Matchbox, the "vintage pizza bistro" known to Washingtonians for popular locations in Chinatown and on Capitol Hill, opened its fourth and largest location in Rockville's Congressional Plaza last week.
What's different about this Matchbox? The size and the seating capacity. The newly built space has more than 13,000 square feet and includes a mezzanine and two patios that together can seat more than 400 customers.
At the pizza bar, diners can watch their pies being made in one of two wood-fired masonry ovens that heat to more than 800 degrees. That temperature, the restaurant group says, is the secret to the crispy smoky crust. They also have a floor-to-ceiling wood-burning fireplace, a first for Matchbox.
The extensive menu has something for everyone, from the famous pizzas (pick from 16 different kinds or choose your own toppings), to mini-burgers — also known as sliders — topped with a mountain of crispy fried onions.
Hearty entrees include braised beef ribs over garlic mashed potatoes with bacon gorgonzola brussels sprouts and a red wine reduction; pork tenderloin with roasted red potatoes, spinach, shrimp and spicy Creole sauce; and crispy seared salmon with cheddar grits, bacon-wrapped green beans and Tabasco herb butter.
Desserts include house-made doughnuts served with an espresso Kahlua cream, fresh fruit pizza with a balsamic reduction and molten chocolate cake. The specialty cocktails feature "girlie" and "manly" martinis. There is something for every budget and appetite.
Matchbox will be the fifth restaurant to occupy the Congressional Plaza pad site in the past 15 years. Asked if they were nervous about the turnover, Ty Neal, a principal partner, joked: "No. We had a demon release party."
In a sense they did. The group tore down the PGA Tour Grill building in 2008 to build their latest Matchbox. A large pine tree on the property was cut down and its wood recycled as a bar top.
Ralph Ours, a senior leasing associate with Federal Realty Investment Trust, which owns the shopping center, said he is very happy to have Matchbox in the space. "There was no go-to restaurant in the area after Houston's closed down," he said. "I think Matchbox will be that restaurant. It is appealing to everyone and has an interesting bar scene."
Perry Smith, one of the principle owners and a native to the area, said: "We felt that Rockville is a great place to be and it is also underserved. When the opportunity arose to be part of such an amazing community we couldn't pass it up."
The Matchbox Food Group owners designed their latest restaurant with lots of windows on the back and sides. From inside, the rest of the plaza can be seen, but the front is shielded from the noise and bustle of Rockville Pike. The restaurant is designed to appeal to a variety of customers, from families shopping with young children who want to enjoy a pleasant lunch in nice surroundings, to singles and couples looking for after-work cocktails and dinner, to groups looking to rent a private space for a special event.
The Matchbox Food Group also operates Ted's Bulletin and DC-3, both on Capitol Hill. In addition to the original Matchbox location in Chinatown and the Capitol Hill location, Matchbox has a location in Palm Springs, CA and the group is looking to expand to Virginia.
Matchbox Rockville is now open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week for lunch and dinner and will offer brunch on weekends. Happy hour specials are planned, and a New Year's Eve event promises a festive experience.
For reservations call 301-816-0369. Walk-ins are welcome.
|A Timeline of Congressional Plaza Restaurants|
|PGA Tour Grill||2006||2008|
|*Hot Shoppes was part of Congressional Plaza when Federal Realty purchased the shopping center in 1965. Its opening date is unknown.|
|Source: Federal Realty Investment Trust|