Chef Aaron Silverman's Barracks Row restaurant Rose's Luxury has had D.C. food lovers buzzing since opening day. Wait times can be incredibly long at this no-reservations hot spot. But as of Monday, May 19th, there is one table that can be reserved ahead of time. The Roof Garden is more than just a table — it's its own experience, and one that has been booking up within minutes since they opened up reservations. Eater sat down with Silverman to get the details on the Roof Garden's first week in business.
We heard tickets sold out mad quickly. Can you share details? How far out are you booked?
Oh yeah, it's booked up completely. And has been booking up pretty much immediately whenever we release new reservations.
So what's the deal exactly?
It's $125 per person for all you can eat, so basically we just keep feeding you until you can't take it anymore. Some things on the menu, some things off the menu, some things that are new ideas that we're testing out for the restaurant (like last nights' challah bread). The space is reserved for one party for the entire night.
How many people are required to reserve the space?
Eight to ten people is all we can allow because of our liquor license. It's the only reservation we take, and you can book it three weeks in advance through the website. We have you show up around 6:30, and the roof garden is yours the entire night. It's private — no one else comes out there, you have a private server, and they take care of you all night until the ANC says we have to kick you out. The price includes all you can eat food and the space, which is basically like a private rental space. No booze or beverages, no tax, no tip. But you really can't spend more than $200, even if you go all-out. If you go over $200, with that much food and booze you'll probably get sick.
When did it officially start?
Monday, May 19th – though we did two soft opening seatings earlier in the month. There are only 6 seatings a week – one each night. Reservations open 3 weeks in advance.
Have there been any cancellations so far?
Yeah, so you book online and when you book, you click "hold this reservation" and it'll lock everyone else out from booking it for three minutes while you enter your information. They've booked up immediately every Monday. But we had a couple people who were like, "Oh I thought it was for two people!" and a few others who just said, "Oops, we can't actually make it." So when that happens, we just open that reservation back up online and blast it through social media [Facebook, Twitter].
What happens when the weather gets cold?
For now, the plan is just to do it during the nice weather. We haven't figured out yet what we're going to do once it gets cold.
How many parties have you had so far?
Tonight [Thursday] will be our tenth one. We've had a group in here every night since it's opened, and we're booked solid for the next three weeks.
Has it bee mostly people celebrating special occasions, or just people having fun?
No special occasions so far, just people who are excited about the food. The problem with booking for a special occasion is that people can't be sure they're going to get the date — or even the week — that they want, and since you can only book three weeks in advance, it's not ideal for planning special occasions.
What spurred this idea? Why not just have regular patio seating?
I didn't want to have multiple tables out there, and we can only have 10 seats out there anyhow because of the liquor license. But we wanted to do something special in that space. I wish every table in this restaurant could be like that — private and beautiful, but it can't be. In fact, my original vision for the restaurant was to make it all look as pretty and nice as that. But that's not doable, so we figured let's at least have one table like that for now.
Is it tough to manage the table in addition to your already-packed dining room?
Not really, because we just have one server up there taking care of them the whole time, and it's only one table so we don't need to have kitchen staff dedicated to them or anything. The server just paces the food based on how the group is doing.
The first day, the system couldn't handle the reservations, so we had five people book on the same day. There was no "hold" button at first, so five people clicked at the exact same time and we were quintuple-booked. So of course we had to cancel four of those reservations, but we offered those people any date they wanted to make up for it.
Also, there was one night when there was a torrential downpour and so we had to seat the group inside. But we knocked $25 off everyone's bill to make up for it. We also sent them home with sandwiches made from the brisket that they couldn't finish.
Do you typically do some kind of a doggie bag?
We want to, yeah, but we're still trying to figure it all out. We've only been doing this for about a week, so there are still lots of details to iron out.
How is this experience different from the regular Rose's experience?
It's more relaxed, calm, and quiet. Whenever we take food up there we don't want to come back in — it's so quiet and peaceful out there. There's music, but it's not like the madhouse we have inside. But it's the same style of food and service — casual, laid back, fun and quirky, so in that way it's the same. I run most of the food up there, so I can answer questions about the food and chat with the group.
Any industry visitors?
The very first night, which was actually our first soft opening, we hosted an all-industry group. Holly Barzyk from Daikaya and Jason Gehring from Menu MBK were part of that table.
What dishes have you served that aren't on the menu?
We brought popcorn soup back for the table, and that's not coming back on the main menu for the foreseeable future. We did a challah bread with black sesame seeds, whipped butter, and honey (instead of our potato bread). Last night they got a shellfish stew that's not on the menu yet. They're going to get a sugar snap pea dessert that we're currently working on. The ribs are off the menu now, but we served those up there. We're going to do a crab boil up there, and probably a crawfish boil too.
We can't do a whole vegetarian menu, or really a whole "anything" menu, but we make sure that people with allergies or who only eat fish or whatnot leave full.
Would you take requests of beloved dishes that are no longer on the menu?
Nope, if it's not on the menu and we were already planning to do it, we're not equipped to make it happen. But we'll get you as much of anything you want that is currently on the menu.
Most exciting/rewarding moments?
Memorial Day, the two days we were closed, I actually got to sit up there and enjoy it with my roommate. We just grabbed some beers and hung out up there, and it was really nice.
Any future goals or plans for the Roof Garden?
We're going to update the décor outside — hang some lanterns, change out a bunch of the plants, we're going to do the back wall with purple hyacinth beans. There's going to be some kind of water feature out there eventually.
We just started so we're adding things slowly, but we hope to have a caviar course up there soon.
Any updates on the scuttlebutt about you looking for a space for another concept?
Well sure, we're always looking; I've got a lot of things I want to do. I'd love to do a nice bar, or a daytime kind of café. Nothing that sounds particularly exciting but if done well could be really cool. A restaurant that's half this size so we can move a little slower paced. Not more or less formal, just a little more luxurious.
What about a fried chicken shop?
I'm not really interested in doing a single-concept type of place.
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—Alia J. Khan