After decades of operating a fine dining restaurant a block from the White House in Washington D.C., Ellen Kassoff and Todd Gray are bringing their signature dish to Rehoboth Beach, but not the formalities.
“For 22 years we’ve been a block from the White House, now we’re a block from the beach,” said Kassoff, during a recent interview. “Federal Fritter is going to be street food that can be enjoyed while walking and exploring.”
Federal Fritter is the latest venture for Kassoff and Gray, a husband and wife team that has owned and operated D.C.’s Equinox on Connecticut Avenue since 1999. Federal Fritter is going to shed the layers of formality, said Kassoff.
The anticipated opening of Federal Fritter, located in the space that was most recently Neuvo Taco, is mid-February. The day of the interview, Kassoff did most of the talking. Gray was busy juggling electricians, floor installers and other contractors. When one of the contractors asked if he should stop using his saw so it would be easier to conduct the interview, Kassoff said no.
“Progress can’t be stopped,” she said.
Long-time visitors to Rehoboth Beach, Gray said they started looking for a space in the Cape Region in 2018. Kassoff said they toured several places before signing a lease on their new location. She said they knew the space was 100 percent right from the beginning.
“The location to the beach was amazing,” she said. “There was a good vibe, so we jumped on it.”
Kassoff said the fritters are a mainstay on the Equinox menu and have cultivated a cult-like following over the years. The fritters will be served in a pyramid-shaped cone, which has a little dipping sauce holder. Customers will get a bamboo fork, so people can walk and dip all at once, she said.
The fritters are roughly the size of a doughnut hole and flavors will include artichoke, risotto, spiced cauliflower, a sesame and chickpea combination, and apple pie. There will be a salad option too, which comes with fritters on top. Gray, a James Beard-nominated chef, said the all-vegetarian menu is modest, but will expand as needed.
To begin, Kassoff said the plan is to focus on take-away because the space is long and narrow, with no windows. Got to be COVID-safe, she said.
To accommodate the take-away, there’s been a new counter constructed near the entrance and a space left open behind the counter for the fancy deep fryer. People will enter, order their fritters and then be on their way – enjoying the snack as they walk, said Kassoff.
In addition to the store front, Federal Fritter will also offer catering. At some undetermined point in the future, Kassoff said, there will also be a seated area for indoor dining.
The exact hours of operation are still being finalized, but Gray said the restaurant will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week to begin. The expected in-season hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., he said.