We caught up with Josh Hahn and Heidi Minora of EatWell DC, the power duo behind some of your favorite DC restaurants – The Pig, Commissary, Grillfish, and Logan Tavern. See what they have to say about sustainability, pastries, and SoulCycle.
How long have you both been with EatWell?
Josh: I moved to D.C. in 2002 to manage Grillfish where I started learning the ropes and got a taste for the restaurant industry. Six months into managing Grillfish we started designing a new restaurant and soon after Logan Tavern and EatWell DC were born.
Heidi: I met Josh when I started serving at The Heights and Logan Tavern in 2006. I had fallen in love with the restaurants and left my full time job in publishing to work for EatWell DC. I was soon promoted to manager and that was when Josh and I began working very closely on various marketing initiatives. It was in 2013 that I was promoted to Marketing Director for EatWell and I have also taken on rolls as AGM and, my current position, of GM at Commissary.
What was the vision?
Josh: We wanted to build restaurants where we would want to go if we lived in that neighborhood. We wanted to design places where we would be comfortable to go to regularly. Ultimately, we aim to make our restaurants reasonably priced, approachable, friendly, and casual. Neighborhood places are definitely our benchmark.
We typically don’t choose locations if we don’t feel a connection to that neighborhood. We have to believe in the neighborhood, be willing to live in the neighborhood, and believe that the neighborhood’s best days are ahead. We also have to be confident in the other businesses surrounding us. Internally, our mission and goal is to serve high-quality, seasonal, local, humanely-raised, and sustainable products.
Heidi: We work to provide a comfortable and friendly environment with professional service. Ideally, we want to build restaurants that people will walk out of and want to come back to soon.
We’ve notice a great sense of community in all your locations. Tell us how that happened. Has it always been that way?
Josh: I think that’s ultimately what makes something a neighborhood place. We recognize faces. We build relationships and create friendships with people. What I like is that our restaurants are not one size fits all. I know dozens of customers who love one location for one thing but not for another, and that’s okay. There’s people who love Commissary for breakfast and Logan Tavern for dinner, or Logan for lunch and The Pig for happy hour. People from all walks of life and backgrounds can find a niche within any of our restaurants
Tell us about sustainability and your local sources.
Josh: Our farm is the first and most local source. It’s only an hour away from D.C., which a lot of people don’t know, and it’s a huge provider for our in-season produce. In the fall we produce kale, spinach, beets, radishes, turnips, and a lot of root vegetables. During the spring season we grow every kind of lettuce and leafy greens, such as asparagus and mustard greens, as well as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. We also grow multiple varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. In addition to wildflowers and sunflowers, there’s an orchard as well with apples, pears, peaches, and grape trees.
The farm is 13 acres. At the moment, a little over one acre is in use and seven acres are cleared and ready to be planted on. We have beehives, a greenhouse, and a semi-enclosed hoop house (an enclosed field for controlled temperature and moisture). We also have about twelve chickens and a rooster. Michael Bonk, Executive Chef at The Pig, will feature these eggs at our newest restaurant, The Bird, expected to open in September of 2016.
We have a full-time farm manager and some part-time employees who are there every day tending to the produce and land.
In addition to the farm land, there’s also a barn on the property and a beautifully renovated four-bedroom house with a huge open kitchen that’s actually listed on Airbnb. Go check it out! We’ve rented it out for charity events and brunches in the past.
What other farms do you source from?
Josh: The vast majority of the food served at all EatWell DC restaurants comes from the East Coast, ranging from the Carolinas up through Pennsylvania. We buy from Tuscarora, Fells Point, and Pipe Dreams farms. We have a great contact from Pennsylvania who is also a middle-man for Amish farmers.
Most of our meat comes from Fells Point and is 100 percent ethically sourced and sustainable. If we can’t determine the methodology of the farmers, where it is from, or the health and treatment of the animals-we just won’t buy or support it.
That’s not necessarily affordable but your food is—how do you make that work?
Josh: If we don’t think we can sell it at our price point, we just don’t buy it—that’s just a decision we have to make. We have to find other products that we can sell. Or, we put it on our menu and let our staff and our customers know that there’s a reason that this is a little outside of the normal price point.
You support a lot of charities and communities. Tell me about that.
Heidi: We have our GiveWell Program which consists of about three dine-out nights a year. During these events, a percentage of the profits that night go to a charity. We’ve partnered with Food & Friends and The Chef’s Best in the past.
Logan Tavern did one for Syrian Refugees recently. We’ve also done a bunch of anniversary parties for Logan Tavern where all the proceeds all go to charity. Our 10-year anniversary party was in support of Whitman-Walker Health.
We’ve worked with City Dogs Rescue for the past four years and have raised around $8,000 for them each August.
This is our second year of doing Latkepalooza at Commissary where 10 percent of proceeds go to the Jewish Food Experience.
We do a big benefit for Studio Theatre as well. We share a lot of business with them. The restaurant group is part of the fabric of the neighborhood and we work in tandem with a lot of local businesses. Studio Theatre is a 501c3 so if they need any help we are always willing to lend a hand. We don’t say no.
If any of our staff or managers want to take on a project like this or feel passionate about a cause, we support them on it and let them do the leg work.
When the two of you aren’t running restaurants, how do you spend your free time?
Heidi: We began working out together about two years ago at SoulCycle and it became a second office for us. We would walk to the M St studio and discuss various promotions that were going on in the restaurants and if we got into a disagreement about an approach one of us was taking, we luckily were going to into a dark room with a candle. SoulCycle definitely embodies a lot of things that we try to do at EatWell from their hospitality to their customer service. We think very highly of the brand and you will see many SoulCycle riders, staff and even instructors at our restaurants. We’re definitely known for being a “team” and that’s probably why we work so well together.
Tell me about your work with Experience Camps.
Josh: Experience Camps is an organization I helped start about eight years ago that provides a free one-week summer camp experience to children who have lost a parent or sibling.
I grew up going to summer camp, 14 years actually, and my memories from those summers and friendships remain so strong today. I feel so fortunate to be able to spend time back in the summer camp setting providing the unique experience to kids who really deserve it.
The camp started with twenty-seven boys in Maine back in 2009. Today we have over 400 campers and programs in New York, Maine, and California for boys and girls and we add a camp in north Georgia next year.
The camps look like any summer camp you may have gone to and think about—outdoor activities, swimming, sports, talent shows, campfires, etc. However, the best thing they get to do is be together with their bunk mates and just talk. They share stories about who they lost, when they lost them, and how they feel. It’s the common bond they have that is most special.
I was originally a volunteer and board member for the camps and I’ve recently decided to spend more of my time on them. I resigned from the board I’m now the associate director of the organization which I’m juggling along with my restaurant workload. I feel really fortunate that I get to work for two companies and in two industries that I feel passionate about. And I’m excited to give more responsibilities to other people at EatWell who are ready for greater challenges.
How has the response been to opening an hour earlier at Commissary?
Heidi: We now open every day at 8 a.m. for breakfast. We now do Bottomless Mimosa Mondays (Bitches love alliteration). Bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys are $15 on Mondays. They are truly endless. The limit does not exist.
Josh: We basically serve brunch every day and add in some brunch specials on the weekends.
Tell me about these new pastries.
Josh: So we just hired Audrey Valerio, pastry chef from Mandarin Oriental. She’s been at The Pig revamping the biscuits, pastries, and other items. We want the dessert menu to change more regularly at The Pig to match the dinner menu rotation.
Her home base is The Pig, but she has already worked on a number of events at Commissary, including Latkepalooza and the Oscars, and she is currently launching new dessert menus at Logan Tavern and Grillfish.
The Sundaes. We can’t forget those.
Josh: Do we have the largest sundaes in Washington, D.C.? I feel confident in saying so. If there’s a sundae, I’ve eaten it.
Heidi: There are 550,000 calories in our sundaes which is what makes them so delicious. I mean, we have a lot of healthy items on our menu, so we’re allowed to splurge on our desserts. Josh thinks calories are make believe, so we don’t take that into consideration when writing a dessert menu.
BitchBiz: Bitches Who Brunch partners with EatWell DC. While this article was written independently by Bitches Who Brunch, we do receive compensation from the company.