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A family of food and farm

Josh Hahn, David Winer, EatWellDC, gay news, Washington Blade

David Winer (on right) and his nephew Josh Hahn are the force behind EatWellDC.

When David Winer recounts the launches of the five EatWellDC restaurant group establishments he doesn’t note openings by year. He identifies how long each has been in operation, as if doting on the ages of offspring.

It’s a fitting quirk for the serial creator of affection-winning restaurant-bars with a welcoming “family feel” extended to employees and patrons alike.

Winer, originally from the Boston area, enjoys 30 years in the industry – first honing his hospitality skills at a Back Bay restaurant. His employer partnered in Winer’s inaugural Miami Beach restaurant in 1993.

Josh Hahn, Winer’s nephew growing up a block away in Newton, Mass., worked at an upscale gourmet carryout and caterer while in high school. Completing a business degree at Emory University in Atlanta, Hahn came to D.C. 12 years ago to join the staff at his uncle’s first local venture. Grillfish restaurant, opened in 1996 at 21st and M streets near Dupont Circle, has remained popular for seafood specialties and American fare in a relaxed setting.

Featuring elevated ceilings, wood textures, warm colors and eclectic accents, the casual environment and cuisine would serve as a model for subsequent eateries. Logan Tavern, opened in 2003 off a desolate-at-the-time 14th Street corridor, was followed by now-named Commissary in 2005. Both are prominent fixtures on the 1400 block of P St., N.W.

“We were busy from opening day” at Logan Tavern, recalls Hahn, “so busy that I had to splash water on my face every so often.” It was the “right concept at the right time,” he says, noting that the venue quickly won the loyalty of locals eager for dining and socializing spots during the area’s then-nascent re-emergence. “We were able to give the neighborhood something it wanted,” affirms Winer, “and it helped the area grow.”

“Everyone thought I put together something magical,” Winer says, “but it was just something lacking and appreciated.”

“The neighborhood needed so many things,” Hahn adds, “we helped accommodate the desire for a consistently reliable and value-oriented” product that contributed to “a sense of community.”

The duo, with partner Tony Oquendo, next looked north to open The Heights in 2008, at the commercial corner of 14th and Kenyon streets in Columbia Heights. An expansive outdoor patio and light-filled interior pub-tavern ambience have made it an area mainstay.

This spring will mark the second anniversary for the newest addition to the EatWellDC family of restaurants. Usually “fiddling with a concept” for several months, Winer figured the evolving plethora of 14th Street dining options suggested something “very special, very unique.” The Pig, at 1320 14th St., offers a distinctive nose-to-tail “pork-centric menu with eccentric fare,” says Hahn. “It’s a completely different concept.”

Several years ago Winer, frustrated by the lack of reliable availability of locally sourced organic produce, found a 13-acre farm for sale in La Plata, Md., an hour outside the city. EatWell Natural Farm, initially a hard-labor-of-love, now supplies in-season vegetables, greens, tomatoes, herbs, orchard fruits, vine berries, and beehive honey. A new greenhouse extends the growing season and produce variety.

It’s taken significant investment to grow the farm, Winer points out, “but we’re committed to sourcing produce from our farm and other sustainable growers.” He notes that proteins are ethically raised, free-range and organic.

Employing nearly 200, “our staff become like family,” Winer says, “and represent an incredible cross-section,” noting many have been with the company nearly 10 years or longer. “By expanding,” notes Hahn, “we can provide opportunities to grow into new leadership positions” while serving the community.

Winer, helming the enterprise with Hahn handling managerial details, adds, “We’re always thinking about the next opportunity.”

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter:@MarkLeeDC. Reach him at


Year in review: A taste of Washington

Grassroots Gourmet, dining, gay news, Washington Blade

A sampling of the array of baked goodies available at Grassroots Gourmet (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

New restaurants, new chefs, new menus and new food all kept a food lover and restaurant column writer busy this year in D.C.

Every day a new place was opening, some I was able to review, others are still on my list. When all was said and done however, I had the opportunity to dine in some of the best restaurants in town and enjoy some of the finest food offerings available. And in the process I got to expand my own horizons.

Since taking on this project, friends and family have asked how such a picky eater has taken on the task of reviewing restaurants. The answer is always the same: “I fell into it, but why does being picky disqualify me from writing about restaurants?”

Then, in August, I realized that I may be in a bit over my head, so I brought two knowledgeable foodies to Izakaya Seki, the first restaurant I was concerned about not being knowledgeable enough to cover fairly.

Izakaya Seki opened in August by father and daughter Hiroshi and Cizuka Seki; this new establishment features traditional Japanese dishes and delicacies. Delicacies such as cuttlefish; at that point I had no idea how it was even supposed to taste. Other items like the fresh scallop Carpaccio were delightful and set the tone for three hours of delicious food. Izakaya Seki still remains one of my most challenging and rewarding columns to date.

While Japanese cuisine was outside my comfort zone, there were many other restaurants this year I felt well prepared to write about. Ristorante Posto, in Logan Circle, was serving a new spring selections when I first set foot into this unsuspecting location, and a new pastry chef was dishing out delicious deserts. The pastry chef has since left, but Posto remains a favorite spot for delicious Italian food and brick oven pizzas. In May, at a Taste of Pride featured special, I discovered Jack Rose Dining Saloon. The food was excellent and in an environment where whiskey bottles reached toward the ceiling, I discovered I enjoy scotch.

Mike Isabella, gay chef Jamie Leeds, and Taylor Gourmet all opened new locations this year. Isabella’s Bandolero in Georgetown serves up his take on traditional Mexican dishes and strong margaritas. Standouts included the course we dubbed “Mexican Sushi,” like the blue crab taquito with coconut and red chili. The suckling pig tacos and the nachos with crispy goat and goat cheese also pleased all the diners at the table.

For Leeds, and her new Hank’s on the Hill she teamed up with “mixtress” Gina Chersevani, whose Eddy Bar is a key component of the new space. This new 40-seat location serves up Leed’s classics like the lobster roll and the Meat and Two option, as well as Chersevani’s exquisite “storytelling” cocktails. Longtime friends Casey Patton and David Mazza opened up a third Taylor Gourmet on 14th Street this year. These traditional Philadelphia-inspired sandwiches battled against sandwich shop Sun-de-Vich — Taylor won for best cold cut-based sandwiches and Sun-de-Vich won for its creative and worldly offerings. Sandwich lovers are in for a treat at either location.

Carnivores also have plenty of new options.

Gay business partners David Winer, Josh Hahn and Antonio Oquendo opened their fifth restaurant in D.C. called The Pig, a pork-centric restaurant that focuses on snout-to-tail dishes from locally sourced ingredients. The braised pork cheek was a favorite and if you’re up for the challenge, try the Sundae Bloody Sundae that includes pasteurized pig’s blood. Another meat-lovers paradise is Kangaroo Boxing Club in Columbia Heights. If you love barbeque, then there’s a dish on the menu for you here.

This year 14th Street began its transformation into a prime dining location. Pearl Dive Oyster Palace opened just over a year ago, the new Matchbox has opened, Ted’s Bulletin and many others are scheduled to open in the near future. Part of this transformation includes the new Masa 14 rooftop, which opened at the start of the summer. Masa 14 also welcomed new executive chef Adam Goldman to the mix at this Latin-Asian fusion restaurant. Another newcomer to the street called The Drafting Table has become the new local gastro pub in the former ACKC space.

No dinner is complete without a little sweetness at the end. I can never review a restaurant without at least a sampling of the desserts. One of my favorite meals this year took place at gay-helmed Art and Soul. We all had delicious entrees and to finish up the party, we tasted most of the items on the dessert menu. And to end my reviews for the year, I sampled all the delicious sweets available at Bloomingdale bakery Grassroots Gourmet. Every item at this gay-owned and -operated bakery was divine. A sweet ending to a year filled with delicious food and reviews.