Ever stepped into Duke’s Grocery for some truffle mac n’ cheese and an Old Fashioned?
If yes, or if no, but you happen to be a human who enjoys delicious food, it’s time you get to know the man behind it all.
This week, we were lucky enough to score an interview with the managing partner of Duke’s Grocery, Duke’s Counter, and the upcoming DC Korean BBQ joint. Get to know this Jewish restaurant owner extraordinaire – Daniel Kramer!
Daniel: I came to do the politics thing in late 2008. Frankly, I did not enjoy the same success in that field as I had in other cities but I liked DC so I figured out something else to do.
Allie: What’s the biggest difference between living in DC and LA?
Daniel: Logistically, weather and size. Culturally, almost everything.
Allie: How did you decide to open up Duke’s Grocery?
Daniel: We just rolled up our sleeves and went to work with not too much more than an idea and a willingness to learn. The idea came from prior trips to East London but the menu is influenced by all the places we’ve been, so there is constant evolution.
Allie: Who would you be most excited to see dining in one of your restaurants?
Daniel: When our guests bring in their families, that is the biggest honor for us.
Allie: Does Duke’s have any special plans for the Jewish high holidays?
Daniel: Nope. Open for business as usual, though I will be at services.
Allie: I hear you are opening a Korean BBQ joint! How did that idea come about?
Daniel: It’s a delicious, fun style of cuisine and there are a ton of exciting flavors. Growing up in L.A., it’s everywhere and I could no longer understand why we don’t have it here. So I decided to change that.
Allie: What is the hardest part of being a restaurant owner? What’s the best part?
Daniel: The hardest part is the constancy. There is no let up. But I take great satisfaction in knowing we are creating and sustaining jobs for our employees while serving hearty meals and stiff drinks to our guests.
Allie: If someone goes to Duke’s Grocery or Duke’s Counter only one time, what should they order?
Daniel: The easy answer is the Proper Burger, but this question assumes they will only visit once – and I’m not ready to concede that.
Allie: What are you most looking forward to this coming year?
Daniel: The opening of the third Duke’s location (at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave NW in Foggy Bottom) and the opening of the Korean BBQ (at 8th & Florida in Shaw).
Allie: What is your dream day in DC from start to finish (if you have absolutely nothing scheduled and perfect weather)?
Daniel: Wake up with no alarm. Turn phone off. Make a smoothie and some breakfast. Take a jog and hit the gym for some weights. Steam, shower. Cruise over to the Phillips Collection and chill. Grab lunch at Sushi Taro. Pick tomatoes at my garden plot. Read a good book under a tree with a light breeze. Go to the farmers market for dinner ingredients. Open a good bottle of wine. Make dinner for friends on the rooftop. Be grateful for a care-free day. Go to sleep. Then repeat.
Allie: What’s your favorite way to relax at the end of a long work week?
Daniel: Heading to the airport with my passport in hand.
Allie: When are you the happiest?
Daniel: Exploring a new culture and learning about its people, cuisine and customs.
Allie: Who is your role model?
Daniel: My grandfather, Ernest Hagler. He recently passed just 3 weeks shy of 97. He was a total mensch and extremely humble.
Allie: What is one piece of wisdom or a quote that inspires you?
Daniel: “There was a beautiful miracle this morning but you may have missed it: the sun came up.” – Abraham Joshua Heschel
Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…
Daniel: …good things usually happen.