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