The first vendor to open inside the Roost, the food hall in Southeast that will eventually host a number of chefs and bar managers selected by one of D.C.’s top restaurant groups, is a coffee and tea shop that will swap out beans from its Brooklyn-based roasting partner on a month-by-month basis.
Cameo started selling drip coffee, espresso drinks, single-origin teas, and pastries this morning, marking the first business activity inside the 12,500-square-foot complex run by Neighborhood Restaurant Group, the company behind a slew of local favorites such as Red Apron Butcher, Churchkey beer bar, Mediterranean destination Iron Gate, and farm-to-table Turkish spot Hazel.
NRG originally planned to open the Roost (1401 Pennsylvania Avenue SE) with its full lineup of bars and restaurants in the spring. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the group to delay the project and open the food hall, located on the ground floor of the new Blackbird apartment building that faces the Potomac Ave Metro station, in phases. The plan now is to bring on one or two vendors at a time with the goal of having the whole facility filled by Thanksgiving. The first phase starts with Cameo and and an adjacent “storelet” for Shop Made in DC.
NRG hired Nazia Khan, who came over from the Wydown, to lead Cameo. As the company’s new director of coffee and counter service, Khan leads an operation the prioritizes responsible sourcing and environmental sustainability. Cameo selected Parlor Coffee in Brooklyn as a roasting partner because Khan was satisfied the company not only produced high-grade beans, but it had personal relationships with its farmers and producers.
The first drip coffee Cameo will sell comes from the town of Acevedo in southwestern Colombia. Khan says it has notes of toffee, stone fruit, and “a little bit of candied apple brightness.” Although Khan says Cameo picked the Frontera de Acevedo roast because it was the best thing on the cupping table, that doesn’t mean it will stay on for long.
“One of the things I’mr really excited about in the coffee industry is honoring the fact that it is a crop and that it is seasonal,” Khan says. “What we buy now might not be what we buy a month from now. What we’re doing with them is just constant tasting.”
Parlor’s Wallabout roast, a blend of Peruvian and Colombian beans, will go into Cameo’s espresso. Cameo is keeping the menu simple upon opening, but Khan is working on implementing a menu of pour overs that use Kalita Wave drippers. She’s also experimenting with an AeroPress immersion brewer.
Lattes incorporate steamed milk from Homestead Creamery in Franklin County, Virginia. There will be a seasonal lattes for espresso and tea every month. A simple vanilla latte is the first option. Khan says masala chai and matcha lattes will be staples, too.
Once Cameo has found its footing, Khan expects the seasonal lattes to become a bit more ambitious. For example, she envisions working with chefs around the food hall to develop the type of pumpkin spice latte customers wouldn’t be able to find at a chain coffee shop.
“We’d like to make it really good, and not sugary, and actually using real ingredients that you’d find in a kitchen,” Khan says.
Cameo has partnered with Spirit Tea out of Chicago to source farm-direct, loose leaf teas. There are no additives, so Khan says Earl Gray and jasmine teas are off-limits, but Cameo will offer teas with similar characteristics. She says she’s developing a London Fog recipe with bergamot citrus syrup.
For now, Cameo will sell all food and drinks for takeaway in compostable packaging from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day. An online ordering system includes a pickup location just inside the door of the food hall. Walk-up ordering includes lines marked off with 6 feet of spacing. There’s outdoor seating at the Roost, too.
The food hall is still waiting on its liquor license, but once it can sell alcohol, bottled cocktails from the forthcoming Show of Hands bar will be available at Shop Made in DC.
Here’s a brief list of the food and drink vendors that will follow Cameo over the next three months: