David Scribner slumps in the entryway to the dining room of Dahlia, his three-month-old bistro in Spring Valley. It's a good, if chaotic, night at the restaurant, and a good, if chaotic, time for the chef, who, after years of heading up the kitchens at Felix in Adams Morgan and Smith Point in Georgetown, has a place of his own for such plain-spoken American fare as brie and scallops with cider brown butter and herb-roasted chicken. This year he got married and had a daughter. Life, it would seem, has never been better.
But the chef confesses to already having his mind on an "exodus"–New England, maybe, or some other rural antidote to "congested and aggressive" life in a city that's been "invaded by strangers."
"Seriously," he says, "we're gonna be delivering ourselves from this. . . . Everybody racing around in their cars, it's really unhealthy. I can't do it for much longer."
Scribner, 37, is a wandering soul in preppy clothes–red lacrosse shorts peek out from under his white apron. The eldest son of Choral Arts Society founder Norman Scribner, he went through St. Albans figuring he'd become a painter–"I thought I was gonna be the new Degas or something." After dropping out of Brown "to discover my true self," he bummed around Nantucket, sharing a pad with the "Juice Guys" behind Nantucket Nectars and trying to reconcile life as a prep cook with his youthful illusions. "I loved it, but I felt I should be doing something more important."
In some ways, Dahlia sounds more like an exercise in responsibility than a dream restaurant. "There's a reason," says the chef, "I didn't name this place Scribner's."
Dahlia: 4849 Massachusetts Ave., NW; 202-364-1004.
Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, and Sunday for brunch.