Image: Old picture, fresh tastes.
Last Updated: October 2023
Shouk is a fast casual spot with two locations in D.C. (the third spot at Union Market is closing at the end of October 2023, there is also a spot in Rockville) that does bowls and pitas based on Israeli street food. It is also vegan. It is also really good.
The bowls are assembled with multiple elements nestled next to each other more than piled or layered. Base ingredients build out a range of flavors and textures, including sweet potatoes, chickpeas, lentils, almond feta, pomegranate-infused tomatoes, pickled red cabbage, cucumber, creamy baba ganoush, pickled red onion, hummus, quinoa, greens. To go on top, you can get crispy falafel, a mushroom take on shawarma, cauliflower, or eggplant. The bowls can get a little crowded and be something closer to a chunky salad than similar spots, less layered than the grain bowls at Cava, many more ingredients than the hummus bowl at Little Sesame. As much as they may compete with each other for attention, the ingredients are fresh, prepared well and anything but boring.
For the sandwiches, Shouk has experimented over the years and come up with options to make vegan familiar. The most famous one is their take on a veggie “burger” that is far from the dry puck and does not try to be anything other than vegetables in composition. Tim Carman raved about it in the Post, and Lori Gardner on her site equaled that praise: “The Shouk burger is a revelation, made from 15 vegetables. including chickpeas, black beans, scallions, mushrooms, and beets. Flaxseed serves as a binder. The patty is crisped on a griddle and served in a pita brimming with add-ons including roasted tomatoes, pickled turnip, arugula, charred onion, and tahini. Each bite offers unique flavors and sensations alternating between chewy, crunchy, creamy, slippery, and spicy.” The mushroom shawarma, falafel, and a “schnitzel” mushroom round out the other sandwich options. The BBQ jackfruit looks to be dropped for now.
Of the similar spots that opened in the last few years, Shouk has been the slow and steady one. Beefsteak expanded quickly and retracted. Cava blew up and just had an IPO. Little Sesame held its own, but had to do a little retrenching post-Covid even as it added prepared products in stores. Shouk, on the other hand, kept to its two initial spots and only recently added the Georgetown location. They also have stayed true to their vision that clearly incorporates doing good. As they explain on the website, “Our world’s food systems are broken. Livestock produces 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, our oceans are dying, and our bodies are suffering. A move towards plant-based eating is the answer to healing our bodies and planet.”
With the addition of Shouk, Georgetown now has two pockets of great lunch spots with Yellow and Simply Banh Mi nearby Shouk, and Green Almond Pantry and Chaia Tacos a few minutes down off of Wisconsin at Grace Street (with Baker’s Daughter along the way). All of them are worth a walk out of the way to have something better. (Shouk’s spot on the north side of Chinatown is near a Chaia there too).
Other Guidance: The Georgetown spot is at street level with no steps. The Mt. Vernon location is at street level, but has some internal steps. They are “certified Kosher under the supervision of DC Kosher.” And they point out that, “Since we don’t serve meat, we’re also Halal!”
Mt. Vernon/Convention Center: 655 K St NW, Washington DC
Georgetown: 1426 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington DC
Rockville: 5568 Randolph Rd, Rockville, MD 20852
Washington Post: Tim waxed poetic about the veggie burger made in-house.
Washingtonian: Vegan dining in D.C.