The Line DC hotel plans to open a new restaurant in late June that will serve as the lone replacement for the four different eating and drinking options that generated buzz around the converted church in Adams Morgan when it opened more than three years ago.
Sydell Group, the parent company for the Line hotels in D.C., Los Angeles, and Austin, named the incoming restaurant No Goodbyes, a nod to a good-luck policy adopted by Atlantic sailors in the 1800s. The all-day venue with a wood-burning grill will have a frequently changing menu full of dishes drawing from the Chesapeake Bay.
The stated focus on Mid-Atlantic ingredients, as well as the chef the company hired to source them, invites comparisons to A Rake’s Progress, the pricey second-story operation where former employees accused restaurateur Spike Gjerde’s company of fostering a toxic workplace. That restaurant permanently closed in June 2020. Patrick “Opie” Crooks, the former executive chef at A Rake’s Progress, is already back at the hotel developing the new project after a stint working for Jeremiah Langhorne at Michelin-starred Mid-Atlantic spot the Dabney.
Gabriel Ratner, Sydell’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, insists No Goodbyes will be different from A Rake’s Progress across the board. That includes implementing new diversity and inclusion training, giving the new restaurant a prime spot on the hotel’s main floor, and setting prices intended to sit below special-occasion status.
“I think in Rake’s we go so hyper-focused on the ethos of being local, that if someone wanted a Jack and Coke, they couldn’t get one, and that’s not what we’re saying here at all,” Ratner says.
At No Goodbyes, Crooks and his crew will frequently change a menu that relies on his relationships with Mid-Atlantic farmers and fishermen. Carrot cake oatmeal and buttermilk biscuit sandwiches will be available for breakfast. The hotel restaurant, currently operating without a name, is already letting customers try out dishes like homemade potato chips with crab spice, a ramp spaghetti, bacon steak in spicy sorghum, and fried soft shell crabs with Johnny cakes and smoked barbecue sauce. Crooks says customers can expect to order wood-roasted oysters and “city ham,” a wet-brined, hot-smoked alternative to cured country ham.
Upon closing A Rake’s Progress, Gjerde, who won a James Beard award and showcased a fanatical approach to local sourcing at Baltimore’s Woodberry Kitchen, cited the difficulty of operating a restaurant during the pandemic. Gjerde’s group also ran The Cup We All Race 4, a coffee bar at the front of the hotel. Erik Bruner-Yang, the high-profile D.C. chef who brought inventive Asian-American cooking to the Line with lobby-level bar and restaurant Brothers & Sisters and standing room-only Spoken English, split with Sydell Group in January. He was also responsible for Cafe Spoken, a takeout-centric pivot serving Western-influenced Japanese comfort food.
“We basically had three different leaders,” Ratner says. “You had the hotel, Erik, and Spike.”
No Goodbyes will take over the Brothers & Sisters space on the main floor of the hotel. The cafe counter that housed The Cup We All Race 4 will serve as an ordering station during breakfast and lunch hours, with food runners delivering plates to customers. Sit-down service will begin at night. The upstairs space where A Rake’s Progress sat will be reserved for wedding receptions and other events. The Line also moved its check-in counter to a lower level so it wouldn’t sit on the edge of the dining room floor.
Ratner tells Eater that consolidating the hotel’s restaurants will mean a clear leadership structure with one human resources department. Following a Washington City Paper investigation in which multiple employees of color said they felt management had repeatedly exploited and insulted them, Ratner says the Line DC hired Ashtin Berry of Radical Xchange to conduct diversity and inclusion training. Ratner says the hotel has incorporated diversity education into its new hire orientation and ongoing leadership training. He also credits recently installed general manager Sophie Penichet with overseeing a work culture that emphasizes accountability among management at the hotel.
“I think we would always say with Sydell that we celebrate diversity. I think the wake-up call for us was that we not only need to continue to celebrate it, we really need to continue to educate and have a more open dialogue,” Ratner says.
City Paper’s reporting detailed incidents of Crooks yelling at employees and, in one case, allegedly refusing to believe a white sous chef used a racial epithet to refer to a Black colleague. Ratner asserts Crooks “has always been beloved at the hotel,” and management viewed him as someone at A Rake’s Progress that was “really holding everything together.”
“I will tell you, obviously, we’ve had many conversations with Opie, and clearly we were comfortable enough,” Ratner says. “We really stand by him.”
Crooks declined to discuss specific allegations with Eater but says he does have regrets.
“After a ton of self-reflection and a ton of thinking about how that restaurant worked and the things that happened, I just don’t think that I personally did enough to influence the culture of the restaurant,” Crooks says.
As the lead chef at No Goodbyes, Crooks will have his first opportunity to bring his own restaurant vision to life. The Nashville native, who worked his way up to chef-partner at locations of Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine before spending more than seven years at Gjerde’s Foodshed group, says he’s always aimed to build diverse staffs. Ria Paz, who he describes as his “right-hand sous chef,” is back from A Rake’s Progress. Alicia Wang, the Rake’s pastry chef who created a croissant-pretzel “cretzel” for the cafe, is now the executive pastry chef for the hotel.
“Making people feel comfortable and happy and safe to come to work everyday is more important than anything we can do with food,” Crooks says. “It’s about showing up and being there for a people and treating people the right way and creating opportunities for people.”