The Puck Stops Here
“Journalism” and “fine dining” are not terms usually found in the same sentence, at least not when you're talking about the disheveled scribblers who actually report the news. For this rumpled lot, upscale eating more likely means microwaving a Hot Pocket while sucking on a Dunhill in the alley. But on Monday, the folks behind the Newseum, that space dedicated to us nattering nabobs of negativism, announced that they had reached a deal with Wolfgang Puck to open a fine-dining restaurant in a 641,000-square-foot retail/residential/museum complex at Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street NW set to open next year. The three-story restaurant, Puck's first white-tablecloth outlet in D.C., will be called “Source by Wolfgang Puck.”
Charles Overby, chairman and CEO of the Freedom Forum, which funds the Newseum, called Puck the right choice to open a restaurant with a media theme. “He understands media. He is media,” exclaimed Overby. While the cookbook author, TV pot-stirrer, and quality-cookware pusher may not yet be a walking advertisement—his whites did boast a Wolfgang Puck logo on the jacket—Puck does understand the delicate balance of trying to influence the pencil pushers while ingratiating himself to them. “Our ‘source’ is really to use the best ingredients,” Puck said to a room filled more with Newseum employees and executives than working journalists. “We use the best ingredients and try not to screw them up.”
Source, which is scheduled to open next spring ahead of the Newseum's projected fall debut in the same $435 million complex, will be independently owned and operated by Puck. Tourists visiting the new Newseum (the Rosslyn original closed in 2002) will not be able to access it from the 70,000-square-foot, seven-level museum space; there will be a separate entrance for Source, much like there's a separate entrance for Zola, Chef Frank Morales’ upscale eatery next to the International Spy Museum. Puck says he plans to raid his menus at Spago, Chinois, and Postrio for dishes at Source, while also purchasing blue crabs, shad, and other East Coast ingredients for more local flavor. But he said it's way too early to roll out a menu for Source. “If I make up a menu now, I'd be bored with it by the time [the restaurant] opened,” Puck said after the press conference.
The 180-seat restaurant, designed by the California-based Engstrom Design Group, will cover three levels, each connected by a cantilever staircase. Glass will be a major design element, said Jennifer Johanson, the firm's CEO and design director, because glass implies journalistic ideals such as “transparency” and “the truth getting revealed.” Downstairs will feature private dining rooms, while the main level will be devoted to a more casual bar where a brick-oven pizza and a glass of wine will set you back 15 bucks, Puck sais. The main dining room will be on the third level, where the Italian-, French-, and Asian-inspired dishes will hit you hard in the wallet, to the tune of about $65 to $70 per diner.
A glass-encased, wine-storage wall will span from the base of the second-story bar to the top of the restaurant. This giant structure, Johanson said, will tie together the second and third floors. The wall of alcohol may also be the restaurant's only nod to the daily lives of working journalists.