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Pata Negra, Spanish Gastropub to Open on 14th St in 2007


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The Washington Business Journal is reporting that Elias Hengst and Jared Rager, of Mendocino Grille and Sonoma plan to open Pata Negra - a "Spanish gastropub" and tapas bar this spring at 1612 14th Street NW, a block north of the Whole Foods.

They also are planning to open Pacific in Bethesda Row next winter to serve American comfort food.

Maybe they can tell us more about both places themselves.

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The Washington Business Journal is reporting that Elias Hengst and Jared Rager, of Mendocino Grille and Sonoma plan to open Pata Negra - a "Spanish gastropub" and tapas bar this spring at 1612 14th Street NW, a block north of the Whole Foods. Maybe they can tell us more about both places themselves.

Happy to tell you more....Both Tom in The Weekly Dish and Amanda at Metrocurean covered the basics: Jared and I are opening a gastropub dedicated to authentic Spanish tapas, cured meats, cheeses, and a handful of “media raciones” and “raciones” – or slightly larger dishes. The wine list will be dedicated to Spanish wines, as well as an extensive list of sherries and ports.

Drew Trautmann will be the Executive Chef and Troy will oversee the FOH as well as the wine list. It's hard to think of anything more suited to their strengths and temperments. (If you've ever seen Drew's surly-chef look, with beer in hand, you may actually begin to think Drew was born in a stout-soaked-wood-floor gastropub somewhere).

The origins? When I was 17, I decided to delay college a bit to work in a Madrid hotel, where I spent hours serving Spanish food, then eating more of it with staff, then going out to tapas bars. In fact, tapas bars were one of the few places in Madrid I could afford and I would go back to the same one day-after-day for calamari and a beer. Jared spent time studying and traveling in Spain – but, most importantly, working at a bar in Almeria, where he developed a passion for traditional tapas and Spanish wines and criss-crossed the country making notes of his favorite regional tapas.

So I guess we're trying to bring our intrepretation of what we loved about our time working, eating and drinking in Spain to DC.

As far as the name - La Pata Negra - we expected that people would get the insider’s reference to Jamon Iberico. And we also thought “The Black Hoof” (in translation) is a great gastropub name, and another insider reference to pionneer The Spotted Pig.

We will share sister restaurants’ Sonoma and Mendocino Grille’s firm commitment to seasonal, and organic ingredients, working closely with local growers like Tuscarora Organic Growers Co-Op.

We like 14th Street because it retains part of the essential DC character - Logan and Shaw being a couple of the last areas in Washington where people of different backgrounds - social, economic, and otherwise - still mix. We appreciate the way the neighborhood supports independent restaurants/retailers like Viridian, Sparky's, Pop, Pulp, as well as chefs, like Barton Seaver at St. Ex/Pilar , who work with Tuscarora and sustainable suppliers.

Any Spaniard can tell you that these small neighborhood tapas places are about some very basic things that make us happy: killing hour after hour eating simple, flavorful food, while enjoying a bottle of wine or a few beers with your friends, kids, and neighbors. Our modest goal is to create that kind of place.

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Eli, I seriously dig hearing about Pata Negra. I'm a huge fan of Sonoma and I have every reason to believe Pata Negra will be just awesome. I'm already sold on your charcuterie and cheeses. I have a few questions and a comment.

How are you planning (if you even ARE planning) to distinguish yourself as unique and different from a place like Jaleo? Is it the nature of your ingredients/sourcing? Offerings? Or is it unrelated to the kitchen, such as a smaller establishment? Reaching into a market now, for the most part, commanded by a Spaniard, Jose Andres, must be a challenge. I presume you're going to stand as something different rather than try to poach customers. (Of course the market for this could be big enough for all the players, considering La Tasca's presence.)

My comment....call me a complete cranky fool, but.....I just don't like the idea of calling it a gastropub. I understand where you're going, but with gastropub I think UK and ale, not Spain and wine. Even the Spotted Pig is a beer joint. Some sort of take on "vinoteca" might be more appropriate. (Or are you secretly planning to have an incredible beer selection! :P )

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Eli, I seriously dig hearing about Pata Negra. I'm a huge fan of Sonoma and I have every reason to believe Pata Negra will be just awesome.

How are you planning to distinguish yourself as unique and different from a place like Jaleo? Is it the nature of your ingredients/sourcing? Offerings? Or is it unrelated to the kitchen, such as a smaller establishment? Reaching into a market now, for the most part, commanded by a Spaniard, Jose Andres, must be a challenge. I presume you're going to stand as something different rather than try to poach customers.

My comment....call me a complete cranky fool, but.....I just don't like the idea of calling it a gastropub. I understand where you're going, but with gastropub I think UK and ale, not Spain and wine. Even the Spotted Pig is a beer joint. Some sort of take on "vinoteca" might be more appropriate. (Or are you secretly planning to have an incredible beer selection! :P )

Thanks for the interest. Couple brief responses, though the second question could be debated for days....

First, we're not consciously trying to distinguish ourselves from Jaleo, La Tasca, etc. - we're just doing something completely different. The restaurants you mentioned, are, in a word, restaurants. Our direct inspiration is the stereotypical and highly casual tapas bar, the kind you will find dotting any neighborhood block or surrounding any plaza in Madrid. The place where friends and neighbors and workers go day, after day, after day.

Many tapas bars are known for literally one or two tapas they do extraordinarily well. In this vein, Pata Negra will be simple, informal, and intimate, and the menu will be focused and small. Like Mendocino and Sonoma, we're dedicated to using as many local, organic, and seasonal ingredients as possible, which will occasionally force some interpretations of "authentic" Spanish cooking.

I don't think anyone's cornered the market on Spanish cuisine, and I think DC diner's palates are sophisticated enough to appreciate differences in style and focus, even when the culinary touchstone is the same. Certainly other French restaurants exist and thrive despite the presence of Michelle Richard, don't they? (Whether they're as good is another question, and best left to diners and critics).

That said, Jose Andres is owed a huge debt of gratitude for helping make Americans in general aware of the beauty of Spanish cuisine - and wine, for that matter, as they go hand-in-hand.

As far as the nomenclature: bar vs. restaurant vs. gastropub. For us, it was a pretty simple decision based on our mission: create a lively neighborhood bar with an attention to food as sincere as the best restaurants. New Yorker magazine has a great summary of the gastropub debate. As I mentioned, St. Ex is already blazing this trail on 14th.

I agree that the term gastropub has different connotations for different people, but the fact that the Spotted Pig received a Michelin Star is an indication that great cuisine can be enjoyed in a bar, outside the confines of formal dining.

If it's a "beer joint," so much the better!

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First, we're not consciously trying to distinguish ourselves from Jaleo, La Tasca, etc. - we're just doing something completely different. The restaurants you mentioned, are, in a word, restaurants. Our direct inspiration is the stereotypical and highly casual tapas bar, the kind you will find dotting any neighborhood block or surrounding any plaza in Madrid. The place where friends and neighbors and workers go day, after day, after day.

Just not the toothpick-based accounting, right? :P Love the name.

Hopefully people will realize that the spectrum of tapas styles is vast, and bridges the cuisines of several distinct cultures across Spain...Jaleo's selection barely scratches the surface. Sure, many tapas amount to minor variations on crostini spreads, but the true range of possibilities is mind-blowing. Good luck, Elias - I'm excited to hear about this venture.

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Since late 2006, there were rumours about Pata Negra opening up on 14th street next to Rice and HR-57, in the space formerly occupied by 100% Mexico. The liquor license application remains posted to the door, but the space is still lain fallow, with a "for lease" sign out front.

Considering the hip attractiveness of the neighborhood, the new opening or impending opening of Cork, Marvin, Veranda and a host of new stores in the area, and the fact that it's already becoming a casual restaurant destination, I'd think that a new restaurant would be both welcome and profitable - there's always spillover from a crowded Saint-Ex, and theatre traffic not willing to splurge on Viridian. And the ANC in the neighborhood is not that overbearing, from what I'm told.

So what's the deal? Anyone heard anything?

N.

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