We sat down with partner Jeremy Carman of Long Shot Hospitality—the team behind The Salt Line—to dig into why they chose Navy Yard, what makes them tick, what it’s like to have a Washington Nationals player as an investor, and their fast rise to the top echelons of DC dining.
First, what makes the location of The Salt Line so special? What is your first impression of the Navy Yard neighborhood?
We’ve all been in DC for a long time, and even five to 10 years ago, the idea of opening a waterfront restaurant on the Anacostia [River] would have met serious skepticism. Even when we first started kicking the tires on the project in late 2014, we weren’t sure if the neighborhood could sustain beyond gameday business. It’s been an incredible experience to be a part of the growth of the neighborhood and to see the waterfront emerge as a great amenity for both the neighborhood and residents from all over the city. The neighborhood is so much more than just Nationals Park, and anyone who spends time down here immediately realizes why so many people are flocking to this neighborhood.
The Long Shot Hospitality team has varied backgrounds. How did you come together? Why does it seem to work so well?
The team has come together over the course of 12 years, with Paul Holder and myself first partnering in 2005, and as we’ve grown we’ve also evolved as restaurateurs. As we grow and encounter different life experiences, it shapes the type of restaurants we want to own and operate. The places we wanted to own when we were in our late 20s are different than what we want to operate now (or were capable of doing 10 years ago). Our different experiences really complement each other, and while we all have opinions, we respect each other’s lanes and the insights we can each bring on different areas of operations.
What has it been like to partner with Heather and Ryan Zimmerman on the project?
The Zimmermans have been great friends and investors. We have known each other for quite a while at this point and it’s been fun to have them involved. They both love the restaurant community in the DC area, and are really into food and beverage. They have both been great advocates for the restaurant, and we think that we’ve put forth a restaurant they (and all the other investors) can be proud of.
How often do Nationals players and their families make it over to the restaurant?
We see the families regularly throughout the season, and occasionally the players, depending on off-days and pitching schedules. We hosted the team for a private celebration the night they clinched the NL [National League] East.
What are you looking forward to most after opening in Navy Yard?
We’re looking forward to catching our breath in the off-season and really just being a neighborhood restaurant for all our great neighbors. There’s a lot more we can do creatively during the winter season without all the crowds that swell on game days, and I think our neighbors will be excited to see some of our upcoming fall/winter menu offerings.
Which purveyors do you regularly work with?
Well, we have great relationships with a lot of local purveyors, but one that stands out is our partnership with Old Line Fish Co. Once or twice a week, the team at Old Line brings us the catch of local watermen without us really knowing what’s coming. Rather than asking them to go out and bring us something specific, they bring us their day’s catch and we work it into our program: rockfish, eels, soft shells, perch, monkfish, soft shell clams, etc. This is a model that Chef Kyle Bailey really loves as it’s supply driven instead of demand. It also keeps the kitchen team on their toes!
Can you speak more about the restaurant’s commitment to sustainability and any partnerships you may have?
We have partnered with Dock-to-Dish to be the founding restaurant in the DC area. The program first launched in New York, and has now also spread to LA and Vancouver, and includes other partners like Dan Barber and Michael Cimarusti. The program embodies a CSA [community supported agriculture] type model championed by farms in which we try to encourage local fisherman to source us their day’s catch. It cuts out touches and middlemen, offers a fisherman a better wage, and helps us truly know where our fish is coming from.
How was it receiving three out of four stars from Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post?
It was an incredible honor. There was a lot of planning and time that went into this restaurant from inception, and we spent over two years trying to bring it to life. To see it all come to fruition, and to then be received enthusiastically by our guests, and to be recognized with three stars by Mr. Sietsema, is certainly the high point of our careers thus far. Beyond all that, though, my favorite part of the review process was seeing how happy the entire team was when they saw it. Everyone here worked so hard those first several months, and to be rewarded with a positive review really tied all that hard work together.
Finally, for someone visiting for the first time, what is the dish they cannot miss?
The Johnny Cake is the sleeper dish on the menu. It’s a cornmeal pancake that is cooked in cast iron, which makes it crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. It’s topped with smoked whitefish salad, honey butter, and marinated salmon roe. The perfect combination of crispy, salty, savory, and sweet.