Take one fiery redhead, fold in some travel, add a dash of politics, a bushel of education, a full cup of community involvement, a rasher of entrepreneurism, gallons of travel and mix well. The finished product is Zena Polin, co-owner of the multi-RAMMY Award-winning restaurants The Daily Dish and The Dish & Dram.
So how did this multi-lingual native New Yorker with a degree in International Relations from George Washington University and MBA in Finance and Marketing from Arizona State wind up in the restaurant business in the DMV? Good question. Zena’s built a portfolio of experience that includes everything from communications to international relations to marketing to baking and almost everything in between, and she’s always happy to share her knowledge and help her fellow females succeed.
The cool thing about Zena is she ‘s always happy to brainstorm, share knowledge, bat around ideas, offer her unique insights and help her community. She doesn’t ever take herself too seriously (although she has every right to); and according to Medium, she serves what is among the best burgers in the United States. She’ll even give you fries with that along with a side of sage advice and support. As for sage advice from others, she cites the best she’s gotten by gender. From a female: “You cannot be angry all the time about everything;” and by a male “Be fair and hire a good lawyer and accountant.”
Zena’s traveled to over 30 countries including Australia, Austria, and Central America. Her background has included stints on ‘The Hill,’ The Department of Commerce and trade office for a prominent law firm. When the economic boom in tourism was at its peak, Zena was in Puerto Rico, working for the Government Department of Economic Affairs, encouraging understanding and managing relationships with the US Mainland. Ten years and two adopted cats later, when the boom went bust, she returned to Washington to ‘hang her own shingle’ in the PR and Marketing fields. Her ability to communicate across all borders led to substantial opportunities to write travel articles as well as to manage a Caribbean based tourist publication. No underachieving here.
When the opportunity arose to become a partner in a restaurant, she jumped at the chance. As co-owner of The Daily Dish in Silver Spring, she and her partner built a neighborhood gem that serves truly farm-to-table fare and has become among the most popular family restaurants in the area, winning a RAMMY for ‘Favorite Gathering Place” this year and finalist as ‘Casual Restaurant of the Year’ in 2017. The success of the Daily Dish led her and her partner to search for another neighborhood restaurant where they could offer another level of catering and menu selection. They added The Dish & Dram in Kensington, Maryland in late 2016. Not only does Zena oversee the business operations and front-of-the-house for both restaurants (hands-on management is present and available at all times), but she also bakes their desserts. She’s constantly dining out and traveling to attain new ideas for dishes and service.
While some may think to own two restaurants might seem a stretch has given her (seemingly) unrelated background, her ability to speak several languages allows her to communicate with international staff; her marketing and business skills make her a well-informed decision maker and her communication skills make her a savvy boss and hospitality professional to her guests. In the community relations realm, the restaurant sponsors such local cultural institutions as the Keegan Theater and Zena personally sits on the board of Artworks Now.
One would think all of these accomplishments would be enough to be the end of the story—but it’s only the beginning. It’s important to note that Zena’s a ‘woman’s woman.’ An active member of Woman Chefs & Restaurateurs (WCR), she has supported and mentored other women in the industry and is a member of their scholarship committee—helping her colleagues to learn and grow. This voracious reader has also been a member of an all-female book club, which includes authors, business leaders, and entrepreneurs, for seven years, and was recently a speaker at a Woman Empowerment Expo for female entrepreneurs.
Zena makes her home in Washington, DC along with her adopted Calico fur babies and some excellent bottles of wine. Check out her culinary accomplishments at .thedailydishrestaurant.com and thedishanddram.com then go ahead and make a reservation, try a burger and have a chat with the lady herself. You’ll be impressed and satisfied on all levels.