The Dabney chef Jeremiah Langhorne has long been interested in bringing on chef Patrick “Opie” Crooks, who helmed the kitchen of A Rake’s Progress in the Line DC hotel. But Langhorne was also good friends with the restaurant’s owner, Spike Gjerde, and “didn’t want to rock any boats.”
But when it became clear A Rake’s Progress wasn’t going to survive the pandemic, the hire was a no-brainer. The fresh kitchen talent has given Langhorne time to focus on some of the business-related issues that have come with being a chef-owner in the middle of an industry crisis. Plus, The Dabney team has been quietly preparing to open a new restaurant at 7th and L streets, Northwest.
“Once this thing hit, I really thought about how the virus was going to affect people and how it was going to affect dining in general,” Crooks says. “I just didn’t think that a second floor restaurant inside of a hotel was going to make it back anytime soon.” He went to work on an organic farm in South Carolina, owned by his fiancée’s family, for about eight weeks before returning to DC to start at the Dabney.
For Crooks, previously chef de cuisine of Baltimore’s Woodberry Kitchen, the move has been a natural one. He was already accustomed to cooking from a wood-burning hearth and familiar with the the same local farms, producers, and ingredients. “There are not too many people in the city that look at food the way that we look at it,” Langhorne says. Bonus: they’re longtime friends.
Langhorne says he also wanted to start building a strong team to support a new restaurant. “One of the fundamental mistakes that I see happening in our industry is chefs and restaurateurs growing without having somebody of a significantly high level in the kitchen to help you manage those projects,” he says.
Langhorne isn’t sharing details on that new restaurant for now. He says they’d been working on it up to a year before Covid, but “we’re kind of in a holding pattern.” It probably will not open this year.
In the meantime, the Dabney has been continuing to offer takeout, including prix-fixe and meat-and-three options. They also recently started a Sunday-only outdoor pop-up called Summer Rental, a New England-style snack bar serving lobster rolls, clam hush puppies, canned beer, and wines by the glass. To minimize contact, guests pop in and grab their tray of food to bring to their alleyway table. But as of now, there aren’t plans for much more than that.
“We do not believe that it’s a good idea to do indoor dining yet, just based on what we’ve seen, so we haven’t done that and we will not do that until it seems safe,” Langhorne says.