FAIRFAX: The Black Squirrel Restaurant is Headed to Virginia! 2nd Location Opens Next Week

As the Black Squirrel Restaurant readies to open next week at the Dunn Loring Metro station in Vienna, executive chef Thomas Crenshaw is having an existential crisis with the ubiquitous farm-to-table movement in the industry.

The farm-to-table catch phrase is one of the obligatory pitches of the moment, no different from "sustainable" or "local,'' however an operator may define it all down, notably with a Sysco truck pulling up to the back door of a newly opened restaurant and unloading produce from far and wide.

The 49-year-old Crenshaw is seeking to re-define this well-mined artifice by deploying genuine farm products from the Shenandoah Valley and West Virginia Panhandle, with the names of the farms and relevant information touted on chalkboards. No ruses. No public relations hooks. No hiking along the Appalachian Trail to find the best wild mushroom ever. Just "honest" food.

Crenshaw, who was reared on a farm in Rock Falls, Ill., promises not to dispense a Whole Foods-style, quality-of-life history of Betsy the Hen, if she receives a daily massage from the masseuse who is on call 24/7. Or if the hen house comes with an HVAC unit. He does promise to deliver the best possible ingredients to his recipes: fresh and local, as long as those products are available until the winter.
"There's a certain romanticism associated with farm life nowadays, especially among urban millennial's, who maybe are a generation or two removed from the land," Crenshaw says. "I can tell you there's nothing like the taste of a vine-ripened tomato, as opposed to one that was picked while green and shipped to our area from California. I want to give you the vine-ripened experience at the Black Squirrel."
Crenshaw certainly has the background to implement his program following stints at Boss Shepherds, the Capital Restaurant Concepts group and Interstate Hotels and Resorts. His is a background that ranges from fine dining to upscale casual. His is a background begging to be championed in the suburbs.
"I didn't leave the city to reinvent the dining concept," Crenshaw says. "If anything, I am a few miles closer to the products that I want to employ with our patrons."
The pilgrimage from the city to the suburbs is a prevailing theme of the restaurant, it being a craft-beer pioneer in the Adams Morgan neighborhood starting in 2007, well before the microbrewery explosion in America.

Amy Bowman, the proprietor, recalls the more innocent time.

"When I decided to go with craft beer back then, I definitely remember sensing how odd it was to folks," she says. "People would come into the place and say, 'What do you mean you do not have Miller Lite on tap?' At the time, you had Brickskeller and their sister place in China Town selling craft beer, and that was about it in the city. It sounds crazy to say this now, but it took a long while for people to catch on to craft beer."
Ten years removed, the Black Squirrel is hoping to catch on in Vienna, with a food/beverage program that defers to no one.

As to the Adams Morgan location, I spoke to Amy who say's, emphatically " We're not leaving Admo. Our manager Lorin Mones will run that location. I'm planning on another 10 years in Adams Morgan! Long live the Squirrel!"

The Black Squirrel Dunn Loring
2670 Avenir Place, Vienna, VA 22180

The Black Squirrel Adams Morgan
2427 18th Street NW