to do early dinner at the Capitol Hill Matchbox on Saturday; we got there about 5:45 and it was already slammed with people, but we were told a 20-25 wait, so we took our bingo ball and checked out some of the other Second Saturday specials while we waited. When we got back, 15-20 minutes later, we still had to wait another 15 minutes, and several parties--including us--refused a table near the front door subject to crowding and drafts. Instead, we wound up back by the pizza oven, by the staircase--a good spot to watch the cooking and the bar crowd without being jostled or shouting over others.

Started with the mini-trio of two seared scallops, mini crab cakes, and sliders. The scallops were maybe cooked a few seconds long, but were still tasty and not rubbery--our favorite of the trio. Crab cakes were airy and had strong crab taste, but also a noticeable amount of filler--sort of odd. The sliders in this combo are served without buns but with gorgonzola and a small scattering of fried onions; they were a bit dry. Overall, flaws notwithstanding, a good choice of starter, and could make a good small entree as well.

We stuck to pizza for this visit--a white prosciutto pie, thin crust with lots of cheese, garlic puree and kalamata olives. I was a bit surprised that the prosciutto is laid on the pizza after it's baked--the meat's flavor was a bit wan, and didn't add much to the much stronger taste of garlic and olive. The crust wasn't as crispy toward the middle as I like--indeed, slightly soggy--but still tasty. Better than the last pizza I had at Matchbox Chinatown, which I vaguely remember as having a much thicker crust. Rogue Stout rounded out the meal.

Those criticisms are really minor points, they didn't sink the overall enjoyability of the meal, and everyone there performed admirably under busy conditions early in their tenure. In short, this is a very welcome addition to the Hill. It automatically jumps to the head of the bar/restaurant scene there simply for the design and atmosphere; the decent food and a mostly reasonable price are a bonus. It also looks like it will be popular with families and will be a neighborhood "go-to" place.

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A non-food question for Christopher: I'd swear that in the past I've noticed a Matchbox box truck in the paddock during SCCA events at Summit Point...which of you Matchbox folks race?

Hey, that is matchbox partner Mark Neal, who spends his minimal off hours racing his Mazda Miata...

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We are SO excited for this on the Hill. Welcome! Will you guys do takeout?

Hi!

Re. takeout, we do indeed have at Capitol Hill takeout and are in the process of streamlining this to make it more efficient for all of our loyal customers.

Thanks for your patience!

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I went to the new Matchbox last night, and am happy to report an excellent opening, with the burgers and pizza better than what I've had at the Chinatown location for at least a couple years.

The Miniburgers ($8 for 3) are almost as good as they were under Greg Glufling. Ordered medium-rare, they came out distressingly well-done looking, but one bite was all it took to realize that they were done under high-heat, and the middle was a near-perfect medium-rare+. The meat was juicy and flavorful, and the onion straws were better than they've ever been, even after they got (inevitably) cold - Matchbox seems to have gotten the formula down, as these things retained their interest long after reaching room-temperature. My only qualm is the brioche bun, which was a bit dry - it's going to be tricky for Matchbox to pull these off, but a little brioche is exactly what you want soaking up these juicy burgers. They could be a little less tall (the height doesn't help the upper dryness); yet when you mash them down, you squeeze the juices from the miniburgers - this is a delicate balancing act bordering on being a Catch 22.

I'm pleased to alert my chef friend that a Matchbox Meat ($14 for a small) was as good as any pizza I've ever had from Matchbox, and that's saying something. Although I've insisted that the Chinatown pizza has been on the decline for awhile now, this reminded me of why I used to love this pizza so much. The pepperoni on this pie is as good as it is at 2 Amys, and everything is in balance, right down to the beautifully charred crust. I just now finished two pieces for lunch (yes, thrown into the microwave for 30 seconds), and it was still fantastic. A great pizza from Matchbox!

Between the above two items, and the Ma Po Tofu I had the night before at Great Wall, any notion of salt deficiency was long, long out the window. With that in mind, the Crispy Seared Salmon ($20) seemed forced into the meal, and somewhat on the bacony-macho end of the spectrum. Our server asked how we wanted the salmon, and it arrived medium-rare just as we ordered it. The top level had a good sear, and it was a fairly generous portion of fish. It came resting on a large mound of Tillamook cheddar grits, surrounded by three attractive bundles of bacon-wrapped haricots verts, the bottom of the plate having the barest hint of tabasco herb butter. Had I been eating normally (sushi the night before, a chopped salad for an appetizer), I would have appreciated this moderately hearty preparation much more than I did.

Bell's Two-Hearted Ale on draft is $6 a pint. The atmosphere looks great - clean as a whistle, but also comfortable and lived-in, like it's been in full swing for years. This meal makes me remember why I used to find myself at Matchbox's bar on such a regular basis. This is an impressive opening.

Cheers,

Rocks.

P.S. I can't be ALL positive: Dyson Airblade = Nasty, Ping-Pong Ball Waiting System = Lame.

Hi, Don,

Thanks for your post on our new location, and thanks to everyone who summoned up the courage to dine with us right out of the blocks!

For the most part we have had a pleasant response to the food, drinks and space, but by far the most detailed positive feedback we have heard is on the Dyson Airblade, specifically in terms of its energy efficiency, less paper usage and cleaner bathrooms. It seems to have struck a cord with folks--quite a bit more than we could have imagined. :P A guest quipped the other day that we should print t-shirts with matchbox capitol hill on the front and a photo of the Airblade on the back.....

We are also in the process of updating our system of seating folks, as this obviously needs to change due to the level of interest in the restaurant.

Thanks to everyone for their patience with us, and we are happy to have closed out our first full week of operations without too many crises!

Take care,

P

Partner

Sorry, I forgot to mention-- we are now serving brunch on Saturdays as well as Sundays--from 11am until 3pm

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