“Neighborhood Eats” Launch
Time: Monday, 9:30 p.m.
Channel: WETA (check local listings)
For more information: Visit www.weta.org and search for “Neighborhood Eats”
Peek into WETA on Monday night at 9:30 and you’ll find a surprisingly familiar scene: Alexandria’s own Del Ray, highlighted on the small screen in the channel’s new episode of “Neighborhood Eats.”
The series — a companion to the “WETA Neighborhoods” series — takes viewers on a tour of neighborhood restaurants, highlighting interesting stories from owners, chefs, diners, and more. Along with other D.C.-area neighborhoods and eateries, this episode features three of Del Ray’s gems: Stomping Ground, Evening Star Café and Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza.
“I think there’s a tendency in the Washington area to put government first and think of the Mall and all the federal institutions, but really this is a place that people live,” said Executive Producer Glenn Baker. “We feel like communities like Del Ray have that going so clearly, and we want to show how residents live, outside of the government infrastructure.”
Each segment of the episode begins with a big-picture survey of the scene and then gets right down to brass tacks. Stomping Ground owner and lead baker Nicole Jones begins the travelogue in the predawn hours with a biscuit-making tutorial, giving viewers a tour of the ins and outs of a proper Southern breakfast (the general thesis: breakfast is sacred).
“The food obviously is fantastic. Nicole Jones is such a force, a presence in our community; people are drawn to her almost as much as the food,” said Producer Seth Tillman. “She’s brought a unique feel to the place, and it’s just packed every day of the week.”
The scene then changes to Evening Star, just down the street, and highlights a facet of the restaurant that might surprise even the most knowledgeable of Del Ray residents: The rooftop garden that spans the length of the café, growing fresh vegetables and herbs for use in the kitchen.
“You get up there, and when we filmed with the blue sky and the birds chirping, you really have this pastoral scene right in the heart of Del Ray,” Tillman said.
Chef Keith Cabot takes viewers on a tour of the garden and of the many offerings of the restaurant itself, ranging from sweet tomatoes to tasting menus to a glass of wine after work.
Finally, viewers end up at Lena’s on the far end of Del Ray, nestled at the corner of Mount Vernon Avenue and Braddock Road. Owner Jason Yates takes a tour of the restaurant and the history behind it — the pizzeria’s name is an homage to the Yates family matriarch, Lena — and discusses some of the top sellers, such as the 10-ounce meatball.
“It’s a little bit set off from the main Mount Vernon drag, but I think it’s also good because a lot of Del Ray is south of where the restaurants end on Mount Vernon, and it definitely has a really strong neighborhood feel,” Tillman said. “… The backstory with the Yates family and the connection they have to literally that corner, and opening up a restaurant that paid tribute to Jason’s mother and her Italian background and her style of cooking, was important to us.”
The second episode of “Neighborhood Eats” airs Monday at 9:30 p.m. on WETA (check local listings).
“What better way to learn about a new neighborhood than to go out, have a terrific meal there, and walk the streets? And Del Ray is the perfect destination for that,” Baker said.
Hope Nelson owns and operates the Kitchen Recessionista blog, located at www.kitchenrecessionista.com. Email her any time at email@example.com.