Sustainable Style at Boundary Road

Commercial Customer Spotlight: Boundary Road  

Things have been heating up on H Street NE for a little while now.  This bustling neighborhood’s streetscape is almost unrecognizable compared to its worn look just a few years ago.  Bars and late night clubs like Rock and Roll Hotel and Biergarten Haus have clustered towards the eastern end of the strip at 14th St. and H NE, just a few doors down from neighborhood anchor Atlas Performing Arts Center.  But Clean Currents wind powered customer Boundary Road, which bills itself as a true “neighborhood restaurant”, chose to open on the less raucous–if more accessible–end of H Street between 4th and 5th streets NE.

Clean Currents staff member Eric Vermeiren had a chance to chat with Karlos Leopold, general manager and owner of the relatively new (circa Feb. 2012) Boundary Road, about opening a restaurant that’s focused on seasonal ingredients and sustainable operations.

Eric: Hi Karlos, it’s great to speak with you!  I know that running a popular restaurant can mean that down time is a rarity so I’ll get right to it.  What was your original inspiration for opening Boundary Road?

Karlos: Well, the idea was really a joint effort between myself and my business partner Brad Walker, who also happens to be the Chef at Boundary Road.  I met Brad about ten years ago and we’ve been friends since then.  A few years back we came up with an idea to build a real neighborhood restaurant – a casual dining spot where people could come and enjoy good drinks and fresh food at reasonable prices; something that would fit into the surrounding community.

Eric: I’ve read that opening and running a new restaurant can be one of the more challenging business endeavors out there.  Do you have a background in being a restaurateur?

Karlos: I actually used to be a financial consultant before I left that industry to gain experience in the food services industry.  I started working at The Reef (a popular restaurant/bar located in Adams Morgan and also a Clean Currents wind powered customer), first as a doorman and then worked my way through the bar and kitchen to eventually become assistant general manager.  I really learned the ropes working in all of those roles at The Reef, which has really prepared me for running Boundary Road.  Also, my business partner Brad has a long history in the restaurant business, as a veteran of some of the biggest names in DC dining like Central Michel Richard, Fiola, Proof (a Clean Currents wind powered customer), and Cashion’s Eat Place (also a Clean Currents wind powered customer).


Eric: I’m a big fan of the H Street neighborhood.  What brought you to that area of the city?

Karlos: We were actually searching in NW, before our realtor recommended H Street.  After walking around the western part of H Street, closer to Union Station, I fell in love with the area.  It was so full of houses and had a great community feel but was lacking a local neighborhood hangout where local residents could meet for drinks and food.  It appealed to us for this reason – we saw potential so we said let’s be the neighborhood spot that H Street was lacking.

Eric: What made you decide to power Boundary Road with Clean Currents wind power?

Karlos: It’s funny.  I tell people that the original idea behind Boundary Road was from a team of four, myself and Brad plus our wives, both named Sarah.  My wife Sarah has been involved in the environmental field for her entire career, so it was really important to her that we incorporate environmental and sustainable standards into our business.  Switching to Clean Currents wind power was the first and one of the easiest things we did when we opened Boundary Road.


Eric: I can only imagine the number of factors that go into opening a large restaurant in an industrial space.  Were there any sustainability initiatives that you’ve found to be more difficult to reach than you first thought?

Karlos: I riginally wanted to reuse our cooking grease as fuel, but that’s been a bigger and more expensive undertaking than I had accounted for.  We’re still looking at options, but at the moment we’re not doing that.  Also, while all the wood in Boundary Road is repurposed – our floors, the bar, and the tables – we had to source that from Atlanta because the quality and type of wood we were looking for wasn’t available in the DC area.


Eric: Is there anything else you’d like our newsletter readers to know about Boundary Road?

Karlos: That the whole idea of running a sustainable business isn’t an isolated idea – it really is part of a larger idea.  Our cuisine at Boundary Road isn’t French, but we call ourselves a bistro in the sense of the old French definition of a bistro.  The old definition of bistro was a local or corner restaurant that procured its food and drink locally, not because it wanted to but because it had to due to a limited budget and straightforward and un-fussy but fresh menu items.  Brad and I are big proponents of sourcing as many ingredients as possible from local and organic sources.  At Boundary Road we focus on serving the freshest seasonal dishes and we’ve found that choosing products from local, smaller farms reflects in the food – it just tastes better.