Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

The Making of ‘The Lincoln Experience’

Lincoln Le/The Hoya

A cursory look at Google Maps lists Trap Manor1400 35th St. NW — as a historic landmark, and photos of the building’s classic red brick exterior indicate the same. But those who open the reviews will see a different story begin to form, with glowing comments from Georgetown University students about the food, service and venue. 

“The mocktails flowed, the music played, and we found ourselves lost in a dizzying array of dishes,” reads a particularly florid review from Dashiell Barnett (SFS ’25), while Alara Karahan (SFS ’24) praises the “curated five course menu from Georgetown’s best taught chef.”

The chef in question is Lincoln Le (CAS ’24), a government major by day and the mastermind behind The Lincoln Experience, an Asian fusion pop-up restaurant that operates out of Trap Manor, by night. If prospective customers are able to beat the online waitlist, they can partake in a five-course, prix fixe dinner with a paired lychee mocktail for a suggested donation of $40. 

Full disclosure: Lincoln Le (CAS ’24) is a deputy blog writer for The Hoya.

I caught up with Le between his 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. seatings to find out more about what it takes to create a pop-up restaurant of this scale from scratch. The living room of Trap Manor has been transformed by floral tablecloths and flickering faux candlelight, and framed posters above the fireplace thank customers for visiting The Lincoln Experience. When I compliment Le’s graphic designer, he tells me that two of the posters are actually his own artwork, and the others feature photos from the very first pop-up he did with family and friends. 

After the family and friends night, news of the pop-up primarily spread through Instagram and word of mouth. One of the people present at that defining event was Ailin Le (MSB ’27), Lincoln Le’s younger sister and frequent sous-chef. Both siblings grew up cooking, and when her brother brought up his idea for a pop-up, Ailin Le was in.

“I remember he texted me one day, and he was like ‘Hey, I’m going to do a pop-up dinner with my friends, can you help me work it? I’ll pay you,’” Ailin Le told The Hoya. “Like, I thought it was just going to be a little dinner party with friends, but it’s scaled up a lot more than I imagined.”

Riya Maheshwari (SOH ’24) has been friends with Lincoln Le since they were both in sophomore year, and when he asked her if she would be interested in helping out as a server, she readily agreed. 

“It’s really fun to see him be able to bring his dream into a reality, and I just have a really good time serving other people,” Maheshwari told The Hoya. “There’s even people who I served that one night that will say hi, and it’s just so fun to see people on campus kind of joined by this very unique experience.”

The first pop-up gave Lincoln and his crew the opportunity to iron out wrinkles in the cooking process and schedule for the evening, including by spacing the sittings out to two hours.

“The very first night we had the two sittings only an hour and a half apart, and we quickly realized that was way too short. People need time to eat, and sometimes we need buffer time in case something goes wrong,” Ailin Le said. “One night, the dumplings just weren’t cooking and that took an extra 15 minutes more than it was supposed to.”

Chicken dumplings are the third of the five courses, which Lincoln Le creates from scratch and serves in a mixture of soy sauce, black vinegar and sambal with garnishes of sesame seed and green onion. Like all items on the menu, the dumplings have a vegetarian alternative that guests can request when making their reservation. The first two dishes are already plant-based: lightly fried eggplant in a dashi broth with daikon radish and a halved, steamed bok choy drizzled with homemade chili oil.

Ailin Le, Maheshwari and I were in agreement that the agedashi eggplant is a standout dish. 

“I can drink that broth for days,” Maheshwari said. “Like, behind the scenes I’m like ‘Lincoln, can I just have a bowl of broth?’”

For Ailin Le, the dish is personal as well as delicious, characterizing it as a take on the agedashi tofu at Hanabi Ramen in Clarendon, Va.

“They didn’t invent agedashi tofu, we’ve had it at other places, but that’s just our go-to spot for it here,” Ailin Le said. “The first time that I visited Georgetown I got Hanabi, the first time I was here without Lincoln I got Hanabi and then when my parents moved me in for the first time, I got Hanabi.”

Shaking beef, the main course The Lincoln Experience served last semester, also started with a family tie.

“Shaking beef is something my mom makes at home; everything else was kind of something I’ve had to explore and experiment with,” Lincoln Le told The Hoya. “They all have ties to Southeast and East Asian cooking, which is predominantly what I eat at home. The flavors are familiar, and if my mom were to try it, I think she would like it a lot.”

This semester, Lincoln Le has swapped the shaking beef for lemongrass beef, just one example of The Lincoln Experience’s efforts to adjust and adapt over time. In fact, one of its most iconic traditions, which happens during the dessert course of black sesame and coconut milk ice cream, started as a mistake.

“We forgot to take the ice cream out to thaw on the first night, so since we didn’t have enough time to prepare everything we were just like ‘Okay, Lincoln, why don’t you just go out there and serve it?” Ailin Le said. “And then we realized it actually worked out, because they get to talk to the chef and he gets to interact with all the attendees.”

The Lincoln Experience is currently taking reservation requests for Feb. 11, Mar. 18 and Mar. 24, and interested parties can get the latest updates from @lincolnlle on Instagram. 

“It’s only going on for a few more months before Lincoln graduates, so if people are thinking about it, I would say totally go for it,” Maheshwari said. “It can’t be compared to restaurant dining. It’s kind of its own thing.”

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