Stomping Ground, a coffee shop and biscuit-themed restaurant that after more than three years in business has become the epicenter of Del Ray’s Mount Vernon Avenue, will open a second location inside of the former Isabella Eatery space in Tysons Galleria.
The Eatery, which opened almost a year ago and shut down after nine months in late August, was one of the many downfalls trailing Mike Isabella after a former employee filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the restaurateur and many of his business partners. Isabella filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September and was rumored to be stepping away from his company just last week, though he now denies that.
“Perhaps Isabella Eatery missed the mark because I became too impressed with myself and thought I [could] make anything work,” Isabella wrote in a statement. “Perhaps it was because of the way I presented our offerings at Tysons Galleria. Perhaps the space was too grand or perhaps the dining public was just not as excited as we were about a ‘restaurant emporium’ like the one we tried to provide.”
His singular failure won’t be repeated at the next iteration of the food hall.
Stomping Ground owner Nicole Jones was approached last week to fill the former space of Isabella Eatery’s Non-Fiction Coffee, and says that instead of one brand, multiple local players will occupy the 41,000-square-foot venue that opened with nine Isabella-branded concepts and 600 seats to fill.
“Restaurants are in the business of providing services to people,” says Jones. “There’s a big difference between providing a service that is an extension of yourself and maybe giving people what they want [and not a] Disneyland version of a D.C. restaurant.”
Stomping Ground Tysons, an outpost of the original, will offer high-end coffee from Falls Church’s Rare Bird Coffee Roasters and D.C.’s Lost Sock Roasters, plus nitro on tap.
Jones—who was in the news this week as the Wall Street Journal broke that Amazon executives, developers and Virginia state officials had a private meeting in her restaurant over the summer—will personally make her famed biscuits at the new mall location. For baking geeks, she starts with a drop-biscuit recipe and then laminates the ultra-sticky dough like a croissant in batches of 40. In Del Ray, she has two woman whose only job is to make biscuits from open to close. “It’s more of an art,” Jones says, and is holding a job fair on Monday to find staffers for her new location.
Most of the Tysons Galleria menu items will be carry-overs from Del Ray, like a whitefish salad, chia seed pudding, Cobb salad, harissa chicken salad, plus sandwiches in the cold case.
Jones thinks she was tapped for the next generation of the food hall for the same reasons she was selected for the Amazon meet-up: “We’re the embodiment of what they want in a … neighborhood spot: unique offerings, woman-owned, culturally diverse, all of those good soundbites.”
And after our region’s major #MeToo moment, Jones is a particularly apt choice.
“It’s just kinda funny that a queer woman is taking over the first space that you come into at the Isabella Eatery, and I’m sure it wasn’t by accident either,” says Jones.