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


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I stopped in for the first time in a while to the Capitol Hill location the other night. I tried fried calamari from the Happy Hour appetizer menu ($6), which came with a very unappetizing looking but delicious jalapeño jelly. (It looked like I was eating aloe gel but tasted great.)  It was a small portion but something I hadn't tried before, and I liked it. The calamari was cut in strips.  I think the HH bar menu dates back to about a year ago? I hadn't encountered it before. 

On the advice of the bartender, I ordered a small pizza based on a "family meal" version the employees have had. I declined the fresh mozzarella component because I thought it would make it too gloppy.  It was a chicken pesto pizza (that comes with regular mozzarella) with chipotle sauce and additional tomato sauce and sausage.  It was a little steep at $18 but spicy and good. I think my decision not to get the added fresh mozzarella was a good one but YMMV.  The leftovers were great cold for breakfast. A little spice to get the day started:).  

 

 

 

 

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Dislike! You can't be serious though worry some you are. For however little it may be worth, I too really miss the reviews. "Where did I dine?" Is fun but so not the same.

A couple weeks ago, I had dinner at Ted's Bulletin, and simply could not believe the meal I had. 'Is *this* what people are going out to eat for?' I asked myself. And, I suppose the answer is just as

Dr. Xmus - You'll be seeing menu changes very shortly at all the matchbox outposts.  We've committed to 2 menu changes a year as a general rule of thumb.  Our Executive Chef in Merrifield, Daniel Watt

3 minutes ago, cheezepowder said:

Opening tomorrow in Pentagon City (via ArlNow).

Huh, I thought it was already open. Man, when you're approaching the front of Pentagon City Mall (heading southbound on 12th Street S.), you are battered by both Matchbox and Shake Shack - it's downright garish. 

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After an abortive attempt to get food at The Ugly Mug last night, my husband and I headed back North on Barracks Row to Ambar...which was closed for a private event.  We ended up at Matchbox. They quoted us a 15+ minutes wait for a table. Often I think they inflate their estimates, but I don't really know. My husband was quite hungry, so we grabbed seats at the bar.  I hadn't eaten much during the day but my appetite seemed to have taken flight for parts unknown by the time we arrived here. I decided I should eat something, so I got fries. They were fries. They were fine.  My husband, however, got the wood-fired lamb sandwich, which comes on naan, and liked it.  The sandwich looked kind of small to me (for $16) , so I didn't ask to sample it. I did have one of the accompanying chickpea fries, though, and that left a positive impression. I will try to remember this sandwich to order whenever the next time is I happen to be in here.

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16 minutes ago, Pat said:

After an abortive attempt to get food at The Ugly Mug last night, my husband and I headed back North on Barracks Row to Ambar...which was closed for a private event.  We ended up at Matchbox. They quoted us a 15+ minutes wait for a table. Often I think they inflate their estimates, but I don't really know. My husband was quite hungry, so we grabbed seats at the bar.  I hadn't eaten much during the day but my appetite seemed to have taken flight for parts unknown by the time we arrived here. I decided I should eat something, so I got fries. They were fries. They were fine.  My husband, however, got the wood-fired lamb sandwich, which comes on naan, and liked it.  The sandwich looked kind of small to me (for $16) , so I didn't ask to sample it. I did have one of the accompanying chickpea fries, though, and that left a positive impression. I will try to remember this sandwich to order whenever the next time is I happen to be in here.

I've had that lamb sammy and liked it as well. But on my last visit to a Matchbox (One Loudoun) I felt it was overpriced. Food is 3-star, prices are 4-star.

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On 9/30/2016 at 11:48 AM, Bob Wells said:

I've had that lamb sammy and liked it as well. But on my last visit to a Matchbox (One Loudoun) I felt it was overpriced. Food is 3-star, prices are 4-star.

It's worth noting that the Loudoun and Capitol Hill Matchboxes have two different lamb sandwiches, and if you thought the one you had at Loudoun was overpriced, I hope (or not? not really sure) that's accounting for the fact that the one in Loudoun is $4 cheaper ($12 vs. $16 on Capitol Hill)

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On 10/2/2016 at 1:39 AM, fuzzy510 said:

It's worth noting that the Loudoun and Capitol Hill Matchboxes have two different lamb sandwiches, and if you thought the one you had at Loudoun was overpriced, I hope (or not? not really sure) that's accounting for the fact that the one in Loudoun is $4 cheaper ($12 vs. $16 on Capitol Hill)

Oh sorry, I had the lamb sammy at the Chinatown MB. Didn't think that meal was overpriced. But the Loudoun meal just seemed too pricy.

 

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Went to the original location in downtown DC bordering Chinatown this past weekend.  Have been there before and it is consistently busy.  Unfortunately they were a little slow on the uptake and our water and bottle of wine took 30 mins to arrive.  Since we were with friends, it was not a huge deal, but we were trying to catch an event in an hour and we had pointed this out initially.  Food was fine and value for the $$ was on par with an average DC restaurant.. Pizza,,salads and pasta are consistent and the daily specials usually pretty interesting as well.

 

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Ate at the Chinatown location yesterday, my first time in quite a while.

The bar was almost empty at 3:30 on a Saturday, when it used to be packed at all hours. I always get the large Fire & Smoke, which used to have smoked gouda. Now it comes with mozzarella (an effort to cut costs?) and it's just not the same. Also they changed the color of the napkins for some reason.

My biggest issue, though, is the ambient music. They used to have some kind of uptempo jazz; it gave the place a sophisticated feel - music for grownups. Now they play typical sportsbar pop, music for fratboys and superannuated adolescents. "Shattered" came on and, I don't know about you, but when I'm relaxing over an Allagash White, I really don't want to hear Mick Jagger screaming at the top of his lungs. Disappointing.

I think I'll stick to the Merrifield location from now on (which still lists the gouda in the Fire & Smoke description. It's walking distance from my house too; I only went to the downtown location because I was seeing Hochelaga at the Landmark later.

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The bigger Matchbox gets, the less I find myself liking the food and the overall experience. Some visits are more promising than others, but with so many other places to eat, Matchbox generally isn't on the radar. Plenty of other people must feel differently, as the Barracks Row location always seems to be busy when I go. Yesterday was no exception. We had a gift card we wanted to use and since we don't go to Matchbox very often, we decided to stop here for an early dinner after the Nats' game. It seemed like a good day for it, as the game wasn't too heavily attended on a chilly Sunday in the midst of an early season slump, and there were many (many!) fewer people out on the streets and in restaurants than there typically are before and after a game. We called on our way to the restaurant to ask to be put on a list for a table, but there was a problem with their phone system, and the phone was answered but there was no one there. Hel-lo? Hel-lo?  In the end we only waited about 20 minutes for a table after walking in, but this was at 5 PM. And it was nearing 7 PM by the time we finally left for home.

We split a roasted salmon and spinach salad ($17) with a tangy dressing that the menu says is honey-mustard but which was very vinegar-heavy. It may have contained mustard but the honey was buried if it was there. I like vinegar so I'm not complaining. They split the salad for us in the kitchen and brought it out in two bowls, which was nice. It made two ample salad portions and was good for sharing. This was the best thing we ordered.

We got an artichoke pesto pizza ($20.50), also to share, that was described as like having spinach - artichoke dip spread on top. It had plenty of artichoke pieces and was pretty tasty but very oily.  Excessively oily. 

I also ordered onion strings, which came out nowhere near as crisp as they have in the past. Those were disappointing.

We were exhausted and ready to leave but it took a while to get our check. Then it took a very long time after the server left with the gift card before he came back and said the machine they use to process gift cards was down and might be back up in 15 more minutes. Because we weren't sure on how solid that estimate was, we paid with a credit card. So we still have the unused gift card, which is for enough $$ that it was going to take two meals to use anyway.

So, we'll be going back.

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5 minutes ago, Pat said:

The bigger Matchbox gets, the less I find myself liking the food and the overall experience. Some visits are more promising than others, but with so many other places to eat, Matchbox generally isn't on the radar.

Matchbox should be thought of as a peer with the "better" large American chains (see the Multiple Locations Dining Guide) - don't forget, this is the same restaurant group that opened the abysmal Ted's Bulletin (which was mercifully taken off their hands last year).

This restaurant was pretty good when it first opened in their 15-foot wide Chinatown building; then, they struggled to maintain quality when they made that (admittedly impressive) architectural "enhancement"; now,all bets are off.

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Just ate at the Merrifield location. The online menu lied; smoked gouda is gone forever from the Fire and Smoke. 

I don't think I'll be going back. Once a restaurant starts to cut corners - to cheap out - it never does get better, does it?

Don't want to take a chance on any of the other menu items, for fear that, say, they replaced the onion straws on the mini-burgers with Funyuns and the meat with Libby's Potted Meat Food Product.

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I've noticed a drop in quality the last couple trips to the Rockville outpost. My kids love it, but the last time their mini-burgers were burnt. Visit prior my chicken pesto pizza was super bland, had been reliably good before. Service still very friendly but a bit off in timing -- particularly with getting the check and out of there with little ones. Cooking and execution used to be better than what you'd expect from a restaurant group chain, now it's probably around par. 

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We have found success limiting ourselves to the mini burger and appetizer section of the menu sitting at the bar at the Chinatown location.  We were there as recently as a few weeks ago.   Don't know much of what is going on with the rest of the menu.

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On 5/26/2018 at 10:28 PM, Kev29 said:

I've noticed a drop in quality the last couple trips to the Rockville outpost. My kids love it, but the last time their mini-burgers were burnt. Visit prior my chicken pesto pizza was super bland, had been reliably good before. Service still very friendly but a bit off in timing -- particularly with getting the check and out of there with little ones. Cooking and execution used to be better than what you'd expect from a restaurant group chain, now it's probably around par. 

Same experiences here. Started out strong, but when I went there a few weeks ago the mini-burgers were incredibly dry despite being cooked pink, and the pizzas were all tasteless. 

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They should focus on the service. Our group of 10 at the location on 14th on Saturday for a friend’s birthday had such bad service it was all we could do but laugh. It took an hour to get drinks (made wrong) and apps, plates dropped in the middle of the table. Meals didn’t come out at the same time. Wrong orders. Just a total lack of interest and care. 

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Somehow this news leaves me cold.  A restaurant group that lost its way merging with an ever aspiring restaurant group with money that never does a good job with consumer restaurants.

Thompson must do well in the institutional food business.  Over many years they have bought restaurants and developed restaurants.  I can’t think of one that was ever outstanding.  Never ever on the food side.  But also never on the customer service or overall value side that might have inspired repeat business.

Nothing exciting about this merger unless Thompson has had some kind of psychic cleansing that can raise their game.

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We finally used the last of the gift card yesterday, walking back after the Nats' game. I'd already used about 1/3 of it,  not too long after my last post, by walking in and ordering takeout food (which wasn't all that easy to do, but the employees were nice about facilitating it.) Our server yesterday was great, but the whole experience made me glad I have no reason to go back any time soon. I'd looked at the menu ahead of time, and they've changed the in-restaurant menu from that. While all of the burgers on-line are listed as coming with tomatoes, the ones you can actually get--at least at the Capitol Hill location--come with arugula instead. I'm okay with arugula, but it's tomato season, and I'd much rather have them on my burger than arugula. I didn't dismantle my Bistro Burger, but the greenery was probably baby arugula rather than mature, as it wasn't that strong in flavor.

I hate writing this because I could be wrong and I don't want to be one of those people, but the fries were not as good as they used to be and seemed cookie-cutter frozen. 

The pizza we had was okay, but I think I'm over their cracker-thin crust. We split the Caesar salad, which our server did automatically when I ordered it to share, and the amount each of us got was quite small and seemed only remotely Caesar-ish. (I didn't expect an authentic Caesar salad there, but this was still disappointing.)

But the most memorable part of our visit was the child with the ear-piercing shriek repeated at frequent intervals over the course of the time we were there. The parent only did something about it after probably a good half hour once someone at an elevated table around the corner gave her a death stare. I thought I must surely be glaring but my husband said, no, I was just constantly flinching. There were two other kids at the table, who belonged to different parents--one older and one younger than the shrieker--and neither made anything more than normal kid noise. I'm fine with normal kid noise, especially early evening in a restaurant that is branding itself more and more as a family destination, but this was bad. There were 6 children in the small area where we were, and I was grateful for 5 of them, who were well-behaved and caused no fuss. The shrieking literally caused my ears to hurt.

Gift card is used up. Good-bye, Matchbox.

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On 2/25/2019 at 10:00 PM, Kev29 said:

Matchbox Pizza Adds Penn Quarter Location to Local Expansion Plan (Eater DC)

Two blocks from the original? Thompson will probably run this franchise into the ground in the next couple years. 

Thompson is shutting the original Matchbox with the new Penn Quarter location coming. 

Matchbox Is Moving Out of Its Original D.C. Location in Chinatown (Eater DC)

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The location in Short Pump in the Richmond area has closed.  From The Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Quote

"Matchbox is continuing its expansion within the region, including other locations in Northern Virginia, and made the difficult decision to close its Short Pump restaurant to keep the focus on current and new restaurants in the DMV," said Abby O'Shea, a spokesperson for the Matchbox.

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49 minutes ago, cheezepowder said:

The location in Short Pump in the Richmond area has closed.  From The Richmond Times-Dispatch:

I wonder how many Matchbox restaurants have closed - if they're getting as big as I think they are, it might be a partial reflection of the economy in general - cheezepowder, have you ever made a graph of DMV restaurant openings/closings and the GDP (or something like that?)

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15 hours ago, cheezepowder said:

The location in Short Pump in the Richmond area has closed.  From The Richmond Times-Dispatch:

This always seemed like a tough location to me.  There is a ton of very similar competition around Short Pump, and the prices at Matchbox have recently outpaced a lot of those competitors.  Median household income in Henrico County is about half of Loudoun and Fairfax counties, and significantly below Montgomery and DC.  

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I've never enjoyed eating at the Rockville location of Matchbox. Too busy and crowded. Had a very nice meal at the new Silver Spring location this weekend, however. It is a considerably smaller footprint so feels much more intimate. The service was excellent and good food to match. Nice for a quick after-move bite.

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10 hours ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

Can't say I ever enjoyed an experience at Matchbox, mostly because of ear-shattering noise levels.

I always went off hours. The only way to save your ears. I did always enjoy the onion strings. They were the best. The only ones better were the onion rings at the long long long gone Adams Morgan New Orleans Cafe. (The one that use to be next to Mixtec, not the one that was down 18th St.)

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On 8/6/2020 at 9:01 PM, saf said:

I always went off hours. The only way to save your ears. I did always enjoy the onion strings. They were the best. The only ones better were the onion rings at the long long long gone Adams Morgan New Orleans Cafe. (The one that use to be next to Mixtec, not the one that was down 18th St.)

Mmmm those onion strings!

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