Taylor Gourmet’s got a lot on its plate these days.
The sandwich brand is prepping to reopen its Atlas District outpost on March 22 just as it’s introducing its new culinary director: Jacob Hunter, founder of Dirty South Deli. In the coming months, Hunter plans to turn the local chain’s Dupont Circle catering location into a test kitchen/pop-up venue for experimental dinners.
“It’s to show that Taylor may be known for one thing but we are versatile and can do different things,” said Hunter, who’s been secretly hosting a series of private events in the 20-seat space.
Hoagies will always be the company’s bread and butter, however, and next week it’ll go back to its roots by reopening the flagship location at 1116 H St. NE — the spot that started it all nine years ago. Hunter and Taylor co-founder Casey Patten go back just about as long, having first met while he was executive chef at Matchbox.
Hunter says part of the reason for the split with Dirty South, which he founded three years ago, was related to family; his son turns one this spring and this past year was all about being a new dad. Dirty South, which he left “in good hands,” is busy expanding its model from meat on wheels to its first brick-and-mortar location.
He’s been on board with Taylor about a month now, going through the same training any new staff member would, he said. Taylor’s new menu under his watch will celebrate spring ingredients like it never has before.
Hunter is all about raw asparagus — “It gets overcooked easily,” he said — marinated in olive oil, chili, and salt. Other integrated ingredients that “pop in spring” include watermelon, radicchio, and slow-roasted lamb — the first time the protein will be featured in Taylor’s hoagies.
Also expect sandwiches and salads dressed in rainbow carrots, and a chimichurri sauce with a green onion base instead of parsley. Hunter expects a new sandwich, with fresh mozzarella and baby citrus-braised pork, to be a star. Taylor’s popular risotto balls will get a new twist, with green peas, mint, and lemon ricotta.
Hunter said he’ll soon be in charge of menus at a handful of other locations; Taylor’s local portfolio is expected to grow from 11 storefronts to 16. The H Street reopening is full circle for Hunter, who said he used to frequent it when it first arrived in the neighborhood.
The space got a big refresh (though its new look has been kept under wraps). There’s a large mural inside, an ode to the artistic neighborhood it calls home.
Under the newly created position of culinary director — a post that cuts into some of Patten’s myriad responsibilities — Hunter will also spearhead the catering kitchen by day-turned private dinner party by night operation.