While running through a recent day’s menu at No Goodbyes, the new wood-burning Mid-Atlantic restaurant that officially opened inside the Line hotel in Adams Morgan in mid-July, chef Opie Crooks referenced a melon whisperer, an oysterman, a potato tiller, and a heritage-breed hog farmer, all on a first-name basis. For the record, they were David Paulk, Scott Budden, Emma Jagoz, and Bev Eggleston.
Crooks’s history working at hearth-centric, locavore favorites like Woodberry Kitchen, A Rake’s Progress, and the Dabney would typically mark No Goodbyes as a big deal in D.C. After all, the Line has cultivated a reputation as one of D.C.’s trendiest places to eat over the past few years with multiple restaurants — Erik Bruner-Yang’s Spoken English and Brothers and Sisters, Rake’s from Spike Gjerde — that shuttered during the pandemic. Any buzz around the recent debut, though, has been understandably swallowed by a parade of controversies at the hotel.
In a Washington City Paper report published in December, workers alleged there was a toxic culture at A Rake’s Progress, where Crooks worked as the executive chef. The hotel had to evict Proud Boys who were suspects in an altercation nearby on the day before the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Then, on the opening weekend for No Goodbyes, artist Cristian Zuniga, a former creative director for Bruner-Yang’s hospitality group, alleged the Line had ripped off one of his designs for the new restaurant’s branding, generating waves of criticism for the hotel within D.C’s creative community. And in August, on the day Mayor Muriel Bowser’s reinstated indoor mask mandate went into effect, a writer for a conservative newspaper shared a photograph of the mayor maskless at a table inside a wedding reception she attended at the Line.
During all of it, Crooks, who previously told Eater he feels he didn’t do enough to influence the culture at A Rake’s Progress, has continued to show up for a job he believes gives him a huge platform to champion products from around the Chesapeake region.
“If we have Romaine on the menu, it’s coming from a grower that I know I could drive there and see what they’re doing in the fields,” Crooks says. “I think that’s really important that people know where their food comes from and they know the challenges that surround that.”
If the Line can go a full month without another debacle, more people might take notice of the work Crooks, sous chef Ria Paz, and executive pastry chef Alicia Wang are doing to give them something interesting to eat.
Take Crooks’s beets and berries salad, for example. No Goodbyes pairs shavings of slow-growing badger flame beets with chunks of red ace beets prepared two ways (wood-roasted or pickled and smoked). The vegetables mix in with huge blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, as well as candied black walnuts, the leaves of various herbs, and a green goddess dressing that brings a lot of basil in with roasted garlic, smoked honey, mayonnaise, and black pepper. The finished product delivers sweetness and smoke from multiple directions.
“It’s just a fun little salad that has all these pops of flavor and texture,” Crooks says.
For an opening snack, Crooks serves paper-thin, homemade potato chips dusted in crab spice; he’s a J.O. blend guy, but has developed his own mix for the $6 dish. Fried green tomatoes come with a dusting of paprika-red “rib rub” and a side of spicy cheese made with a Maryland white cheddar. “It’s kind of a more adult pimento cheese,” Crooks explains. “It’s a little bit spicier. It’s got some nice raw onion in it. We use hot peppers, when they’re in season, roasted in the fire.”
A “salthouse board” will be a regular feature, allowing Crooks to teach interested cooks the finer points of making charcuterie. During a recent visit, the board included cured coppa, slices of “lardo” taken from a hog cheek to deliver a sliver of meat surrounded by white fat, a country pate studded with cherries preserved in brandy, and a soft salami cotto that had been poached and smoked.
Crooks uses pork from Virginia-based farms like Autumn Olive or EcoFriendly Foods in cured meats and entrees like a bacon steak that’s brined for 24 hours, cooked confit for another 12, then pressed, portioned, lacquered in a spicy sorghum glaze, and roasted in a wood-burning oven. For the summer, No Goodbyes serves it with cucumbers, nectarines, peaches, and chanterelle mushrooms. The obligatory meat and potatoes offering comes in the form of a braised short rib dish. A combination of barbecue mop and “hunter sauce,” an English translation of a French chasseur made from demiglace and lots of mushrooms, tastes like fine dining A1.
No Goodbyes is a hotel restaurant, so there are different menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In the mornings, customers can order carrot cake oatmeal, biscuit sandwiches, or fried chicken and buttermilk waffles. Lunch brings on Roseda Farms beef burgers, Nashville hot chicken sandwiches, and blue plate specials like chicken confit and ricotta dumplings. Wang makes desserts like a toasted oat semifreddo and a “s’more” chocolate ganache tart with a graham cracker crust, candied ginger, and a squiggle of charred marshmallow meringue.
Lukas B. Smith, the longtime D.C. bar manager who concocts essential cocktails for Union Market rum distillery Cotton & Reed, is coming up with drinks for No Goodbyes like a black walnut old fashioned, a “garden” gin and tonic, or a melon, basil, and rum-based Under the Mezzanine.