Old Town’s Torpedo Factory is known for helping artists grow and develop —
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and sell — their craft. But beginning late last month, there’s another kind of incubator on the scene within the factory walls. EatsPlace, which bills itself as a “pop-uppery” and restaurant incubator, has made itself right at home with a café for breakfast, lunch, or an early dinner.
“EatsPlace is all about building community and having events and happenings all around food, because food I really believe is a catalyst for other things — for getting people together,” said founder Katy Chang. “… When people get together and community forms, and neighbors start talking to each other … amazing things happen.”
EatsPlace’s flagship space is situated in the Washington neighborhood of Petworth, and it’s there that the groundwork was laid for a more formalized café in Alexandria. The original location remains a space where new or visiting chefs can develop a presence — and a fanbase. In fact, foodies with deeper pockets can even elect to invest in up-and-coming chefs, Chang says.
“If you are really into the food scene, you can basically invest in an up and coming chef or an established chef from out of town,” Chang said. “… When they go to their own brick-and-mortar space, you can follow them to that.”
The EatsPlace Café concept in Alexandria is a bit different from the Petworth studio, Chang says. For one, the menu will remain more consistent, shifting primarily with the season rather than more frequently with individual chefs.
“This concept is more self-contained … it’s a café/marketplace. Since we are open in the daytime and have longer hours, we can have a whole retail section where we promote local foods from Virginia, of course, but Maryland and D.C. as well.”
Among some of the top retail selections: Virginia peanuts, naturally, as well as mushrooms from Good Sense Farm.
But the star of the café is, of course, the fresh foods available on the daily menu. Among the highlights: Three different variations on a grilled-cheese sandwich, including a kimchi grilled cheese, which is the most popular version, Chang says. Ingredients are sourced from local farmers, and along with the standard menu fare, there will be some signature dishes here and there.
“As far as the collaboration with our chefs, they’ll do a signature sandwich, but we’re going to try to keep the menu somewhat consistent,” she said, adding: “Which is not to say we won’t do a fondue night or something.”
Also on the upcoming docket: Demonstrations and classes, Chang says, including child-friendly classes. She’s finalizing the spring schedule now but hinted at the potential for a kimchi how-to demo or — for the adults — a beer-brewing class. Even when attendees don’t try again at home, Chang says, the demos help people “appreciate the craftsmanship” behind each technique.
Just a couple of weeks in, Chang has been pleased by the neighbors’ response.
“People have been so kind,” she said. “I always thank people for coming to visit us, but they thank us for opening!”
EatsPlace Café, 105 N. Union St. Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday-Sunday; 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Thursday. Closed Tuesday. Menu overview: “It’s a café menu so it has hot and cold sandwiches — hot sandwiches are grilled on the Panini press,” said founder Katy Chang.