Alexandria-based Common Plate Hospitality (CPH) will fill its first-ever food hall with offerings from established local talent — and one culinary underdog winner of a televised competition it’s calling “Stall Wars.”
The Heights Food Hall at Wisconsin Place debuts in December in a 10,300-square-foot stretch formerly occupied by Anthropologie and P.F. Chang’s (5406 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland).
The Heights carves out room for a sushi stall from Moon Rabbit chef Kevin Tien and a quick-serve spot called Extra Rice from Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly chef Javier Fernandez. Other newly announced names include Indian street foods chef Priya Ammu (DC Dosa); family-owned chain Supreme BBQ and AunTea Boba; and Arlington favorite Mimi’s Handmade, which plans to serve soft serve, cookies, and pints of ice cream.
“We were hyper-focused on who we wanted initially and were fortunate to get everyone on board,” chef and CPH co-founder Chad Sparrow tells Eater.
But when his team got stuck on filling the last available stall, Sparrow turned to his favorite show Shark Tank for inspiration to discover the area’s next culinary superstar. “Stall Wars” will play out much like the hit ABC reality TV series that empowers the American dream, letting unknown entrepreneurs sell their business pitch to a panel of judges.
“I’m no Mark Cuban but I’m fortunate to be able to give an opportunity to someone who may not have it,” says Sparrow.
CPH teamed with local ABC affiliate WJLA to televise the competition on Good Morning Washington next month. CPH will waive buildout costs and hand a one-year lease to the winner in a prize valued at $50,000. Rent will be a percentage of sales, so there’s not much risk for the awardee.
Contestants are invited to submit two-minute videos by Thursday, September 15, telling their story and what kind of food they plan to serve. Applicants will be narrowed down to three finalists, who will showcase their stall idea and cooking skills to the panel the week of September 19. The 30-minute segment crowning the “Stall Wars” winner will air on Good Morning Washington on September 30.
“We’re curious to see who enters. It could be chefs, food truck guys, or people who cook in their basement on weekends,” says Sparrow.
Many food halls invite rising chefs to take a stab at brick-and-mortar inside, but the “Stall Wars” competition strives to make the process a little more fun.
CPH will fill the balance of the food hall with its own in-house ideas: Heights Bar (cocktails, local beer, and wine); Soup Matters (seasonal homemade soups); This Deli of Ours (sandwiches, hot chicken, cheesesteaks, flat-top burgers, and homemade pickles); The Turncoat (a speakeasy behind a secret door); and Urbano @ The Heights — a spinoff of CPH’s Tex-Mex flagship Urbano 116 in Old Town.
Maryland is brand new territory for CPH, which runs other Old Town staples like Mason Social and Augie’s Mussel House and Beer Garden. There’s also an Urbano offshoot in the Mosaic District and another en route to Annapolis next year.
The plan is to open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight, with indoor and patio dining and 185 seats. The Heights sits just outside city limits near the recently-closed Mazza Gallerie shopping center.
“We think the neighborhood is dying for a new food scene,” says Sparrow, noting the Friendship Heights Metro station is just 100 feet away.
Chevy Chase will get a big boost this fall with the opening of Joy by Seven Reasons, a casual offshoot of chef Enrique Limardo’s pricey Latin standout in D.C.