The new Thai / Southeast Asian restaurant by Food Network Star chef Alex McCoy and his partners Marc Dosik and Hunter Campbell, is ready to go. They had a soft launch party Saturday night, and the food and the drink, unsurprisingly, are great. It’s just not on Upshur Street, not yet anyway.
I stopped by Alfie’s early in the day to talk with Hunter Campbell and Alex McCoy about the upcoming opening, and their plans for the Mothership and Upshur locations.
The problem is that the China American Inn location on Upshur Street that they originally picked turned out to need a lot more work than they realized, according to Hunter Campbell. It’s going to be a complete build-out from scratch. But the Alfie’s concept was ready, what to do? The solution was to take a temporary lease in the old Mothership restaurant location (3301 Georgia Ave).
Hunter said they like the Park View location and the growth in the area, but along with co-owners Dosik and McCoy, they’re very focused on Upshur Street.
They’ll make a decision on whether to move Alfie’s or open a new concept up to Upshur Street once they get an idea of how Alfie’s will perform.
“We’re looking at our options,” Hunter told me. “The location on Upshur is great, it’s just that the building isn’t. We’re definitely going to do something. We want to do it right for both us and the neighborhood,” he said.
Taking over Mothership required some elbow grease to get it ready. “This space is great, it just needed some work to clean up. A lot of cleaning and some painting,” Hunter said with a laugh. “Alex and I have spent a lot of time here cleaning.”
Their efforts at Mothership paid off, as the space feels like it was designed just for them. From the large bar with metal barstools to the rough-hewn looking tables, the intricately painted bathrooms, the dark walls and bright, open windows, Alfie’s looks like a spot you might stumble across in a far-off place and fall in love.
Chef Alex McCoy was busy prepping for the evening, so we didn't have too much time to talk during the afternoon (the blizzard really impacted their ability to get the fresh food Alex wants, so he spent a good part of the day running all over the city). He said that they're all excited about the opening and giving the neighborhood a local place to come hang out, meet new people and enjoy some great food.
Beverage Director Fabian Malone has spent a lot of time crafting the beer and cocktail menu. Everything is designed to have a Southeast Asian feel, from the beers to the handmade syrups for the really delicious cocktails. “We have seven cocktails on the menu right now, all are made to order from syrups made in-house,” Malone said. “We’re not using pre-made. Like our food, everything is made here.”
I watched Malone make his own conception of a Thai Spice syrup for a Tiger beer shandy: ginger, cardamon, lemon grass, cilantro root and lemon juice. When a guest orders the shandy (it’s called “Catch a Tiger’s Tail”), Malone serves it in a large glass of ice, then lemon juice, then syrup then half the beer on top. The mixture will knock your socks off.
“When you finish, you think wow, that was great! Then you remember you still have half a beer left!” Malone said with a grin. “It’s a great drink.”
Malone then let me taste the grenadine he had just finished and was still simmering on the stove, made with pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses, sugar, orange blossom water and citrus zest. I was hesitant to taste just grenadine (isn’t it just a flavoring and color?), let alone a warm one, but to be polite I sipped it from the small glass... it was good.
So good, that when I came back later that night for the soft launch party, the first drink I ordered was the one that included the homemade grenadine, called “YOU MY BOY BOON!” (which, according to Fabian, you have to order by yelling it at him across the bar - it's the only drink in all caps on the drink menu).
It’s a combo of New Amsterdam gin, Benedictine, Rothmans & Winter cherry, pineapple, lime, grenadine and Angostura bitters, and garnished with a pineapple wedge. According to Pablo Sierra, owner of the new Walls of Books bookstore on Georgia Avenue, who I found happily sitting at the bar, the drink deserves a beach or at least 90 degree weather and a bandana, but even in January it was well-timed. (I also walked around saying “You my boy boon!” to random people for the rest of the night, so, be careful of that happening to you, too.)
Alas, while I couldn’t stay for dinner (I have a dinner date at Alfie’s coming up next week with the most beautiful woman in Petworth), Alex insisted I try something before leaving. (I did go to a pop-up dinner he put on back in November, and that food was delicious.)
He gave me a small bowl of the Khao Soi, beef rib cooked in a curry noodle soup. It had just the right kick of spice and heat, the meat fell apart with a spoon and the broth was bowl-licking delicious, even as it made my tongue spark and pop with chili pepper. (I think I made those happy noises people make when they forget they’re eating in public, which prompted Alex to smile and say, "It's good, right?") It is good.
When we spoke earlier in the day about the menu, Fabian Malone laughed when talking about the spice of the foods and the flavor of the drinks, "We only cook for the strong!" he said. Then he looked at me with a grin and said, a bit sheepishly, "Everyone is strong in some way or another."
Whether Alfie’s stays at the 3301 Georgia Ave or heads up the street to Upshur, I think it’s going to do very well. Great atmosphere, great drinks and great food is the correct equation for a restaurant’s success. Either way, I can’t wait to see what they plan to do on Upshur, and I can't wait for my upcoming reservation.
3301 Georgia Avenue NW
Open 5pm-12:30 (1:30 weekends)
Opens Tuesday, February 2nd.