Running Sister Restaurants Little Serow & Komi
by jennie nunn
Two restaurants, one woman: Komi and Little Serow’s Anne Marler
Anne Marler starts off every day with one very important thing: a cappuccino at her restaurant. “It’s the best little quiet part of the morning,” she admits. It also helps her prepare for work at Little Serow, a newly opened, teeny 28-seat Thai eatery adjacent to its upscale sister, Komi, which she co-owns with husband and chef Johnny Monis.
The duo, who initially met in a restaurant in September 2001 (she was the hostess, he was a line cook), had been longtime fans of Thai cooking and were further inspired by the sour, spicy food they enjoyed during their travels near Chiang Mai in Thailand last summer. But the couple did not have formal plans to open up a second restaurant—that is, until the space opened up next door. “We had thought about a second restaurant, but we’re control freaks and knew we would want to be there every day and couldn’t have opened another location all the way across town. So this was serendipitous,” explains Marler, 29, who designed every last detail in the space, from bluegrass records culled from her personal music collection to the modest, no-frills décor that’s a nod to the roadside eateries they fell in love with in Thailand (complete with a corrugated-tin roof; raw, unfinished concrete floors; and mismatched plastic dinnerware).
“When we were there, we were blown away by the soulful cooking that came out of places you would never expect,” she continues. “It’s one of the poorest regions, but they find a way to make something out of nothing, and do it with pride and take joy in it. It never added up to have two restaurants until now.... We have these secret stairways that connect Komi to Little Serow, so we can actually be in two places at once.”
Spend a few minutes with Marler, a Bethesda native and Georgetown grad with a penchant for wearing vintage frocks to work (which she plucked from street markets in Thailand), and it’s clear she has skillfully mastered the art of multitasking. “I have this double life,” she jokes—she worked as an intern and desk assistant for Nightline during the Ted Koppel years, and she moonlights with Fine Films, a film production company whose latest documentary, Inocente, is scheduled to air on MTV. And as a tribute to her late friend who lost his life while on assignment in China, Marler founded the John Alexander Project, a foundation she helped conceive four years ago that provides funding to young journalists to cover areas that are underreported in the mainstream media, then airs its reports on NPR.
Despite juggling a part-time film gig, her work with the foundation, and two restaurants, Marler is showing no signs of fleeing the culinary scene just yet. “I have always wanted to be a professional tennis player,” she laughs. “I’m not even very good at it, but I love watching it, and it has always been a total pipe dream. But I consider myself lucky to be doing what I love, and I couldn’t be more proud. It’s humbling to have this vision, put so much of yourself into it, and find out that people have been largely receptive. Above all, we are having so much fun, and I hope that comes across.” Little Serow, 1511 17th St. NW; Komi, 1509 17th St. NW, 202-332-9000
photography by greg powers
Celebrating the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner at Carnegie Library.