Monday, July 20, 2015

Last week, acclaimed chef
Michael Schlow opened the doors to one of the Washington, D. C. 's hottest
new restaurants, The Riggsby. Set inside The Carlyle hotel in Dupont Circle,
The Riggsby is the Boston-based restaurateur's second venture in DC (his
first, the popular Tico, opened just one year ago on 14th Street). While
Tico was a spinoff of Schlow's Latin-influenced restaurant in Boston's
Back Bay, The Riggsby is a totally new concept. "I wasn't sure we could
build a restaurant here," Schlow says. When he first toured The Carlyle's
restaurant space, he only saw low-ceilinged meeting rooms. There was no
obvious space to put a bar or clear way to design the dining room. But then
he realized that this intimate space felt a bit like some of the restaurants
he'd visited as a child, places that were smaller and informal. And so, he
says, "I landed with something that is a little bit lost in time. "
Schlow describes the Riggsby's menu as "a throwback to a time where the
cocktail party was how people socialized. " But it's a throwback with a
twist: While revelers of his parents' era might bring onion dip or stuffed
mushrooms to a party, the bar snacks at The Riggsby include homemade potato
chips with green onion dip, and the mushrooms are chorizo-stuffed. The
Riggsby also offers a list of classic cocktails, from the negroni to the
Harvey Wallbanger, as well as its own creations. The Mule on my Mind, a take
on the Moscow Mule, adds vodka, creme de peche, falernum, and ginger beer to
the variation. Since Schlow has a slew of other restaurants to attend to
in Boston, Los Angeles, and beyond, former J+G Steakhouse chef Philippe
Reininger is manning The Riggsby's Kitchen. Reininger and Schlow devised a
"supper" menu (entrees $19 to $38) that plays up the nostalgia that Schlow
felt about the restaurant space, but the same kind of updated throwbacks seen
in the lounge. You might get oysters mignonette, a chopped salad with house
made thousand island dressing, roasted chicken with broccoli rabe, or a
barrel-cut New York strip filet served with "super frenchy" béarnaise
sauce and fries. "It's not going to challenge you with newfangled foods
or molecular gastronomy," Schlow says. "Those are wonderful restaurants;
this is the complete opposite of that. " The Riggsby is also the complete
opposite of Tico, Schlow adds. While Tico embraces the communal dining ethos
through its menu of shareable small plates, The Riggsby is designed to feel
comfortable and lived in. "The communal part of the dining here is not
necessarily about sharing the food, but about sharing your night with each
other," Schlow says. To that end, Schlow brought in Brian Miller from
the Edit Lab at Streetsense—the design firm responsible for some of D. C.
's most stunning restaurant interiors, like Daikaya and Red Hen—to create
a dining room inspired by those of Schlow's childhood memories. Enter
through a door shaped like a keyhole, walk across the chevron wood floor, and
sit in the lounge, whose emerald walls are punctuated with a brightly
patterned custom wallpaper designed by the artist Adrienne Schlow (Michael
Schlow's spouse). Though some of these touches are nods to supper clubs
of the past, Schlow was careful to make sure they still made The Riggsby feel
like a neighborhood restaurant. "I don't want it to feel campy or kitschy
in a contrived way," he says. "I wanted it to feel like it has always
been here. " Amy McKeever is on the D. C. beat for Travel + Leisure.
You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram. More good reads from T+L:
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Stunning Lake The Riggsby, Michael Schlow's latest dining venture, is
serving comfort and nostalgia foods to Washington, D. C. 's residents.

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