Deli’s Plans Perk Up Students, Residents

Amid the row houses two blocks from the Georgetown University campus, at the corner of 35th and O Streets, students and neighborhood residents seem excited by news that the bright pink corner store — a local Instagram icon — will soon be transformed into Call Your Mother: A Jew-ish Deli.

With the eatery closings of late, such as America Eats Tavern on M Street, the Source at the former Newseum and Momofuku at CityCenter DC, the new bagel joint is a hopeful sign.

Co-owners Andrew Dana and Daniela Moreira — whose culinary success, romantic courtship and October marriage were featured a few months back in the Washington Post — recently won a hard-fought zoning variance from the Georgetown-Burleith advisory neighborhood commission to allow bagel toasting and takeout deli operations in the turn-of-the-century building, formerly the site of Greenworks Florist.

Reassuring neighbors that their plans for the 1,100-square-foot shop, just across the brick-paved street from a Saxbys coffee shop, won’t detract from the historic residential ambiance, they plan to offer the community “Big Vibes and Big Bagels.”

“We’ve always believed we’d be a positive addition to the neighborhood,” said Dana about the new takeout-only venture, adding that residents should not fear long lines in front of the shop. “We’re open only for breakfast and lunch. And now that we’ve added online ordering, we rarely have lines at our shops.”

According to the website DC Real Estate in Real Time, plans submitted to the Old Georgetown Board by Call Your Mother call for preserving the shop’s existing “bubble gum pink color” and “tin-pressed ceiling,” while renovating the facade, kitchen and lighting.

In 2018, Dana and Moreira opened the original Call Your Mother in D.C.’s Park View neighborhood. Bon Appetit named it one of America’s best new restaurants and Eater declared that the “humble little wood-fired bagel shop in Park View” was one of the “16 Best New Restaurants in America Today.” With such swift success, the pair opened a new location in Capitol Hill. Another is planned in Bethesda, Maryland.

So what’s on the menu? According to Dana, the Georgetown location will offer “bulk bagels, bagel sandwiches, some lunch sandwiches and coffee,” the same menu as the Capitol Hill shop. However, with chef Daniela Moreira’s Argentinian-inspired combinations, they have taken the traditional New York bagelry concept to new heights.

“There’s a za’ater-dusted bagel bursting with candied salmon schmear and piled with cucumbers, crispy shallots and peppery greens sourced from local farmers,” wrote Gabe Hiatt of Eater DC, who also praised “the city’s best latke.”

Around the GU campus, students are buzzing about Call Your Mother’s plans. The student association voted unanimously in November “in support of Call Your Mother Bagels.” Dana and Moreira also appear to be in sync with campus politics, paying all of their employees throughout the pandemic, providing generous benefits and expressing support for racial justice.

Local resident Marta Fenollosa, passing by with her baby in a stroller, was also looking forward to the shop’s opening. “I spent a lot of time in New York, so I love having bagels for breakfast,” she said. Is she concerned about Call Your Mother’s potential negative impact on the historic district? “I’m sure the neighbors were probably not very happy because they tend to be old-school and want to keep their neighborhood exactly as it was 100 years ago,” she commented, “but I think you need to move on and adjust to the needs of the society.”

Across the street at Saxbys, the assistant manager (who asked to remain anonymous) expressed support for Call Your Mother’s arrival. “We’re excited for them to be here in the community and would love people to come and support them, as well as Saxbys. It will help our business, too, because more college students will want to see what’s going on down along O Street.” Another point: “It will be good for employing kids who want to work there.”

Call Your Mother will be ready to open as soon as the District Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs gives the final thumbs-up, according to Dana. “We’re just some friendly folks selling bagels and coffee out of a pink corner building,” he said. “Our only goal is to make people happy.”

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