Grilled Steak Bowl at ShopHouse Kitchen
Over the last decade, Chipotle revolutionized Tex-Mex food. Existing in almost every state, Americans across the country return to Chipotle over and over when they want relatively cheap and quick Tex-Mex. Especially among college students and young adults, Chipotle has such strong brand loyalty that people will drive for miles and wait in long lines for their favorite burrito. Chipotle made Tex-Mex food quick, cheap, and high quality nationwide in a way that other quick service casual chains had not been able to master. However, revolutionizing just one type of cuisine was not enough for Chipotle. The company is now attempting to revolutionize Southeast Asian food with its new restaurant, ShopHouse Kitchen, which recently opened its first (and currently only) location in Dupont Circle. While Chipotle claims that it does not have plans to expand ShopHouse Kitchen right now, if it is successful, it would seem logical for them to start expanding it aggressively like they did with Chipotle.
ShopHouse Kitchen is set up very similarly to Chipotle. The customer slides down the counter telling the server how to customize their meal as they go. The first decision is a bowl or a sandwich. The sandwiches are a take on Banh Mi sandwiches and have less customization than the bowls. If you choose a bowl, you then have to choose whether you would like rice or chilled rice noodles; if you choose rice you must decide jasmine rice or brown rice. The next step is the choice of meat: grilled chicken satay, pork and chicken meatballs, grilled steak, or tofu. The next steps in the process make it more complex than Chipotle. You get a choice of vegetable: Chinese broccoli, eggplant and Thai basil, long bean, or spicy roasted corn; you get a choice of topping: roasted garlic, toasted rice, or crushed peanuts; you get a choice of garnish: green papaya slaw, pickles, or herb salad; and finally you get a choice of sauce: spicy red curry, green curry, or tamarind vinagrette. On your first trip you may want to study the menu before you get in line, the choices are more numerous and potentially confusing than your standard Chipotle burrito order that you know by heart. Additionally, because of all of these options, you are much more likely to change up your order on repeat visits whereas most people seem to have one order at Chipotle that they get over and over again. Continue reading
Just learned while walking through the H Street Festival today that Pho Bar and Grill (1360 H Street) will be opening next Sunday. Menu looks good (and cheap), we can’t wait to check it out!
Pork Has & Eggs at The Atlas Room
Do not let the bars on the windows turn you away, The Atlas Room on H Street (1015 H Street)–open for less than a year–is one of the up and coming restaurants in the DC area. A major part of the resurgence of H Street NE, The Atlas Room should appeal to food lovers across DC area. Chef-Owner Matt Cordes and Chef de Cuisine Bobby Beard have impressive resumes ranging from Vidalia to 701 to Gerard’s Place to Kinkead’s to Citronelle. The previous experiences of Cordes and Beard shine through in dishes at The Atlas Room.
The unimpressive barred windows and blue awning outside give way to a nicely decorated, if dark, inside. The small restaurant features seven closely placed tables lining both sides of the wall at the front with a bar and bar seating towards the back. The entire restaurant fits less than fifty people, so on weekend nights you would be wise to call ahead (they only take phone reservations, unfortunately no Open Table). If you don’t make a reservation, you can usually get a table during the week or on the early side during the weekend. Tables on the left hand side of the restaurant have chairs on the outside and covered bench seating on the inside, while tables on the right hand side only have chairs. The entire restaurant features a dark color scheme with dark wood floors and lights hanging down from the ceiling. Large pictures and maps hang from the wall on both sides. Continue reading
The east end of H Street has a plethora of restaurants and bars with many different themes and atmospheres. Yet if you wanted a casual and quick meal or late night food after a night out on H Street, you were basically limited to Taylor Gourmet’s sandwiches (not a bad choice at all), pies, or venturing into one of the sketchier late night establishments that will serve you everything from Chinese food to fried fish from behind a bulletproof glass window. Fortunately, Shawafel, which opened Monday at 1322 H Street, has changed the game and filled a much needed niche.
A quick serve casual Lebanese restaurant, Shawafel is located across the street from popular establishments like H Street Country Club and the Rock and Roll Hotel and down the street from Sticky Rice, Red Palace, and Toki Underground (as well as many others). This prime location makes it an excellent stop for anyone who doesn’t want to have a lengthy dinner but still wants quality food before going out. Its location near so many H Street bars and its late hours (3am Thursday-Saturday) will no doubt make it a popular place in the early hours of the morning for post bar food. Continue reading
Inspire BBQ from Across H Street
You can easily drive H Street everyday and not notice Inspire BBQ. Its small store front with only two tables outside and a tarp currently serving as its sign do not stand out. However, this relatively new BBQ joint located at 650 H Street is a nice place to grab a cheap and tasty dinner on the way home or for lunch on Saturday (closed Sunday). Recently, they announced that they would be open until 11pm. Whenever you go, plan on taking it with you because there is literally no where to sit inside and only two tables outside that are practically on the curb. Because there are not many other places around it, parking is usually pretty easy in the evening.
We are always skeptical that BBQ places with too many meat choices and without a clear regional preference (i.e. Carolina, Texas, Memphis, Savannah, or Kansas City) will lack focus. We prefer that BBQ restaurants have a clear style and focus rather than trying to be everything at once. Places with too many varieties of meat risk not doing any of them well. While Inspire BBQ did not have a clear region and did have several meat options (beef ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken, chicken quarters, and brisket), we left satisfied. (Note: beware of the menu online, it claims that certain dishes are served ways they are not. For example, the ribs did not include bread or onions).
The Outside of the Argonaut
Most of the new investment on the east end of H Street ends at 14th street, and, for the most part, the remaining block until H Street intersects with Maryland Avenue and Bladensburg Road has not been affected by the recent development nearby. However, if you continue to walk east on H Street past 14th street, you will run across one of the original businesses in the revitalization of H Street: The Argonaut Tavern. Begun in 2005 by H Street pioneer Joe Englert (Rock and Roll Hotel, The Pug, Sticky Rice, Granville Moore’s, and H Street Country Club among others), The Argonaut advertises itself as “the grandfather” of the Atlas District and an “old English-style tavern.” The servers all wear black, pirate themed t-shirts that claim The Argonaut has “The Best Booty in Town.” Recently The Argonaut has undergone extensive renovations after a fire last year burned down its kitchen. The Argonaut also added an outdoor patio in the last several months to allow guests to enjoy a drink or a meal outside when weather allows.
While the outside on H Street is somewhat foreboding, the inside has a friendly feel. The inside of the restaurant is fairly dark, but mirrors all along the wall and the open kitchen give the inside bar and dining area character. The upstairs section was not open during brunch. Unfortunately for the middle of the summer, there does not seem to be any air conditioning, and the restaurant becomes quite warm despite several fans. While recently far too hot to eat outside, the patio looks quite pleasant for an evening dinner or brunch in the fall. Continue reading