What if Top Chef’s “restaurant wars” came to life? That’s essentially what the Ballston BID and chef Mike Isabella—who’ll open Kapnos Taverna in the neighborhood this year—created with their Restaurant Challenge. The competition is designed to bring ambitious restaurateurs to the area, with eight semifinalists just announced from an original pool of 25 candidates. The winner will receive a space and 11-year lease for his or her project—with the first year free—among other big perks.
Part of the challenge is a cookoff at Taste of Arlington on May 18, where guests will vote for their favorite dishes. You’ll find semifinalists Victor Albisu of Taco Bamba and Del Campo, the Daily Dish’s Zena Polin and Jerry Hollinger, veteran chef Jacques Imperato, formerly owner of the two Mediterranee restaurants, and Daniel Mesheske of Pete’s Apizza in Clarendon, among others (you can see a full list of contestants and their bios here). Proposed restaurant concepts vary significantly, from a Spanish cafe to a local market-restaurant and steakhouse. The top two crowd favorites will battle it out in a cookoff in the restaurant space at 1110 North Glebe Road on June 4. A panel of judges will decide the winner. We’ll keep you posted as to who will advance in the finals.