There’s much to be said for a restaurant opening mid-pandemic, especially when the restaurant experiences success right out of the gate. Gypsy Kitchen is no exception, opening its doors in the 14th Street Corridor in late August and garnering immediate buzz for its hip decor, lush rooftop and pan-Mediterranean menu from ThinkFoodGroup‘s Eric Milton. The restaurant marks Southern Proper Hospitality‘s first D.C. outpost, with JP Piemonte and Chris Hadermann at the helm of the restaurant group’s 12 spots. We chatted with Hadermann about expanding his foodie empire to the District, opening a new restaurant during Covid and what gives Gypsy Kitchen its charm.
District Fray: What inspired your concept for Gypsy Kitchen?
Chris Hadermann: We spend a lot of time in Spain and JP’s wife is actually from Spain, so we wanted to do a Spanish concept. There’s so much diversity depending on where [you are] in Spain. [We] went into a little bit more of the Tunisian, Israeli, Lebanese and Greek influences and created this eclectic mix of pan-Mediterranean [dishes]. I’m so happy with the way it turned out.
I know a lot of time and attention when into the design of each part of the restaurant. What was your holistic approach to creating the right ambiance for Gypsy Kitchen?
I think it’s a 5,000-square-foot footprint on the first floor, and then you’ve got the upstairs and the outdoor patio. It’s just this huge space. The first thing we [asked ourselves was], “Okay, how are we going to break this space up?” We wanted to create different interactive experiences. I like to think of how my customers are going to use our space.
Can you walk me through your inspiration for the rooftop patio?
I wanted to create a garden oasis in the sky. We wanted it to be little bit of a retreat from the rest of the craziness on 14th Street. There’s a natural plant wall [that] looks really neat, and we built a screen wall out of some nice rustic wood and then on [the other side], we’ve got the existing building that’s brick and adds a little bit of interest.
What are some of your standout dishes?
The crispy cauliflower dish has been one that a lot of people seem to rave about because the texture and flavors are things that you wouldn’t normally expect. The tuna crudo with squid ink and smoked salt is delicious. One of the new fall dishes that people really love is the braised pork shank. We try to [craft dishes] where our customers can be involved [with] a bit of table interaction and have some fun, because I think people really appreciate that.
What are your plans for the winter months, especially with Covid restrictions tightening?
You just have to roll with the punches the best you can, as far as opening a new restaurant in a new market during Covid. It was challenging to say the least, but we got through it. [Now], we’re waiting on our space heaters to show up [and] we’re ordering some sidewalk tents. We’re planning on getting some warm air blowers for the rooftop. And then, we’re just going to do the best we can within these four walls. We’re going to start testing different brunch items. We’ll be offering two or three brunch items each week, and then in January, we’ll be opening up for our full brunch. As we roll into the spring, we think we’re going to have a huge opportunity to do big brunch with the rooftop patio and sidewalk seating.
Are there other ways for the D.C. community to support the restaurant if they’re not comfortable with in-person dining?
We’re launching our Gypsy Kitchen takeaway menu [on December 7]. We wanted to make sure that our customers are having a great experience [and] that we’re representing our food properly. We created some different experiences that are more family-style meals, and a to-go beverage program. These are all exciting things we’re working on that we think are going to be opportunities to create additional revenue to help us hunker down and get through the winter.
Gypsy Kitchen: 1825 14th St. NW, DC; 202-765-0500; www.gypsykitchendc.com
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