D.C.’s Call Your Mother deli is moving ahead with a planned spring expansion during the novel coronavirus pandemic, accepting preorders today for hugely popular wood-fired bagels that customers can pick up at a new Capitol Hill outpost tomorrow.
The shop replaces the Spring Mill Bread Co. in Barracks Row (701 Eighth Street SE). Co-owner Andrew Dana tells Eater that for the first week at least, the Southeast location will take orders a day ahead of time so the company can manage output. Call Your Mother’s second store will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. to start.
Customers will order from a limited menu online, receive a text message when their order is ready, give their name to staff from across a door, and pick up their assorted bagels, schmears, lox, or chocolate chunk cookies from a table without making contact with staff. The shop also marks off waiting areas at a responsible distance with chalk.
The original Call Your Mother in Park View, known for lines that curved around its block on Lamont Street NW, was one of Eater’s 16 Best New Restaurants in America in 2019. Dana, chef-owner Dani Moreira, and their partners closed the shop in mid-March to protect their employees from being exposed to COVID-19. Packaging up to-go orders to donate to hospital workers gave the company confidence it could operate safely in this environment, and Call Your Mother reopened for takeout March 30.
Dana says the company polled all its workers. Anyone who takes public transportation to work or lives with people at heightened risk of being affected by the virus have been asked to sit out. Call Your Mother has been operating with about 20 percent of its normal staff, Dana says, and the Capitol Hill expansion will allow the company to put some people back on the job.
“A lot of people live on that side of town, so people who want to work can get some shifts,” Dana says.
Dana and Moreira’s restaurants, which include equally popular Timber Pizza Company, have pledged to keep all employees on the payroll through the duration of a public health crisis that’s led to “stay-at-home” orders and dine-in bans enforced by local governments across the country.
Between Call Your Mother, Timber, and Ballston food hall properties Turu’s pizza and the Ballston Service Station bar, Dana was worried about how long the businesses could keep paying staff.
“I’d say the driving force behind reopening was how to we keep some revenue coming in so we can keep paying people,” Dana says.
Call Your Mother launched a fundraiser page that Dana says raised nearly $75,000. That sum included a $4,000 payment in exchange for a pizza class for 18 people and a few $2,000 passes that will allow the buyers to cut the line at Call Your Mother for a year. One person paid $1,500 for the opportunity to name and create their own bagel.