Equinox is Back!

Co-owners Chef Todd and Ellen Gray and the whole Equinox crew are back! Equinox is officially open for business, as of yesterday, June 1 and are celebrating their re-opening after being closed six months due to a Kitchen Fire in December.  Today, I had the fortunate opportunity to speak to Ellen about what Washingtonians can expect with the reopening of the restaurant.

You can hear the smile in her voice as she says, “We’re the same … our bones and structure haven’t changed, but we’ve put on a fresh new bright face.  It’s like taking clean fresh white sheets right out of the dryer. People like us for who we are but we’ve put on a refreshed face.”  The new interior has become brighter and more modern. Ellen says, “All of the wood was taken out. There is a lot of new glass.”  Tim Carman of the City Paper offers a “Sneak Peek” with excellent photos of thew new inside (see above). Included in his write up Carman states, “The most important change of all: The new hood system includes a switch that, when you turn it off, it blows out the pilot light for the ovens and burners. The pilot light apparently triggered December’s fire, Ellen Gray said.”

As for the menu, Ellen says that, “Todd is a strong believer in, ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ so the menu isn’t going to change that much but we have expanded our offerings.” Ellen adds, “gone is the day of the big heavy tasting menu, so we wanted to lighten it up a bit.”

Ellen says, “American diners have moved more towards small plates–  ordering a few appetizers so we will now offer, ‘For the Table’ which will be some new dishes designed for sharing.” Another change on the menu is the option to choose which sides you want along side of your protein. You can order your fish, chicken, or steak grilled, sauteed, etc and then choose your three sides. The options for what accompanies a dish has expanded. Todd’s tasting menu called, the “Market Menu” for his legion of  followers, will still be available, with a vegetarian and regular option. “Some diners have been coming and eating here for 20 years”. Equinox opened its doors in 1999. “There are some people who come in and don’t even want to look at a menu. They just let Todd do what he does.”

Photo couresty of Equinox.com

Ellen explains,”It’s a split menu. This is our attempt to reach out to a new diner — a more market savvy diner. The menu appeals to both personalities of diners.” Chef Todd and Ellen themselves, who have been married for 15 years, are very different in their dining styles. Ellen while laughing says, “I probably drink more wine than eat food. I will have a little something followed by a cheese course in the end. Todd doesn’t eat that way.”  On a side note, Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray were married on Earth Day. The couple’s dedicated to their principle of providing sustainable and seasonal food earth’s natural rhythms began on day 1. Their restaurant’s namesake, Equinox represents its commitment to seasonal cooking using products harvested in accordance with the environment and the earth’s natural tempo.  Chef Gray is committed to his mission of sourcing locally by using community-farmed, organic ingredients grown within 100 miles of the restaurant, whenever possible.

So there are changes … but not in the heart of Equinox. Some developments to look forward to in the future: Equinox is considering a Sunday brunch and possible BBQs on the patio for the summer months. Ellen said that they are usually closed for the 4th of July; however, this year they will be open and celebrating with good food.

The outdoor patio is open and seats up to 40 people. K Street Kate listed Equinox in it’s top ten of  Top Ten most popular places to dine outdoors in DC. It was included because of it’s “fine dining with a view of the most famous of DC landmarks.”

In addition to the patio and main dining room, Equinox has three private dining spaces seating 12 to 55.

In other news, recently, Chef Gray has been tapped by the Obama administration to consult on carrying out the mission of the First Lady of the United States to put healthier food on the table at lunch time for our nations children.

They have just signed a new 10 year lease. Ellen says they plan to be there another 9 years. I am sure that I can speak for everyone when I say, “Welcome back, Equinox! You have been missed.”

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