Influential D.C. chef and restaurateur Erik Bruner-Yang is no longer involved with the Line DC, the stylish Adams Morgan hotel. Located inside a converted church, the Line positioned itself as a dining destination when it opened three high-profile eating venues shortly after an anticipated debut in late 2017.
Andrew Zobler, the founder and CEO of Line parent company Sydell Group, confirmed the news to Eater and declined to offer any additional comment.
When reached by Eater, Bruner-Yang described his departure — effective after New Year’s Eve — as a mutual decision that was part of strategic changes within Sydell. He says his restaurant group, Foreign National, has transferred its employees over to the hotel, so they can continue to work at the restaurants he founded there: lobby-level Brothers & Sisters, which includes an ambitious cocktail bar and delivers room service off its East-meets-West menu, and Cafe Spoken, a pandemic-era pivot for tachinomiya-style Spoken English that opened in July with a takeout-friendly menu modeled after Japanese diners called kissaten.
Under Bruner-Yang’s watch, Spoken English won a 2019 Rammy award for New Restaurant of the Year from D.C.’s local restaurant association. The James Beard Foundation put him on the long list for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic, for his work at Brothers & Sisters the same year.
The chef sent Eater the following statement about leaving the Line:
I’ve been a part of the LINE DC for almost a decade, which is just crazy to think and to say out loud. I am grateful to so many people in my community, personal, and professional networks that helped me achieve, at the time, my greatest professional goal of opening restaurants inside of hotels. 2020 has drastically changed the dynamic of the hospitality industry, and how it moves forward will hopefully never be the same. I am excited to close this chapter of my life and embark on a new journey.
Bruner-Yang still owns and operates Taiwanese-Cambodian cafe Maketto on H Street NE and shape-shifting, all-day spot ABC Pony — currently experimenting with a Five Guys-style burger pop-up — in Navy Yard. He recently opened food hall stall Yoka and Kota, offering dumplings, noodles, and Chinese barbecue inside the Roost in Capitol Hill.
While Cafe Spoken and Brothers & Sisters appear to remain open, offering pickup and deliveries until D.C.’s latest indoor dining ban expires at 5 a.m. Friday, January 22, the Line has a vacant restaurant space on its second story. A Rake’s Progress, the wood-burning Mid-Atlantic establishment from James Beard award winner Spike Gjerde, permanently closed in June, citing the difficulty of operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a lengthy report by Washington City Paper, workers at that restaurant described the culture as “overwhelmingly hostile,” “toxic,” and “chaotic” for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) employees.
Bruner-Yang rose to prominence in D.C. by opening ramen shop Toki Underground, a fixture on H Street NE that helped spread the popularity of the Japanese specialty in D.C. He stepped down from Toki Underground in 2016 amid a protracted legal dispute with partners over the chef’s ability to pursue projects without them.