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Damian Brown knows the magic words: all-day brunch. The chef best known for his over-the-top comfort food at The Uncaged Chefs in District Heights is taking over the former ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar space in Truxton Circle. His first restaurant in D.C. proper, slated to open in May, will be called Uncaged Mimosas. A PoPville tipster first spotted the change.
Picture walls of slushy machines dispensing frozen brunch drinks and a rainbow of mimosa flavors to pair with satisfying stomach-padders. Brown says to look forward to a salmon cake Benedict on a tater tot waffle coated in cilantro hollandaise sauce and sweet pepper relish and fried chicken perched atop a sweet potato pie waffle. Get a better sense of the menu here.
“I think outside the box 100 percent,” Brown says, describing his cooking style. Photos of his food frequently go viral on social media, which is how he’s amassed a monster following on Instagram of close to 230,000 people. “How I create recipes and my flavor combinations—I tend to make it up as I go. I’m freestyling with food. I can make anything taste good.”
He expects the hours of operation to be from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Even though the menu leans heavily on breakfast and brunch dishes, Brown is hoping for more of a lounge atmosphere at night with “a nice little vibe.” The goal is to showcase Black-owned alcohol brands. There are a few other components of the business, including a downstairs oyster bar and a revamped outdoor dining area with fire pits. Eventually Uncaged Mimosas hopes to offer hookah.
The redesign of the restaurant reflects Brown’s personal style. “The bottom floor is full of green vines and hanging white flowers,” he says. The upstairs, by comparison, will be awash with “crazy colors.” The chef loves the Adult Swim show Rick and Morty, so he’s wrapping one of the bars in Rick and Morty wallpaper.
Brown had the idea for his main brand, The Uncaged Chefs, after leaving a local restaurant job that was stifling his creativity. He’s worked at a number of D.C. restaurants, including Blue Duck Tavern, Fiola Mare, Occidental, Vidalia, and Takoda.
“The owners were trying to put me in a box in terms of being creative,” he told City Paper in 2019. His solution was to launch a Sunday and Monday night competition where he’d face off against bartenders and servers to see if anyone else had cooking chops. They’d sell the dishes to customers, who would vote on a winner. Brown laughs while recalling that a server frequently beat him.
The Uncaged Chefs popped up inside Rosebuds BBQ in Capitol Heights and spent a couple months inside the Savor food hall in Brentwood, which has since rebranded as miXt Food Hall. Brown outgrew the stall in a matter of months and opened his first brick-and-mortar restaurant at 6027 Marlboro Pike in District Heights. He recently took over the space next door to The Uncaged Chefs and will open Uncaged Desserts in a matter of weeks.
Brown’s a busy guy, but the memory of his grandfather, Joseph Gross, is helping him find the drive to push through two restaurant openings simultaneously. Gross died in January. “He was the coolest person in the world,” Brown says. “He got me into doing food. I used to go over to his house every weekend. He’d ask me what I wanted to eat and I’d be like, ‘I don’t know.’ So he’d make me grab a cookbook and we’d flip through, go to the store, and make it.”
He says he’s excited to be a part of the Truxton Circle neighborhood because of the foot traffic and because he feels like he’s filling a void in D.C. when it comes to all-day brunch. Uncaged Mimosas will take reservations and walk-in customers. “No rules, just good food,” is Brown’s motto.
Uncaged Mimosas, 300 Florida Ave. NW; theuncagedchefs.com