When Maketto chef Erik Bruner-Yang teamed up with Whole Foods last year for an in-store ramen kiosk, he had an end goal in mind: a branch of Paper Horse at the forthcoming Whole Foods on H Street, Northeast.
“It’s a big change to this neighborhood, and I want to be a part of that conversation,” says Bruner-Yang, an H Street resident. Both he and wife Seda Nak own operate businesses nearby, he Maketto, she Shopkeeper’s Gallery.
In anticipation of the first Northeast DC Whole Foods, Bruner-Yang opened two Paper Horse ramen joints at the Foggy Bottom and Pentagon City, Virginia shops. When the location at 600 H Street, Northeast debuts on March 15, he’ll unveil a different concept for his in-store eatery—one that will eventually be reflected in the menus for all three. For one, the new Paper Horse won’t have ramen.
“When Paper Horse opened there was an expectation that it was going to taste like Toki [Underground], but that wasn’t the point or purpose,” says Bruner-Yang, who split with the H Street ramen shop last year amidst an ongoing legal battle. “We want to do good comfort food.”
The revamped menu for the H Street Paper Horse has a Chinese influence, though none of the dishes are traditional. The expanded offerings include three noodle soups: one vegetarian, and two meaty (smoked pork shoulder or roasted chicken). All are made with long-simmered broths and topped with egg, spinach, and roasted potatoes. More noodles can be tossed with sesame paste, garlic-chili oil, cucumbers, and fresh herbs, or a similar mix with black bean paste.
Rounding out the menu are dumplings, sides, and a section of stuffed “Chinese burgers.” Bruner-Yang describes the latter as part steamed bun, part English muffin. The breads are filled with the likes of spicy Chinese beef chili, cucumbers, and fried shallots, or roasted Brussels sprouts with mushrooms and kraut.
Shoppers in the grocery section will also find items from Bruner-Yang, some similar to those at Honeycomb in Union Market. Though details are being finalized, he plans to offer Maketto’s bao sauce, tongue-numbing Mala chili oil, toasted rice, and a variety of fresh curry pastes.
The two other locations of Paper Horse will continue to serve their current menus, though Bruner-Yang plans an overhaul of the concept in the coming months for similar offerings at all three.
Both Whole Foods and Paper Horse open on March 15. 600 H Street, Northeast.