Supra will be Washington, DC’s first Georgian restaurant. Opening in October, Supra is already one of America’s most-anticipated new restaurants according to the national edition of Eater.com. The DC food press is thrilled as well, as Supra has been featured by the Washingtonian, Eater DC, the Popville.com, and more. We’ve been working on this for three years, so we’re excited too!
Our menu will celebrate the full range of Georgian food – the rustic and the refined, dishes both traditional and reimagined – brought to the table by Chef Malkhaz Maisashvili, former Chef at the Georgian Embassy. Our drinks program will focus on Georgian wines – red, white, sparkling, and traditional amber – and creative cocktails featuring Georgia’s unique spirit “chacha” as well as notes from the food and wine.
Like the country itself, Supra will balance the old and the new, drawing inspiration from centuries of history while looking boldly to the future. The décor will take the same approach: traditional elements worked into modern pieces, combining the historical and the hip into a beautiful space we can’t wait to show off!
Georgian celebrations center around a “supra,” meaning “feast” or a “celebratory table.” (The word originally meant “tablecloth,” so you will see traditional Georgian “supra” tablecloths incorporated into many of our design elements.) And there can’t be a supra without great food!
Small plates will include vegetable paté-like “pkhali” of spinach, beets, or green beans, house-made fresh cheese with mint, house-made “kupati” sausages, quail with blackberry sauce, a variety of “khinkali” soup dumplings, and much more. Walnuts find their way into everything from soups, to entrees, to desserts and even drinks, and fresh herbs, yogurt, and some unusual spices (dried marigold petals, blue fenugreek, and others) create a flavor palate that is at once unique and accessible.
Complementing the small plates will be a large variety of khachapuri and kebabs – Georgian mainstays – along with larger entrees meant to be shared, such as the buttery and garlicky chicken “chkmeruli,” the rich lamb and vegetable “chanakhi,” and river trout with pomegranate syrup.
Combining some local elements into his encyclopedic knowledge of Georgian food, Chef Malkhaz is also giving us soup “kharcho” with bison (in place of the traditional beef or water buffalo) and the herbed and brothy “chakapuli” with mussels instead of meat. No matter how traditional the dish, we will look first to local producers and organic farmers out of respect both for Georgian culinary philosophy and our guests’ well-being.
Executive Chef Malkhaz Maisashvili
Malkhaz has over 25 years of experience preparing Georgian food. But that’s not all! He also has worked, with a Georgian partner, in New York at a gluten-free Italian restaurant in the West Village. A few years back, Malkhaz traveled throughout Georgia, on a grant from the Georgian government, discovering old and nearly forgotten recipes and bringing them into the modern kitchen. Malkhaz will bring that comprehensive knowledge of Georgia’s culinary history – khachapuri and kebabs, Yes, but so much more – to Supra. He is even working on what may be the world’s first gluten-free khachapuri. (Still in development. Stay tuned for that one!)
Chef/Operations Manager Lonnie Zoeller
Lonnie brings 20 years of experience in DC’s leading kitchens. An alum of the Culinary Institute of America and Think Food Group (former Sous Chef at Zaytinya), Lonnie also was the opening Executive Chef at Vinoteca, Proof, and Policy. Lonnie is thus the perfect complement to Chef Malkhaz, working to make sure Malkhaz’s vision gets translated effectively into the DC restaurant scene and making sure the Supra kitchen is stocked with the best products available from local farms whenever possible. Lonnie has already put his stamp on the menu – the bison for the Soup Kharcho was his idea – and he can’t wait to keep learning and contributing more. A whirlwind tour of Tbilisi’s best restaurants and Kakheti’s best vineyards opened his eyes to the wonders of Georgian food and wine, and he’s already planning our next trip! (Svaneti anyone?)
General Manager Jamey Schwank
Jamey brings decades of experience managing large restaurants in the DC area (and 5 other U.S. markets), most recently the Daily Grill in Bethesda. His knowledge of – and experience developing – the systems restaurants need to operate efficiently will be invaluable to Supra as we train servers, finalize our bar and drinks program, and get ready to open our doors in October! Jamey played a pivotal role working in concert with the historic Warner Theater for the 2008 & 2009 BET Honors Awards hosting nationwide media affiliates, Academy Award S.A.G. members, government officials and humanitarian entrepreneurs.
Founders/Co-Owners Jonathan and Laura Nelms
Jonathan has been fascinated by Georgia since an exchange student from then-Soviet Georgia joined his high school Russian class in Winter Park, Florida. The next year, Jonathan became one of the first 50 American high school students to spend a year with a Soviet family as an AFS exchange student. As a lawyer at Baker McKenzie, one of the world’s largest and most “international” law firms, Jonathan focuses on high-risk business transactions in the region and gets to Georgia every chance he can. Laura and Jonathan lived, with their daughters Chloe and Leyla, in Moscow 2010-12 and went to Georgian restaurants every week. They spent their fifth anniversary in Georgia, visiting Tbilisi and Kazbegi, and even ate at one of Chef Malkhaz’s restaurants! They didn’t meet that time, but we’re glad we finally had our reunion!
WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP
The funds raised through this Kickstarter campaign will go towards turning this “warm vanilla shell” (in real estate-speak) into a warm and inviting finished restaurant. Specifically, the Kickstarter funds will pay for the artwork that transforms a beautiful space into a Georgian restaurant.
As described in the video, we have some artwork ready to hang and other pieces still in development. We even have a Georgian street artist ready to travel here and leave his mark on the brick wall of the bar. This all costs money, as most of the pieces are custom commissions from artists in Georgia (White Studio in Tbilisi and artisans in the countryside), Moscow (the Petrovka Art Studio), and right here in Washington, DC (Schwa Design). Special thanks, too, to Maka Dvalishvili of the Georgian Arts & Culture Center in Tbilisi for helping coordinate the purchases of our wild and wooly Georgian “papakhi” hats (bookending our main dining room) and other ceramic pieces.
As a “stretch,” if we are lucky enough to exceed our goal, we will put the funds towards building out an outdoor space for the spring. We have the space for roughly 24-36 seats on 11th Street, just outside our main dining room. The additional furniture, planters, service stations, and POS unit will mean substantial up-front costs. Eleventh Street is perfect for outdoor seating, so we think it will make a great addition to Supra!
We know how much Supra already means to our Georgian friends, and we can’t wait to be a big part of the Shaw community. We are grateful for any contribution you can make to our Kickstarter campaign, and we look forward to hosting you at Supra!
To thank you for your support, we've put together a bunch of rewards meant to share the food and fun. Recipe cards – in Georgian and English – will help you bring a little “Supra” (and a little “supra”) into your own kitchen.
Supra logo T-Shirts will help you spread the word and let everyone know that you’re in the know about the DC restaurant scene. Want to make a bigger fashion statement? A black or white papakhi (see the white puffy hats in our video) will definitely be a conversation starter!
Ready to eat? Join us for classes making a variety of khachapuri or khinkali soup dumplings (a good khinkali has 19 pleats – great for your fine motor skills)! Or leave the cooking to us: Let us host you – and your friends – for a real Georgian supra, complete with a “tamada” (toastmaster) to teach you the fine art of Georgian toasting. (It’s a big deal over there. Trust us!)
If you really want to join the Supra team, come with us to Georgia! We hope to make two trips to the region in 2018 to visit new restaurants and try new wines from the vineyards that inspire and supply Supra. We’d love to bring a few of you with us!
And if you really – really – want to make a lasting impression on Supra, you can literally become a fixture in our bar. As described in the video, we will have a Georgian street artist do a piece on the big brick wall in our bar. Up to two lucky Kickstarter donors can “join the party” (you’ll see) and have their faces and names worked into the piece, so you’ll always have a place at our supra!
Risks and challenges
Restaurants are risky. Since Laura and Jonathan moved to DC in 2002, the restaurant scene – and downtown DC in general – have been completely transformed. There is more competition than ever for local restaurants. But in this challenge, we see opportunity. As the first Georgian restaurant in DC – one of the few anywhere in America outside of Brooklyn – we can’t wait to provide something new. And we plan to keep it new by refreshing things from time to time: We plan to open up the patio in the spring, and Chefs Malkhaz and Lonnie will be mixing up the menu from time to time with seasonal changes, specials, and new dishes we discover on the road in Georgia.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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