From the narrow, intimate feel of Lola’s Barracks Row to the soon-to-come revamped Hawk ‘n’ Dove, Xavier Cervera’s establishments have become temptingly unavoidable on the Hill. Although many have mocked the seemingly extensive use of wood
milwork, it’s undeniable that his places are comfortable and offer great food, stiff drinks, and great Happy Hour specials. But I was curious to know a little more about the man (and his very cool dog, Henry, a black King Shepherd) behind so many of the Hill’s establishments — currently four, but soon to come to ten. Here are five or so questions Xavier answered for me:
Are you a native Washingtonian? What made you choose Capitol Hill as a place not just to hold business ventures but also to live and mingle with those you do business with?
“Yes, I am a Washingtonian. I grew up here but left at a young age. While living in other parts of the country I would always visit home as I still have family here. I moved back home about five years ago. I moved to Capitol Hill because I love the familial feel of it, the large amounts of green space and it’s a great place to spend time with my dog Henry. [It’s] close to the cemetery, Lincoln Park and Washington Marina where Henry and I can quickly jump on the boat and beach it on Roosevelt Island where we enjoy a great walk or run while catching glimpses of Blue Heron, Deer and Bald Eagles.”
Do you do anything special to unwind and get away from the Hill?
“To unwind I like to head out to Middleburg where I horseback ride. I also enjoy my motorcycle, boating and of course going to Caps, Nationals and Redskins games!”
What drew you to being a restaurateur?
“I have been involved in the service industry since I was kid and have always enjoyed it. It’s a challenge that gets in your blood and for some its hard to think of doing anything else. Having a great staff has helped immensely. It frees me up to look for new locations and spend my time on both the concept and design for each new venue.”
I see you have harnessed the power of social media lately, especially on Twitter and Foursquare. Does using social media bring in more customers, or does it satisfy a small niche in the population?
“We are just now hopping on the social media bandwagon and it appears to be an avenue that my staff loves to get involved with. I try to build my venues with the neighborhood first and foremost in mind. But the addition of contemporary media has added a level of excitement that not only helps business but it seems to create a lot of fun for staff and that’s always a good thing.”
I could not resist asking Xavier about his upcoming restaurants: Boxcar, which will open in December, next door to Tunnicliffs; Willy’s Brew and Que, near Nationals Park and opening in the spring of 2012; the new-and-improved Hawk ‘n’ Dove; Pacifico, a Latin-themed eatery occupying the space left behind by the old video rental place next door to Belga Cafe, and which will tout the largest outdoor dining area on the Hill when it opens in February, 2012.
Will they have mahogany
He finds it thoroughly amusing that his naysayers are so fond of bringing up the wood
milwork that many of his restaurants share. “For the record, only Lola’s is actually done in mahogany,” he adds. The buildings closer to the ballpark will have a more industrial feel, fitting with the character of the area. And his newest project to be completed at Canal Park, the Park Tavern — on M Street SE, across the street from the Department of Transportation — will be the first LEED-certified green restaurant in DC. It will also have a skating rink in winter and water fixtures in summer, to match the water theme already set by the nearby Yards park. It will also have a projecting cube made of giant sails that will broadcast different art pieces as a canvas, and which will be curated. It sounds impressive and a little complex.
And it will have no mahogany.