From ghost kitchens to pop-ups, sandwich-specific shops are cropping up all over town. Not only do they provide tasty, new options for diners, but some restaurants are able to hire back team members to meet the growing volume of sales – showing that sandwich pop-ups might be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Explore some of the latest concepts to hit the District’s ever-evolving food scene.
Butter Me Up at HalfSmoke
The breakfast sandwich destination launched inside Shaw’s HalfSmoke back in May and has continued offering the neighborhood additional breakfast options – something owner Michelle Andrade, who is also HalfSmoke’s general manager and chief operating officer, noticed Shaw was lacking.
“Butter Me Up was essentially born out of quarantine with a mission to provide quality breakfast sandwiches for our community while supporting local suppliers,” Andrade says of the pop-up’s inspiration.
Open daily, guests can order loaded breakfast sandwiches like The Bestie with hardwood smoked bacon, organic soft scrambled eggs, smoked cheddar cheese and chipotle ketchup on sweet butter bread in addition to a fried chicken breakfast sandwich, vegetarian options and more. The neighborhood has embraced Butter Me Up: the pop-up sees 2,000+ sandwich sales a week with lines out the door, allowing Andrade to hire back staff.
“We were able to provide job opportunities during a pandemic that’s closed the doors to a lot of our favorite restaurants.”
Butterfly Tacos y Tortas at Beefsteak GW
Mexican tortas have landed in Foggy Bottom in the form of ThinkFoodGroup’s latest concept, Butterfly Tacos y Tortas, popping up at the George Washington University Beefsteak location. Originally developed in ThinkFoodLab (the team’s incubator for experimental food concepts), Butterfly’s menu is inspired by Mexico City’s street food scene, sharing similar parallels with Jose Andres’ popular restaurant, Oyamel.
“Our full-service Mexican restaurant Oyamel has been incredibly popular for over a decade in Penn Quarter, and we heard from guests how they especially crave our tacos and tortas (Mexican sandwiches),” says ThinkFoodGroup Chief Operations Officer Eric Martino.
At the GW outpost, find sandwiches including the Torta Chilorio de Res with beef in a smoky chile sauce, onion, radish and cilantro in addition to a vegetarian option featuring grilled mushrooms, Oaxacan cheese, guacamole, salsa serrano and cilantro.
Fedwich at Kramerbooks
What began as a way to test new sandwich concepts from popular BBQ joint Federalist Pig has continued as a pop-up at Dupont’s Kramerbooks in the form of Fedwich.
“We continue to come up with new sandwich combinations that are really good,” says Kramerbooks’ owner Steve Salis. “We felt by introducing Fedwich we could lead with a sandwich lens and use it to test and push excellent and delicious products under the [Federalist Pig] banner.”
Guests can try sandwich combinations exclusive to the pop-up featuring new recipes from Federalist Pig’s pitmaster Rob Sonderman. Items include the FedBurger, Feddy Cheesesteak and a pulled pork melt sandwiched between Texas toast among other options available for delivery and curbside pickup.
Fight Club at Beuchert’s Saloon
Serving up comfort food sandwiches and effervescent cocktails, chef and co-owner Andrew Markert’s punchy sandwich pop-up Fight Club takes over Capitol Hill restaurant Beuchert’s Saloon indefinitely.
“They’re all twists and turns and as we say, they’re off center but on point,” Markert notes.
The sandwich lineup includes a vegetarian take on the classic Philly cheesesteak; a-not-so-typical tuna melt dubbed the Tonnato Melt with roasted pork, tonnato sauce, pickles, American cheese and bacon on sourdough; and the pop-up’s eponymous Fight Club, which takes a standard club steak sandwich to the next level with roasted steak, roasted tomato, bacon, shrettuce and an out-of-this-world brown butter mayo.
The team recently launched weekend bottomless mimosas to pair alongside brunch sandwiches like the Smoked Brisket Biscuit, Bodega Egg & Cheese and a breakfast burrito.
Ghostburger at Espita
Addictive burgers and Philly cheesesteaks can now be ordered at Espita’s ghost kitchen concept, aptly named Ghostburger. As the team started brainstorming ideas for alternative revenue streams for the impending winter season, Espita and Ghostburger’s general manager and partner Josh Phillips says they landed on the menu because their team is obsessed with burgers and cheesesteaks.
“We wanted to make something that was both affordable and something people crave,” he says.
Turns out it’s not just the staff who is obsessed with those sandwiches. Phillips says Ghostburger is pulling in five times the expected volume of sales which has allowed the team to hire back several staff members. Menu items include the Ghostburger with American cheese, red onion, dill pickles and spooky sauce; La Hamburguesa with queso Oaxaca, salsa macha, smoked tomatillo relish and cilantro; and A Real Philly Cheesesteak with shaved ribeye, caramelized onion and white cheddar “whiz.”
Jimmy’s Philly Steaks at I’m Eddie Cano
With the change in seasons, this Chevy Chase restaurant recently swapped out its summer ghost concept Nantucket Clam Shack with a fall and football watching-friendly pop-up: Jimmy’s Philly Steaks. Operating alongside I’m Eddie Cano, guests can order from a lineup of Philly cheesesteaks in addition to wings and loaded tater tots for takeout and delivery.
“We wanted to pivot into a winter concept,” co-owner Carolyn Papetti says. “With our chef and business partner James Gee being from the Philadelphia area coupled with professional sports [being] back, we thought it would be a fun and fluid winter concept filling a void that not many had yet ventured into in D.C. – Philly cheesesteaks.”
The pop-up is slated to run through April 2021.
Satellite Sandwiches at Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken
This new sandwich pop-up comes from the team behind popular doughnut and fried chicken purveyor: Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken. The late October opening brings cheesesteaks and hearty sandwiches to downtown D.C. An idea that has been in the works for some time, Satellite Sandwiches will utilize the kitchen space from Astro Beer Hall next door to spin out Philly-inspired subs, wings and jumbo made-to-order cookies.
On the menu, find four different types of cheesesteaks including a pepper steak, pizza steak and a build-your-own option, along with other classics from Chef Chris Kujala including a gyro and chicken parmesan sandwich. One of the benefits of opening a ghost concept for co-owner Elliot Spaisman has been the ability to offer his staff more hours.
“[It’s] comforting for all of us considering how the industry has been impacted by the pandemic,” he says.
Your Only Friend at Columbia Room
Chef and owner Paul Taylor’s menu of sandwiches is equal parts unexpected and nostalgic. The pop-up at Columbia Room combines Taylor’s love for sandwiches with his penchant for curating beverage lists (he’s also the beverage manager at the Blagden Alley cocktail bar). Here, you’ll find his takes on fast food favorites in the Return of the Mack with its chicken nugget patty and American cheese as well as the Ribwich made with a fast food-style “rib” patty among a lineup of other creative subs.
Craft cocktails come bottled and include a twist on classics like the Nordic Old Fashioned, Salted Paloma and a rotating daiquiri. The between bread and boozy couplings are perfect as picnic basket stuffers or as a meal enjoyed on Columbia Room’s Punch Garden where Taylor hopes to bring joy and comfort to those who try his offerings.
As he puts it, “What is more comforting than a hug between slices of bread (a.k.a. a sandwich)?”
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