D.C. cocktail king Tom Brown just tapped New York chef Matt Almquist to lead the kitchen at The Passenger, which could be physically expanding with a new rooftop space as soon as next year.
“When I left 10 years ago to do the New York thing, D.C. was all steakhouses and sports bars,” he tells Eater.
Industry friends helped convince him to come home and join D.C.’s now-exploding food scene. He delivered veggie-forward dishes at the upscale French eatery Le Turtle in New York’s Lower East Side, and he’s also pushing an assortment of non-carnivorous options at The Passenger.
One of his favorite new items is sweet potato with pumpkin vinaigrette and fresh cheese. There’s also a vegetarian taco with avocado, grilled scallions, tomatillo, pickled fresno chile peppers, cotija cheese, cilantro, and popcorn shoots. For dessert, a hazelnut brown butter cake comes with Nutella crispies and vanilla bean gelato. He wants to sprinkle in some charcuterie and seafood dishes down the road.
Meanwhile, The Passenger’s upstairs space that functioned as tiki pop-up Hogo all summer could be phased out soon.
“With the cold weather coming in, we have noticed fewer people showing up,” says Brown. “I am working to to make sure we have something fun going on for the winter.”
That could include another themed pop-up, he notes. For now, the space is still functioning but Brown deleted its island-focused fare and replaced it with Almquist’s offerings.
Hogo — or at least another tropical-themed bar — could live on at a future space The Passenger that has yet to build out: a third-story rooftop.
Brown has the drawings for the outdoor location, which could fit up to 40 patrons, but has yet to jumpstart the permitting process.
“It’s one of those things that definitely takes some effort,” he says. “We are hoping to get that going for the spring.”
Almquist is also in charge of the food at sister bar Left Door; there’s no kitchen, so the menu won’t change or expand much, but he plans to add some pre-prepared terrines, mousses, and “fun snack-y” items to pair with its cocktails. He’ll also refresh its marathon Sunday hangover brunch that runs from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.