It’s been over two years since Reid Shilling, a former sous chef at The Dabney, announced plans for his first solo restaurant in Navy Yard. Take a look around Shilling Canning Company when it opens on Wednesday, and you’ll understand the lengthy wait. The 75-seat operation feels like a Mid-Atlantic dream restaurant, boasting a wood-burning oven and range; a dining patio and “culinary garden” for herbs and small vegetables; a 450-bottle red wine display (plus another cave for whites); a raw bar; bread-making operation; and charcuterie curing room that’s visible to diners via a glass window. Just to name a few perks.
“I’m very big on attention to detail,” says Shilling, who resume includes time with the Hillstone Group and at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro in California. “If restaurants were easy, everyone would have one.”
Shilling, a Baltimore native, comes from a food industry family. The restaurant takes its name from the Shilling family canning company, launched in Finksburg, Maryland in 1935 as a way to preserve tomatoes, corn, and other produce grown on their Carroll County farm. At its height, before it closed in 1958, the business encompassed three processing facilities with nearly a dozen labels—some visible on display in the restaurant.
The menu doesn’t lean too heavily on preserved goods, at least for the summer opening. Still, Shilling says you’ll find nods to his family legacy throughout—whether homemade pickles, fancy house-tinned tuna, salamis and hams made from heritage hogs, or peak summer tomatoes that the kitchen will can for use in colder months.
Mid-Atlantic ingredients and culinary traditions are the forefront, though as Shilling notes, “Our goal is to get the best and make the best food we can.” (So yes, compared to other Mid-Atlantic restaurants like A Rake’s Progress, you will find non-local citrus and an extensive wine collection from Shilling’s days in California.)
Plates from the wide-open kitchen are designed to be shared, whether small or large. Diners might start with raw bar items like fresh-shucked oysters, Baltimore Canyon lobster, or blue crab salad as well as snacks from the garden such as pickled green tomatoes with buttermilk cheese. Larger plates may include Chesapeake rockfish swimming in spicy tomato broth, softshell crab over grits with beet greens and hot honey, or seven day dry-aged duck with foie gras boudin. The oven will turn out baked goods like flatbreads and homemade French sourdough.
The layout of the restaurant and 16-seat bar is designed with openness in mind, including counter seats flanking the raw bar bar and kitchen. When ready, a patio will be the place to relax with your pup—the owners welcome dogs to join their own—and a boozy lemonade with Green Hat gin, Campari, vermouth, and lemon. There’s also a ten-seat communal table indoors to keep the Shilling family feel going.
Shilling Canning Company. 360 Water St., SE; 202-554-7474. Open for dinner only, Tuesday through Sunday.