JBG Smith, the developer that landed an exclusive partnership with Amazon to oversee the tech company’s coveted HQ2 in Arlington, Virginia, has recruited a big-name chef from D.C. to build a restaurant in a privately owned park that will blur the lines between indoor and outdoor dining.
Enrique Limardo, the Venezuelan chef who leads the kitchen at scene-y, modernist Latin spot Seven Reasons and luxe, Mediterranean-leaning follow-up Imperfecto, headlines the restaurant group that will soon start construction on a new all-day restaurant called Surreal. From its location at JBG Smith’s 1-acre green space at 2121 Crystal Drive, Surreal will also manage kiosks for a Dining in the Park program that will cater to customers who want to picnic underneath 40-year-old trees. By the time Surreal plans to open in early 2023, JBG Smith expects to have commercial lifestyle license that allows customers to carry alcoholic drinks across the property.
“We think food is one of those major anchors, especially in a post-pandemic world,” says Amy Rice, Senior Vice President, Retail Leasing at JBG Smith. “It’s harder to order that online. People still want to come in and have a dining experience.”
Seven Reasons Group says it is working with Greek-Swedish firm OOAK Architects, the company that designed Imperfecto, to construct an indoor-outdoor space full of natural elements. “You won’t see planters. You’ll see wildlife and nature coming out of the actual floor,” managing partner Ezequiel Vázquez-Ger says.
JBG Smith sees Surreal and Dining in the Park as a unique contribution to “placemaking” efforts that will make its National Landing district a destination for workers and renters. Anticipating the arrival of Amazon HQ2 and an innovation campus from Virginia Tech, officials in Arlington and Alexandria are grouping three different neighborhoods under the National Landing banner: Crystal City, which boasts Reagan National Airport, along with Pentagon City and parts of Potomac Yard.
Since opening Seven Reasons in April 2019, Limardo has continued to ascend in the eyes of critics. Esquire ranked the 14th Street NW hot spot as No. 1 on its national list of Best New Restaurants. This May, Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema argued Imperfecto was impressive enough to make an argument for the persistence of fine dining through the cultural upheaval of the past two years. Unlike either of those projects, Surreal gives the group an opportunity to create a space from scratch with its own specifications.
Vázquez-Ger says JBG Smith approached Seven Reasons Group in January with an opportunity to submit a proposal for its park project. Rice, the JBG Smith executive, says Seven Reasons had collective approval throughout the company’s C suite.
In addition to Surreal, the Crystal City area will also be getting a location of New York taco chain Tacombi and an outpost of Alamo Draft House. Much-hyped bakery Mah-Ze-Dahr opened a 3,000-square-foot cafe and commissary kitchen in the neighborhood this summer, and pretty all-day cafe the Freshman arrived nearby back in the spring.
Amazon is constructing two office parks with a total of five new buildings, including the futuristic-looking Helix, within a mile of the Dining in the Park space.
- A New All-Day Cafe in Arlington Signals the Beginning of the Amazon Era for Restaurants [EDC]
- This Venezuelan Chef’s Imagination Runs Wild at His Dream D.C. Restaurant [EDC]
- At Imperfecto, a Much-Hyped Chef Takes Mediterranean Flavors on a Latin American Trip [EDC]
- Hit Bakery Mah-Ze-Dahr Opens a New Virginia Shop Equipped to Supply More Stores [EDC]