Could Matchbox become the next Cheesecake Factory?

There’s no sign outside Matchbox restaurant’s test kitchen. It’s tucked away in a stretch of personality-free warehouses in Silver Spring. The compact room features everything you’d find in the full-scale kitchens of the popular D.C.-based chain best known for its pizzas and mini burgers. There’s a brick pizza oven, glass door refrigerator, deep-fryer, flattop stove, grill, range, a pair of counters and a sink. A window on the far end looks into the Matchbox man cave — well, conference room — outfitted with a small artificial-turf putting green and an impressive flat-screen TV mounted on a wall of reclaimed barn wood.

Stephen Lyons, vice president of culinary operations for Matchbox Food Group, is moving around the tight kitchen space with a quick, studied efficiency. He’s preparing a selection of new dishes for a tasting, but he has more than Washington on his mind. Matchbox Food Group is about to launch a national expansion.

Finish reading the story on The Washington Post website now.


The Ten: Best Pizzerias

So many choices, so little time. The Ten is your guide to the best of the best that D.C. has to offer.

This installment takes a look at the primo pie palaces around. Almost everyone has a strong opinion on their favorite slice, so we’re pretty sure that this list will ignite a fiery debate in the comments section over who was and wasn’t included.

2 Amys

This Cathedral Heights institution has been setting the bar for over a decade with its D.O.C. certified Neapolitans that are worth the wait.


Pizzaiolo Enzo Algarme turns out a steady stream of top-notch rounds that make a trip to Arlington feel like transatlantic journey to Naples.

Pizzeria Orso

A longtime favorite with Falls Church diners, this pizzeria continues to flourish under the steady hand of executive chef Will Artley who also turns out designer doughnuts for the weekend brunch.    


The wood fired zas at this Chinatown hot spot boast big personalities, just like chef-owner Mike Isabella. For a decadent breakfast for dinner, order the Countryman slathered with black truffle paste, dotted with pools of Fontina, and topped with a golden over-easy egg.


This friendly Neapolitan outpost in Silver Spring offers up a straightforward menu of lovingly crafted pizzas, including one dessert pie that’s sauced with Nutella and topped with strawberry slices.

Find out the rest of the top ten by clicking over to CityEats’ Plate blog now.


Chef-driven: Local toques have a taste for custom wheels

Pulling into a restaurant parking lot these days can feel like arriving at a vintage car show or a motorcycle rally. Front-and-center parking spaces often showcase eye-catching, customized rides. These wheeled wonders don’t belong to VIP diners though. They’re how the chefs got to work.

Mike Isabella drives a pimped-out purple-and-black Honda Ruckus with chrome rims, an ostrich leather seat, racing tires and Graffiato logos emblazoned on it. Former BLT Steak executive chef Victor Albisu roars around in a restored black 1971 Mercedes 280SL convertible, while Cork Market chef Kristin Hutter favors an apple-red 1970 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. Husband-wife team Kyle Bailey and Tiffany MacIsaac of Birch & Barley/ChurchKey prefer modern conveyances, so they each drive a MINI Cooper.

Motorcycles are particularly popular with toques. Cliff Wharton, executive chef at Matchbox in Chinatown, has a 2006 Harley Davidson Night Train. He hits the road regularly with a group of culinary colleagues known as Chefs on Bikes, which has included Brasserie Beck’s chef-owner Robert WiedmaierBayou Bakery’s chef-owner David GuasRogue 24’s chef-owner R.J. CooperOld Ebbitt Grill’s executive chef Robert McGowan, Passion Food Hospitality partner David Wizenberg and “whoever else wants to ride,” according to Wharton.

Finish reading this story on the Washington Post‘s All You Can Eat blog now.

Photo of Victor Albisu courtesy of Victor Albisu.


Matchbox Food Group’s Jacob Hunter Shares His Ink

“People who work in restaurants are a little off-kilter,” says Matchbox Food Group’s executive chef Jacob Hunter. “They have to be, so they can cope with the hours, deal with customers and handle the intensity of it.” To celebrate that lunatic lifestyle, Hunter likes to treat himself to food-related tattoos every other paycheck. His left forearm already hosts a set of silverware, a ramen bowl with chopsticks, a pair of sunny side up eggs, a beet and the cuts of a pig with a knife jabbed through its head. “I’ve never killed a pig,” he admits. “And I don’t know if I could actually do it.”

Finish reading this story and see all the pics on the Eater DC website now.


Eat By Numbers: Matchbox – Rockville

When you dine out, you might think about the ingredients that go into your food, but you probably don’t think about all the numbers that make your meal happen. Restaurants are filled with interesting figures that might not be apparent when you bite into an enticing entrée or take a sip of a signature cocktail, but they’re all around you.   

This week we focus on the Rockville outpost of the popular and poppin’ pizzeria Matchbox.

Matchbox – Rockville

Seats in the restaurant: 416

Pizzas sold every week: 3,000

Topping possibilities: 21

Pounds of flour used every week: 4,000

Cords of wood burned every week: 1.5

Most mini burgers eaten by one person in a single seating: 15

Get the rest of the numbers by clicking over to CityEats’ The Plate blog now.

Photo courtesy of Matchbox.


Sliced Three Ways: Matchbox Opens New Rockville Location

20110120-matchbox-250Matchbox — a retro pizza bistro — has been a hit concept with D.C. diners since 2003, when the first location debuted in Chinatown. A second followed in Barracks Row in 2008, and now a third has opened its doors out in Rockville.

This latest outpost is the biggest Matchbox yet, able to accommodate 300 people inside and another 130 on two patios. That’s a lot of hungry souls to handle by any standards. The restaurant meets this imposing challenge with grace and charm, and the dining experience never feels impersonal or mass-produced.

There’s little argument that you’re chowing down in an impressive space. When you walk in the doors, a pair of wood-fired ovens greet you and a massive open kitchen unfolds to the left. There are two full bars. The wall above the entrance is constructed fromreclaimed wood taken from two barns outside Rochester, N.Y. And an elevated VIP room — seating for up to six diners — seemingly floats above the room like a castle in the sky. Read my full review on the Express website now.


Warning! Glucose Overload: District Eateries Take on the Donut

20110106-donuts-250Whether you’re having them for breakfast or a late-night dessert, there’s something so satisfying about doughnuts that they are sometimes hard to eat because you’re grinning so widely. Now, thanks to area restaurants, smile from sunrise till sundown with fresh spins on these beloved circular treats.

One of the tastiest twists on the standard doughnut are the beignets at the Korean-Cajun fusion joint Mokomandy out in Sterling, Va. Executive chef Daniel Stevens makes the classic unique: “It’s a much cakier, yeastier flavor than you’d get from your typical Cafe du Monde-style beignet.”

Each piping-hot order comes with an ever-changing array of dipping sauces that have included pumpkin butter, dulce de leche, blackberry coulis and quince-hibiscus sauce. Stevens says the Louisiana favorite is the eatery’s best-selling dessert by far. “I see a lot of people make their ‘wow’ face after the first bite,” he says.

Find out the other best places around the District to go nuts for donuts.