The Future of Food is Bright at Mess Hall’s New Kitchens on the Block 4.0

Mess Hall‘s annual launch pad for what will inevitably be DC’s hottest (read: hardest to get a table in) restaurants returns this weekend for a whirlwind of food and drink with the tastemakers of the future at New Kitchens on the Block 4.0. Some of this edition’s participants are branching off from other stalwarts in the DC restaurant world, while others make their inaugural ventures onto the scene.

Reid Shilling (formerly of the Blagden Alley contemporary American heavy hitter The Dabney) is debuting his family inspired fare with Shilling Canning Company before it hits his Capital Riverfront solo venture next year.

The eponymous restaurant harkens back to Shilling and company’s roots in the DC and Maryland areas. The Baltimore native’s roots are so engrained in the area that he even tells us  there’s evidence to suggest that his family may have been part of the original colonists in the area, so keeping the integrity of a true Mid-Atlantic style menu was a natural fit.

“We are going to use [my heritage] as the backbone for the restaurant. I am huge on quality of ingredients and how doing things the right way, isn’t necessarily the easy way, both in the fields, on the water and in the kitchen. We will source impeccably starting with the bounty of the Chesapeake Region from local farmers, watermen and producers. The goal is to find the best ingredients to put the highest quality product on the plate.”

Don’t expect your basic crab cakes, though. Shilling notes the spot will draw influence from French and Californian styles as well because of its malleable nature. Incorporations of Shilling’s curated ingredients, both fresh and canned (obviously) will be the true star here.

“You can take skills and approaches from other areas and apply them to the cuisine of the Mid-Atlantic. California is the epicenter of our country for ingredient driven cuisine,  that is the approach of sourcing the best ingredients and then writing a menu based on those ingredients, rather than writing a menu and sourcing the ingredients.”

NKOTB attendees who swing by Shilling’s booth can expect incredibly flavorful, farmer’s market fresh finds nestled into the restaurant’s dishes.

“The idea will be to get the most flavor in the 3 or 4 bites for the guest that they will say ‘wow, I can’t wait till they open.'”

Another featured location already got its feet wet as one of the food pop ups in Shop Made in DC, and Chop Shop Taco will once again be giving locals a taste of what’s to come at NKOTB this weekend. But this isn’t another one of those a la carte taco shops that have been spontaneously generating around the area over the past few years. Owner Ed McIntosh says that tacos are only a fraction of what this repurposed Alexandria car repair shop will offer upon opening this summer.

“We pay homage to Mexican flavors and cooking methods, but we are so much more.  The menu and ambiance is built to provide a different experience each time you walk through the door,” he assures. “Guests can have a casual, quick lunch by picking from our vertical spit at the order counter or engage in an interactive dinner in our dining room by choosing one of our share plates.”

True to his word, McIntosh tells us of a delicious offering that will be featured for NKOTB-goers: a brisket torta, served in the style of a French dip with chile and tomato fortified a jus sauce.

Other participants in this season’s stacked lineup include: Call Your Mother from the team behind Timber Pizza, The Imperial from the team behind Jack Rose Dining Saloon, Mama Chang from Peter Chang (Q by Peter Chang),  Amparo Fondita from Christian Irabien, Agni Restaurant and Bar from Srividhya Ganesan, Three Blacksmiths from John MacPherson of the Foster Harris House, Chop Shop Taco from Ed McIntosh of Tortilladora, Bandoola Bowl from the team behind Mandalay, Cielo Rojo from David Perez, and Pappe from Vipul Kapila, Sanjay Mandhaiya and Shankar Puthran.

Mess Hall is located at 703 Edgewood Street NE, DC; Tickets, both VIP and regular admission, are available here for two different time slots.