In this edition of Off the Beaten Turf, we visited Seasonal Pantry in Shaw to learn about an increasingly hot ticket: the market’s supper club.
Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 8pm, Seasonal Pantry at 1314 1/2 9th Street NW (map) transforms its 240 square-foot space into something of an oddity for DC’s foodie scene — a supper club with seating for 12.
Dan O’Brien, a chef who has worked at Equinox and Bibiana, opened Seasonal Pantry and began serving the suppers last year. While the market is filled with his carefully crafted pickles, pot pies and pâtés, the supper club keeps the business alive, O’Brien told UrbanTurf. The six-course menu, which is revealed a few weeks prior to the dinner, goes for about $100 per person with wine pairings. The atmosphere is low key, though the prices hint at the quality of the ingredients and the preparation that the dishes require. Since starting, the dinners have gained an enthusiastic following, with glowing write-ups in the Washington Post and several blogs.
When we visited the store on a Tuesday afternoon, O’Brien was chopping zucchini for the weekend menu; his prep station is located a few feet behind the cash register. The menu for the weekend included a strawberry gazpacho with pickled grapes, scallops, cod, and a noodle dish. “My motto is KISS — Keep it Simple, Stupid,” said the candid O’Brien. Ingredients are seasonal, hence the name, and dishes are executed with a lot of flavor. O’Brien seems to enjoy processes that draw out and deepen flavor over time, like pickling and marinating for days.
When it’s time for supper, O’Brien rearranges the store’s few pieces of furniture to create one big table that fits about 12 guests. Everything happens in the room, including the prep, the cooking and the serving, so O’Brien is in constant contact with diners (and within earshot of their commentary). He encourages conversation between patrons, and because (in most cases) diners are not allowed to book more than six seats, new friendships are formed at the meal.
Since gaining recognition, the Supper Club is now sold-out weeks in advance, with many nights booked up by private parties (though O’Brien hints that they may be tamping down on that to allow for more open suppers). While Seasonal Pantry doesn’t make tons of money, O’Brien, formerly a sous chef making less than $30,000 a year, realizes that the critical acclaim bodes well for his future. Restaurant world VIPs, like Top Chef’s Bryan Voltaggio, have sniffed out the club, and O’Brien revealed that Friday’s dinner was reserved for a certain famous female — the only detail he would reveal about her is that she is a vegetarian.
Right now, 9th Street NW is full of vacant storefronts and noisy construction. However, as we’ve reported, it is set to be one of DC’s main boulevards in the coming years. To take advantage of the supper club before it blows up, click here.