It may sound cliché, but a new pop-up dining option has opened in D.C.’s Navy Yard neighborhood. Cliché is a pop-up inside of a pop-up, so to speak. The meta concept comes from Brian Schram, co-owner of Scarlet Oak and the brains behind the restaurant’s first pop-up, Side Door Pizza. We spoke with Schram on his latest culinary endeavor, the Navy Yard neighborhood, and how the future of pop-ups might evolve.
District Fray: You have a loyal following of fans who adore the speciality Detroit pies from Side Door Pizza. What prompted you to shift to another pop-up concept?
Brian Schram: When we opened up Side Door back in October , we were looking for a pivot, trying to find another avenue…sure enough, it took off and it’s been wonderful. And so, Cliché was a way to kind of piggyback off of what’s been happening with Side Door. We’ve always known that there’s been a little bit of a lunch void in this particular location. With so many residents and most of them now being at home working, we figured this could be a good opportunity to do what we did at Side Door with simple but really delicious, lunch-friendly items.
Cliché seems like a very tongue-in-cheek name for another pop-up restaurant in D.C. Tell us more about the inspiration behind it.
It’s kind of making fun of myself, really. Pop-ups have been written a lot about this past year and you’re seeing these trendy items, [like] the smashburger and even the Detroit-style pizza, that have taken on in this city and across the country. So really it was just kind of like, “You know what? We want to do those items. We want to make them simple.” The idea was to try to do it better, but we’re fully aware that we’re doing the same thing everybody else is. And so that’s really where the name comes from.
Walk us through the menu of trendy items and the thought process behind having healthier dishes side-by-side with “guilty pleasures.”
When we were originally talking about the menu, the things that certainly stood out were pizza and burgers and we wanted to make sure that we had those “guilty pleasure” items. We are aware people want a lighter lunch, and there’s definitely a lot of very health conscious people in this neighborhood, so we wanted to make sure that we were capitalizing on that as well. We just launched the personal Detroit-style pizzas. It’s a nice way for somebody who is maybe by themselves, working at home, to get a personal, portable-style pizza. We have our smashburger, with pickles, diced onions, ketchup, mustard, cheese. Very simple, but everything’s fresh and we grind the meat in-house every day. We have the two lettuce wrap styles right now – a tuna niçoise and a chicken cobb, and we’ll look to maybe add another or do some sort of variation. The avocado toast [has] got some whipped goat cheese, avocado, different types of sprouts, and heirloom tomatoes that we roast in-house.
With restrictions for restaurants and bars lifting, how do you think pop-up concepts will evolve?
I do think that pop-up concepts will initially definitely be affected. But I think they will also kind of have their home in this future world of restaurants. For us, Side Door has gained a nice, loyal following. We’ve had wonderful feedback, and I don’t think it’s necessarily really going to change our business. I do think other concepts will have to maybe shift, but there’s something to be said about what people have learned about the convenience of certain concepts. I do think that there’s going to be a lot of people who will continue to partake in those pickup and delivery concepts.
Any last thoughts you’d like to share?
It’s been a really cool experience transitioning from a floor manager and running a full service restaurant to this pickup style pop-up. I think they both have their perks and they both have their downfalls but it’s been very heartwarming to deal with customers who have been really just so, so kind. I hope that’s something that we can continue with, as a business and as a culture. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with how we’ve been received: Scarlet Oak, Side Door and now Cliché. This neighborhood has really been the reason that we’re still here. They’ve really been wonderful to us so we hope that we can continue to try to give back.
Cliché is open Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Online ordering is available on their website with pickup at the side door off of Scarlet Oak’s patio.
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content. Support local journalism and start your membership today.