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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 05/20/2009

Planting a Steak in Old Town

By Tom Sietsema

The Neighborhood Restaurant Group is adding a chop house to its collection of six places to eat in Northern Virginia. By month's end, the company plans to assume the lease at Bookbinder's Old Town and rechristen the space Columbia Firehouse, in tribute to what the building housed more than a century ago, says Michael Babin, president of the group.

"D.C. is steak city," he says. Alexandria is not. "We'd like to address that."

The future restaurant will involve two dining rooms and two distinct menus. The ground floor will seat 120 diners and offer a casual American menu, while the upstairs will have space for 80 patrons and feature steaks and chops. Babin hopes that the meat for Columbia Firehouse will be supplied by Red Apron, the Neighborhood Restaurant Group's forthcoming butcher shop (which has yet to find a home).

No chef has been named to take over the kitchen, although Babin has been talking to candidates. "We're in a good position. We have a lot of talented people [already] working with us and helping with the concept."

Any worries about opening a meat market in a recession? "There's always a market for value," says the optimistic restaurateur behind Tallula, EatBar, Buzz Bakery, Evening Star Café, Vermilion and Rustico.

-- Tom Sietsema

By Tom Sietsema  | May 20, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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