Last Updated: April 2023
A few years back, the legendary Michelin-starred restaurant Komi took a break from fine-dining and did a pop-up of vegetarian cuisine. It was a hit, but eventually Komi returned to its fancy, tasting menu ways. Then came the pandemic and the Komi team realized they had a casual model that could be adapted to take-out times. Now the pop-up is a permanent thing. Though it is no longer wholly vegetarian.
Square slices of thick crusted pizza are the headliner now, often coming with a spicy red sauce and simply topped. Other items change with the seasons, though there is a strong affection for salads using beans. The tofu gyro has been replaced by a lamb gyro. The black walnut tacos that were a dead ringer for classic Taco Bell hardshell versions occasionally make an appearance. The quality of the dishes is obviously insane, applying the skills of a Komi’s kitchen to humbler presentations (and like fine-dining spots, they are not shy with the seasoning).
Hours are limited – last orders are taken at 8:00. And items do run out. The good news is that you no longer have to wait outside. They have converted the dining room into a counter space and waiting area. They even have a few tables out front. The interior renovation marked the end of hope that Komi may return, but it sent a signal that Happy Gyro is going to be here for a while.
As part of the pandemic shift they added ice cream from their pastry chef Ben Brunner. The ice cream started as a cart in front of the shop and took off. The cart is still out there on weather-appropriate days for scoops, but the pints are always available for sale. The flavors rotate and range from expected (mint chip) to creative (olive oil gelato with cocoa crumble) to um, ok (fig leaf ice cream with cherry jam).
The last piece to come into place was converting the online wine sales into a few shelves inside the store to be a proper bottle shop. The selection is about as eclectic and fun as you would expect.
There was a time when there were three sublime dining experiences within a few feet of each other on 17th Street – Sushi Taro (which is still there doing great work), Komi and Little Serow (the Thai sibling to Komi). We choose to treasure what we had and embrace the easier access of what we have. Enjoy.
Address: 1509 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036
Washington Post: Tom’s initial take on Happy Gyro from 2019.
Washingtonian: #4 in the 2023 Top 100.