The DMV area is known for its vast variety of restaurants, from lavish brunch getups to cafes and fast casual eateries. With business partner Jerry Hollinger, Zena Polin is the co-owner of Maryland restaurants The Daily Dish, in Silver Spring, and Kensington’s Dish & Dram. She’s also a renowned name among restaurateurs and food experts in the area. Polin’s eateries are known for bringing farm fresh food, straight from Lancaster County’s produce auctions, to the table. The meals that they make are based off what produce is available and in season, making their dishes all the most vibrant and flavorful! This combination of comfort food and fresh ingredients is what truly sets them apart.
On top of her two restaurants and catering gigs, Polin is also a writer and editor, specializing in all things food and wine. She is also well traveled in Latin American and Caribbean culture and cuisine, adding a kick of flavor from the region, whenever possible. Polin spoke to Swizzle Chill TV at the RAMMYS and weeks later for this article.
Swizzle Chill: First of all, how do you feel about winning the RAMMY Award for Favorite Gathering Place, selected by fans in the Metro-D.C. community, and what was it like to be recognized in front of your peers?
Zena Polin: This is one of the most important and exciting wins for us! When we created The Daily Dish, we wanted it to be a place where the neighborhood would come together to eat, drink and gather. The guests in our restaurants have become friends and even family. This category is also publicly voted, which we think is important because it means the community decided we were their favorite gathering place.
SC: What are three ingredients in your business recipe that made The Daily Dish the place it is?
ZP: Our staff is the number one reason that we have been so successful. They have developed friendships with many of our customers. Some of our customers come five or six days a week! We mix that in with fresh ingredients that we source as locally as possible. And then we focus on being creative with regular changes to our menus. When we started The Daily Dish, the concept was just to serve fresh dishes that changed daily to customers who would come in to get their daily dose of neighborhood news among friends.
SC: Customers talk about your brunch a lot. What do you do to keep it fresh and exciting?
ZP: We have lots of specials at our brunch, depending on what is fresh and seasonal. We also like to keep it local, which means you’ll see Maryland Soft Shell BLT and Benedict in summer and Watermelon Strawberry Gazpacho when the fruit is its juiciest. We also let our chefs make dishes that are a reflection of their culture, so sometimes you’ll have Huevos Rancheros too.
SC: Please tell us about the dishes and drinks we can look forward to this summer.
ZP: This summer is about farm fresh and local. This means Watermelon Salad, Maryland Soft Shell Crabs with Potato Salad and Succotash and Summer Ratatouille. Heirloom Tomatoes are next up and we do beautiful dishes with them. Our sides are really a reflection of the season as we buy from local farms as well as from produce auction in Lancaster County. We also make fruit desserts based on the season, including a fruit crostata and a panna cotta with a seasonal fruit compote.
Related video: Swizzle Chill TV Backstage Interviews at RAMMYS 2018:
Photo credit: Eatery Pulse Media (featured), The Daily Dish (inline photos)
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