Korean barbecue spots are flourishing in Washington’s suburbs, but when it comes to tabletop grilling in the District proper, options are zero. That will change next year when the team behind Duke’s Grocery and Counter will open a KBQ spot in The Shay development in Shaw.
“In a city that has pretty much everything it’s something that’s missing,” says managing partner Daniel Kramer, who grew up in Los Angeles where there’s an abundance of Korean barbecue spots. “I come back to DC and find myself wanting to drive out to Virginia for barbecue, and that’s frustrating.”
Other restaurateurs have toyed with opening Korean barbecue restaurants in DC, including the Hilton brothers and the Honey Pig franchise, which has long been rumored to come to H Street, Northeast. Kramer says he’s also been searching for the right space for years—a double-difficulty given the competitive restaurant market, and the technical (and pricey) issue of venting tabletop grills. He says the space, formerly Kit & Ace and currently womenswear boutique Argent, was “hiding in plain sight” (a closing date for Argent is TBA).
The concept is still in the very early planning stages, and has neither a name nor a culinary team at this point. Kramer says he imagines the kind of upbeat, lively places you might find in Annandale, with a variety of panchan (vegetable accompaniments), and a big menu of marinated meats and seafood that guests prepare themselves on tabletop grills. A bar will pour Asian beers and spirits, and Kramer envisions the place being open late (though not 24 hours). Just don’t expect an exact replica of what you might find in Northern Virginia’s Koreatown.
“We’re not going to pretend to be 100 percent authentic, because everyone’s definition of what’s 100 percent authentic is different anyway,” Kramer says.
Look for an early 2019 opening. In the meantime, Kramer and his team are expanding their chainlet of East London-style gastropubs, and will open a Duke’s Grocery in Foggy Bottom later this year.