Chaia has officially graduated from a farmers market vendor to a real restaurant. Owners Suzanne Simon and Bettina Stern open their "farm to taco" shop in Georgetown today.
The menu is an expanded version of what was served at the Dupont or White House farmers markets. Three market favorites that can be sourced year-round—mushroom, creamy kale and potato, and garlicky greens—will remain constants. Two additional tacos will rotate seasonally, including crispy Brussels sprouts and Moroccan carrot tacos. All tacos are $3.75 or $11 for three. Add-ons will include toasted pepitas and cilantro-lime jalapeños from Gordy's Pickle Jar. On weekends (probably beginning next weekend), customers can add fried or scrambled eggs to their tacos.
Sides, which are mostly comprised of ingredients that aren't otherwise in the tacos, include things like sweet potato gratin or beets and quinoa. Stern and Simon are also working on a slaw made with celeriac—a vegetable that's often tougher for farmers to sell but available throughout much of the year. Wherever they can, they hope to take advantage of stems or other byproducts that might otherwise be thrown away.
"Our goal is to really use as much as we can, not have a lot of waste from the kitchen," Simon says. All the containers and utensils will be compostable.
Drinks are all delivered through kegs in order to keep prices and waste low. Drafts include coffee from Vigilante Coffee, cold-pressed juices from Misfit Juicery, beer from Atlas Brew Works and Port City Brewing Company, as well as three wines. (Wines are one of the only things that aren't local; The owners had a hard time finding a cost-effective option on draft from Virginia.)
Simon and Stern say three descriptors influenced the design of their shop: "farmer-driven," "bohemian," and "feminine." (They're one of the few women-owned fast-casual businesses around town.) The place has made quite a transformation from its previous use as a workshop for a local contractor, although one thing that remains are windows that originally came a Navy jail. The look, however, is far from industrial chic. Rather, the upstairs looks a dining room in an Anthropologie catalogue with a nice collection of succulents.
Even though they're opening their first location today, Stern and Simon are already thinking about future expansion. "We want to replicate," Stern says. They also haven't totally given up farmers markets. They'll re-evaluate whether they will continue to vend at markets next spring.
Take a look at the place (and menu) below:
Chaia, 3207 Grace St. NW; chaiadc.com
Photos by Jessica Sidman