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‘Top Chef’ Alum and Washington Nationals Slugger Join Forces for Charity

Spike Mendelsohn and Ryan Zimmerman have teamed up

Spike Mendelsohn and Ryan Zimmerman inside Santa Rosas kitchen Wednesday, November 15.
Photo: Santa Rosa Taqueria
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Washington Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman told Eater Wednesday, November 15, that he’s “laying low” this off season. But the home-run hitter’s got a lot on his plate these days, including serving as a guest judge Thursday, November 16, at annual charity bash Capital Food Fight, and co-creating a new taco now available at restaurateur Spike Mendelsohn’s months-old Capitol Hill eatery, Santa Rosa Taqueria.

Founded by socially conscious restaurateur José Andrés, Capital Food Fight benefits D.C. Central Kitchen. Some 1,000 attendees at the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center will be provided event-specific food and drinks from 80 local restaurants while watching big-name chefs face off against each other, Iron Chef-style (including secret ingredients). Mendelsohn, a Top Chef alum who operates several eateries in the area, is co-hosting the gala.

“The event is about having fun and it’s sporadic,” says Mendelsohn, adding that attendees will be privy to a “secret” battle.

The Canadian native says he met Zimmerman during a Vietnamese-themed charity dinner when the two first landed in the area years ago. This is the D.C. home run king’s first time participating in the food-focused event, but he’s no stranger to philanthropic endeavors; since 2006, Zimmerman’s raised $3 million to combat multiple sclerosis via his family’s Zims Foundation. The “Carolinas Carnitas” special he created to honor the event — which also doubles as an ode to his native state — features chipotle pulled pork, cabbage slaw, and cilantro; it’s available at Santa Rosa Taqueria through Thursday, November 30.

ZImmerman’s also a huge fan of the D.C. dining scene and frequently hits the town with his wife, leaving their two girls with a sitter.

“When we first got here 10 years ago there was Capital Grille. There weren’t any ‘chef’ restaurants. Now D.C. is crazy,” he says. Zimmerman says he and his wife ate at award-winning Kinship not too long ago. Meanwhile, their anniversary tradition involves a two-day trip to another Michelin-starred DMV restaurant: the Inn at Little Washington.

Mendelsohn chimes in that he’s filming a documentary about chef Patrick O’Connell’s world renowned restaurant.

“The whole vibe is chill. You get away and there’s nothing to do out there. You leave your cell phone off,” says Zimmerman.

Meanwhile, Mendelsohn provided an update about long-awaited Morris, the speakeasy he’s working to install at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (a pop-up previewing its cocktails is happening this week in Ivy City). The tentative arrival date is now “probably” December, he says, adding that the planned sibling to Dupont Circle’s the Sheppard will feature a post-Prohibition theme and encapsulate an era when “people got dressed up to go out.” He’s also pumped for the daytime coffee shop component that’s reminiscent of European cafes-turned-bars.

Want to wish Mendelsohn luck on emceeing tomorrow night? He says he’ll be dining at Mike Isabella’s Arroz tonight.

The Inn at Little Washington

309 Middle Street, , VA 22747 (540) 675-3800 Visit Website


1015 7th Street Northwest, , DC 20001 (202) 737-7700 Visit Website

Santa Rosa Taqueria

315 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC 20003 202-450-4800 Visit Website