Young and Hungry

Capitol Hill Matchbox Set to Open Tomorrow

After the usual delays, some wildly rampant speculation, and a couple of trial runs for friends and family, the new Matchbox, the second D.C. location in the budding chain, is set to open tomorrow on Capitol Hill.

For the first few weeks of operation, the Cap Hill Matchbox (521 8th St. SE) will serve dinner only, says co-owner Perry Smith. Brunch will be served this Sunday only but will expand to both Saturdays and Sundays the following weekend. The menu at both D.C. Matchboxes, Smith says, will be exactly the same.

That's not to say, though, that the menu will be the same old, same old.

When Smith and his partners started ramping up for their second location, they hired some new kitchen talent, Shannon Troncoso and Jacob Hunter, who spent months working with executive chef, Jonathan McArthur, to revamp Matchbox's offerings. Not to worry. The pizzas and mini-burgers remain.

"People come in because they have heard of the pizza and mini burgers," Smith says. "But the next time they come in, they may try something else."

That "something else" now includes an appetizer of bacon-wrapped shrimp with grits, a crab cake with coconut red curry and pineapple tempura, and seared sea scallops with herbed risotto. Matchbox is also trying to adopt more green policies, Smith says, which is why the restaurant dropped a Hawaiian fish supplier in favor of a local wholesaler.

The space itself used to be the home of a vending-machine vendor, Smith says. As a way to bridge the old with the new, and perhaps create a little "good karma," Smith says, the owners decided to refurbish a leftover oak shuffleboard and turn it into the bar at Matchbox. The partners also purchased an old barn in New York state, had it dismantled, and brought to Capitol Hill, where it has been repurposed as part of the massive renovation of the space. Then there's the "cube" table, which serves as a sort of divider between the bar and the dining room. People who sit there have views of both spaces, Smith says.

The opening, frankly, couldn't come soon enough for Smith and his partners. The blogosphere was starting to get cranky about the delays, and some folks were even speculating that Smith had lost his financing. It was never true, he says, but he realized that people were getting upset because they were anxious. Or as Smith says: "The customer base has claimed us."

Image courtesy of Matchbox.

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