The anticipated Amazon HQ2 effect finally comes into focus this summer, when 11 newly signed restaurants and bars start serving at an all-outdoor dining destination dubbed Water Park.
JBG Smith’s open-air complex at National Landing will feature familiar options for plant-based burgers (Bubbie’s), fried chicken sandwiches (Queen Mother’s), Indian street foods (DC Dosa) and more. Nine of the new eateries will be located in 300-square-foot kiosks lining Crystal Drive, each meant to serve as incubators for up-and-coming talent. Many chosen vendors got their start at local farmers markets or as food trucks.
The 1- to 3-year lease terms are short by design to provide a low barrier to entry. JBG outfits each stall with kitchen equipment and tools needed to open. “It’s a perfect bridge to brick-and-mortar for small-scale operators,” says Amy Rice, senior vice president of retail leasing at JBG Smith.
Two in-house eateries operated by Atlanta-based culinary partner STHRN Hospitality are in it for the long haul. That includes a full-service raw bar restaurant with cocktails (Water Bar) and a New York-style pie and slice shop called Crush Pizza with salads and wines by the glass. Customers can walk around National Landing with booze in tow, thanks to its previously approved designation as a “sip and stroll” consumption zone.
Kiosks will be filled with lots of local, minority- and women-led businesses, including:
- Brij: Owner Skyler Kelley’s D.C. cafe and wine bar helps benefit single mothers, the LGBTQ+ community, and the unhoused.
- Bubbie’s Plant Burger: D.C.’s popular plant-based destination for kosher-certified Americana burgers and fries sets up shop in Arlington. Chef Margaux Riccio and general manager Shaun Sharkey are also behind H Street’s fast-casual pioneer Pow Pow.
- Cracked Eggery: The food truck-turned-standalone fixture in Shaw and Cleveland Park brings its inventive egg sandwiches, bowls, and sides across the Potomac.
- DC Dosa, Bombay-born Priya Ammu’s South Indian street food stall in Union Market expands across state lines for the first time.
- Dolci Gelati: The homegrown Italian gelato shop from Gianluigi and Anastasia Dellaccio brings a sea of scoops to Water Park alongside a coffee and espresso program.
- Falafel Inc.: Founded by Ahmad Ashkar in Georgetown, this do-good destination for affordable falafel bowls, sandwiches, and sides helps feed refugees alongside the World Food Programme.
- PhoWheels: D.C.’s family-run food truck from Tuan and Jennifer Vo will serve Vietnamese dishes at its first stagnant location.
- Tiki Thai: Chef Porntipa “Pat” Pattanamekar’s hit Thai restaurant and tiki bar out in Reston adds a small offshoot in Arlington.
- Queen Mother’s, Virginia native and James Beard Award semifinalist chef Rahman “Rock” Harper pays tribute to his mom with his renowned fried chicken joint.
Vendors were found the old-fashioned way. “It was straight-up outreach. We didn’t do a formal RFP. It was a lot of eating and going to meet operators,” says Rice.
A number of leases were referrals from already-signed tenants. “The restaurant industry, at least locally, is a tight-knit community,” she says.
JBG’s “Dining in the Park” project, which transforms the courtyard in front of 2121 Crystal Drive into green space, will welcome chef Enrique Limardo’s new Surreal restaurant in late summer. JBG is putting a lot of eggs in National Landing’s basket, with some two-thirds of its holdings in the Northern Virginia submarket alone. That includes the future delivery of 5,000 multifamily units.
Amazon is expected to open the first phase of its massive HQ2 in June with 8,000 employees out of the gate and reported plans to eventually hire 25,000.