Chinese Spot Chao Ku Is Closing in Shaw

Photo by Jessica Sidman

After eight months, Chao Ku in Shaw will serve its last dan dan noodles and mapo tofu on Sunday.

“I tried to keep it going as long as I could, and it’s just not happening,” says owner John Fielding. “I just thought at our price point, we were going to differentiate because there’s so much high-end stuff opening, but it just didn’t materialize for us.”

Fielding says a number of factors contributed to Chao Ku’s financial woes. For starters, the restaurant was burdened by the costs of a lengthy construction process. He initially anticipated he’d be able to open the place within nine months, but the building was in such disrepair that it took nearly two years. 

The restaurant’s 9th Street location, across the street from a construction site for City Market at O, also wasn’t ideal, Fielding says. “The sidewalk was shut down. They had cranes out in the middle of the road. We’re in a funky spot.”

To a lesser extent, Fielding wonders whether Donald Trump‘s election might have had a negative effect as well. “I don’t know if that’s a huge part of it, but I do feel like if Hillary had won, there would have been a little bit more excitement and jazz in the city,” he says. “Everybody’s just been kind of stagnant.”

Fielding continues to operate Broad Branch Market and recently opened Soapstone Market in Van Ness.

“This is part of being an entrepreneur,” he says. “Not everything you do turns to gold. Some of it turns to shit unfortunately.”

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.