Del Ray neighborhood haunt Stomping Ground will serve dinner tonight for the first time in years, planning to test out the service on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. That means sometime this morning, Nicole Jones, the original chef and owner of the eclectic Southern cafe known for its biscuits and its global applications for farm-fresh produce, will be at an Alexandria Harris Teeter scrutinizing loaves of Wonder bread.
Jones has no qualms about riffing on classics. Stomping Ground’s most recognized dish, one that’s joining the new dinner menu, is a fried chicken biscuit with benne seed tahini, hot sauce, honey, red onion, and za’atar. Just as often, she decides not to mess with a good thing. So the tomato sandwich platter that’s listed on the vegetable section of the dinner menu comes with just a handful of other ingredients: salt, pepper, Duke’s mayo, and commercial white bread.
Even when it comes to Wonder bread, Jones goes the extra mile to find the best. She’s befriended “the bread dude” at the grocery store to find out when the Wonder bread gets restocked every day. She says she’ll make a run before every single dinner to buy slices with the right consistency.
“You need it to be super soft and stick to the roof of your mouth,” she explains.
Jones has come a long way as a business owner and entrepreneur since she opened Stomping Ground four years ago. As opposed to the first time she started offering dinner, when her days would start with biscuit prep in the wee hours of the morning and stretch through the last meal of the day, she’s now hired a general manager and an executive chef to lighten the load.
Chef Jamie Knight, formerly of Hank’s Oyster Bar in Dupont Circle, joined Jones’s business in the spring to help open Stomping Ground’s biscuit and coffee stall in the made over food hall at Tysons Galleria. Jones says she and Knight spent months collaborating on a dinner menu that’s split into sections for snacks — think mini buttermilk biscuits with sorghum butter — vegetables, supper entrees, sides like gouda grits with green tomato chow chow, and lil nugs (kids dishes).
Jones says she likes to make unfussy food befitting a neighborhood joint where customers can find touches they’re probably not using in their own kitchens. So alongside that tomato, there’s a grilled avocado dish with falafel, pistachio, and green goddess dressing.
Jones’s favorite addition to the dinner menu is a pasta dish that combines triangular-shaped, egg yolk-heavy noodles with yellow curry, roasted chicken, charred cherry tomatoes dusted in garam masala, and eggplant. Knight is making her own curry paste and spice blends.
“Jamie and I fought about it,” Jones says. “We went about eight weeks round and round and round until we got that dish right.”
One of the snacks pairs Jones’s house harissa with a shrimp sausage that Knight cooked in the job interview process. “It’s really what got her hired,” Jones says.
Those who know Jones’s sense of humor won’t be surprised to see a “Seasonal Big Ass Salad” on the menu. A tight dessert menu includes caramelized banana pudding, chocolate chip cookies with milk, and a seasonal pie.
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With basil, tarragon and tons of lime and parsley, our Cobb Salad always takes like Springtime. Despite what the weather is doing. Organic greens and eggs from @tuscaroraorganic #saladgamestrong #extraordinaryalx #greengoddess @tsgalexandria @visitalexva @visitdelray @alxstylebook
GM Raquel Burbano hired and trained the night staff while putting together a drink menu full of cocktails, lots of sour beers, and wines from France, Tasmania, South Africa, and Virginia. Jones is partial to the Rainy Lady (rum, apple brandy, vermouth, cinnamon, chocolate bitters).
“Maybe I’m feeling extra squishy, I just have this incredible team of women and they’re killing it,” Jones says.
She also just added experienced Clyde’s group bartender Brett Oye to her team and could see him taking the reins as beverage director soon.
Here’s a look at the new dinner menus at Stomping Ground, served 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays: