Ellington Park Bistro recently opened on the first floor of D.C.’s famed St. Gregory Hotel. The restaurant is helmed by Chef Frank Morales III, who has worked in the New York and D.C. culinary arenas for years. In 2020, Chef Morales opened his own venue in Rockville, which ultimately didn’t survive the pandemic. As such, the chef searched for a new endeavor in D.C. proper to go back to his cooking roots and bring to life his vision for a French restaurant.
Enter Ellington Park Bistro, which opened in late November 2022 and was in need of a dynamic executive chef. We caught up with Chef Morales to find out more about Ellington Park Bistro and his thoughts behind the menus he devised for the restaurant.
District Fray: What was the inspiration behind the menu at Ellington Park Bistro?
Frank Morales III: With a background in cooking traditional French fare, combined with a feeling that there was a dearth of French-inspired food in D.C., I decided to focus on developing Ellington Park Bistro as a modern French bistro, where the food is rooted in French technique but also showcases contemporary influences. For example, we add interesting twists to dishes like a curry crème fraiche with butternut squash soup and yuzu cocktail sauce with seafood. The menu will change frequently so we can utilize local and seasonal ingredients and keep the menu interesting for our diners.
How would you describe a dining experience at Ellington Park?
We want this to be an upscale dining experience, where guests can enjoy the beautiful and inviting atmosphere at the St. Gregory hotel. The restaurants hosts several different spaces, each of which offers a unique dining experience. There is the bright and jovial first tier for dining and imbibing, a second tier which will soon be offering a “fire and fondue” experience with sweet and savory fondues eaten by a roaring fire and a third tier which will offer a casual living room experience with small plates.
Which cocktail would you recommend to enjoy with the food at Ellington Park Bistro?
I would say the Jams Blues, a bourbon-based beverage with cherry heering, sweet vermouth, Benedictine and bitters, which is a nod to Duke Ellington for whom the restaurant is named. It tastes sort of like a Manhattan meets an Old-fashioned. The Blanc is also a great apertif, with gin, cap corse blanc and grapefruit.
Brunch is very popular in D.C. How did you devise your brunch menu?
I was envisioning a menu that incorporated breakfast fare that also provided a preview of the dinner menu. For example, our evening menu includes a tarte flambee. At brunch, we offer it with a poached egg.
These days many people are eating vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free — does the French fare at Ellington Park cater to these needs?
Yes. We have a vegan roasted cauliflower dish on the dinner menu, and an avocado toast on the brunch menu. We will be also incorporating more vegetarian dishes soon, like a veggie quiche.
What do you enjoy cooking/eating when you are not at work?
I am at the restaurant almost every day, but at home I eat very light and I do love Asian food! You’ll see a few Asian influences in my concepts for Ellington Park as well.
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