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Today’s announcement that Ripple owner Roger Marmet would be opening a new mini gourmet market called Sugar Magnolia, located right next door to his existing Cleveland Park eatery, had Y&H wondering about the restaurateur’s branding strategy. I mean, really? Ripple? Sugar Magnolia? Sounds like somebody dusted off an old LP (specifically, the Grateful Dead’s 1970 album American Beauty) and got stuck in an acid flashback or something.
A 2011 Washington Post review of Ripple picks up on the obvious Grateful Dead reference, though at the time Marmet suggested the name had more to do with a brand of cheap wine. Contacted by Y&H, Marmet largely sticks by that nuanced tale of the existing restaurant’s origin. “The Ripple thing works on many levels because everybody that I’ve hired under 30 has no idea what the Gallo-owned cheap wine was, and a lot of them don’t know the Grateful Dead, either,” he says. “I like leaving it undefined like that.”
But, now that he has two businesses side-by-side, both with names identical to Dead songs—-and both from the same album, mind you—-Marmet isn’t holding back his affinity for the preeminent traveling jam band of the latter 20th century.
“I’ve been to a number of Dead shows in the past,” Marmet tells Y&H. “Pre-Jerry’s death,” he points out. (For the benefit of younger readers, he’s speaking about the late guitarist Jerry Garcia—-and, yes, the guy’s name sounds a lot like a popular ice cream flavor.) “Not the thing that’s touring now called The Dead,” Marmet notes.
All Dead cred aside, Marmet suggests that naming the new market, which will sell artisanal sandwiches, craft sodas, and other snacks, was more of a coincidence than just some tie-dyed connection to classic rock. “We were looking at names with ‘sugar’ in them,” Marmet explains. “I sort of stumbled into [Sugar Magnolia] and mentioned it to my wife, figuring she would hate it like most of the names I came up with. She actually loved it. And I said, ‘Well, you know, it’s another Grateful Dead song.'”
Of course, the missus didn’t know. “She did not spend her college years following [the Dead] around,” Marmet says.
Regardless, the name stuck. The new market, featuring six types of ice cream sandwiches made from scratch by Ripple pastry chef Alison Reed, opens Mar. 22.
Y&H couldn’t help but ask Marmet how many more Grateful Dead songs he planned to turn into restaurants or other food shops. “I have a couple more in my back pocket,” he says. He later clarifies, “I’ve got names but no concepts.”
Y&H has a few ideas that are ripe for the taking, and certainly, given the band’s ginormous output over the years, there could be many, many more:
- “China Cat Sunflower,” a farm-to-table Asian fusion restaurant, maybe best suited for Takoma Park, but I guess that goes for everything on this list
- “Dark Star,” a beer-centric tavern (heavy emphasis on porters)
- “Scarlet Begonias,” concept to be determined, but anything with that precious of a name out front probably belongs in Georgetown
- “Ship of Fools,” perfect moniker for a re-branded Tony & Joe’s, or any seafood restaurant located in the potential flood path at Washington Harbour
- “Terrapin Station,” a house of exotic meats—-ideally with Mr. Kangaroo Slider, Thunder Burger chef Ryan Fichter, running the kitchen
- “Touch of Grey,” a rustic tea shop, probably somewhere in Upper Northwest
What Dead tunes do you think should be turned into D.C. restaurants?