Carla Hall is no stranger to airports. Having to travel between the D.C. area and New York for "The Chew" and her new projects is just the beginning.
"I travel a lot and it's my interest to put in food like I want to have when I'm traveling," she said. Enter Page, the chef's new addition to Ronald Reagan National Airport. The restaurant opened last week.
The chef collaborated with hospitality company OTG on the restaurant. "I was approached by OTG because a lot of airports are really starting to use a lot of local chefs to draw some of the people and let people who travel get to know the area through the food," she said. She also has respect for other local chefs who had signed on to the idea of improving airport dining, so that was a further motivation.
Carla's original vision for the restaurant was a Southern-influenced eatery, but found she had to adjust that idea slightly to account for equipment limitations at the airport (there's no deep fryer there, for example, which has an impact on dishes like chicken and waffles). The result is a healthier menu than some might expect, with options like a barbecue Cobb salad, a quinoa salad, a thirteen-vegetable salad and several pizzas (including one with figs and caramelized onions that she loves; "It's rich...sinfully delicious," she says). "Usually if you're a business person coming to the airport, you've been eating a lot of heavy meals and want to do something light," she said. Other menu items at the 110-seat restaurant, designed by Icrave, range from lobster rolls to pimento cheese dip. Customers can order their food off of iPads in the restaurant.
Hall appreciates the restaurant's location, centered in the middle of nine different gates, making it accessible for travelers in a rush. OTG and its partners will add other options to the revamped Terminal A in the future, including Custom Burger, Tagliare, Boar's Head Deli and Dunkin Donuts, according to a press release.
Hall doesn't see Page expanding to other airports: the appeal, as she sees it, was finding a local chef to represent a local airport. But she has plenty of other projects to keep her busy. Her New York restaurant, Carla Hall's Southern Kitchen, just signed a lease in New York, and she says a fall opening is the target if all goes well with permitting.
And D.C. is still a priority to eventually receive Hall's restaurant, which specializes in Nashville hot chicken. She says they'll likely open a second location in New York first and then turn eyes to Washington.
Also in the works: a project at the Smithsonian's African American History museum, which is slated to open next year. She compares her project to the Mitsitam Cafe at the Native American museum, which works to show the peoples' history through food. "It won't be just one type of food...having the food be a reflection of where the influences come from is very exciting," she said.