At Shouk, you can feel good about your falafel.
Since its opening in March, Wisconsin Avenue’s latest addition is bringing sustainability, flavor and convenience to the Georgetown neighborhood. With scrumptious street fare and intentional, planet-conscious operations, Shouk offers a fresh take on fast and casual dining that won’t force you to choose between sustenance and saving the planet.
Let’s start by addressing the “plant-based” part of Shouk. Don’t expect shawarma with imitation chicken or sausage with lab-grown pork — that is not what Shouk is about. “We love plants,” CEO Ran Nussbacher told The Hoya, so that is what Shouk serves.
While the entire menu is vegan, Nussbacher said the majority of Shouk customers do not identify as vegan or vegetarian. Take Shouk’s world-famous burger: The patty is made with vegetables yet has still garnered the support of committed carnivores.“Our plant-based-ness is almost irrelevant to our mission,” Nussbacher said.
Unlike much of the vegan food market, Shouk doesn’t believe in tricking people into eating green. By focusing on whole foods and full flavor, the restaurant highlights the diverse capabilities of ingredients we’ve always been eating — and leans on those that don’t need a “vegan” label, like black beans and cauliflower.
Shouk is not only mindful of menu offerings but does everything with intention: Cutlery is available only upon request, all four locations are wind-powered and ingredients are selectively sourced to minimize environmental impact. “We obsessively find ways to reduce our footprint at every turn,” Nussbacher said.
But eliminating harmful practices alone is not enough for Shouk. Nussbacher believes every business has a responsibility to contribute to its community. The quality of Shouk food rivals any fine dining institution, but affordability and accessibility make Shouk a force for good in the Washington, D.C. community.
Although I visited Shouk right after its opening, the crowd made it clear that the community immediately resonated with its mission. The website described the concept as fast and casual, yet I didn’t see an open-air case of pre-chopped ingredients that are standard in that category of restaurants. Instead, I noticed a full kitchen — bustling with people prepping and stirring — that was separated from the restaurant by an order pickup counter.
Shouk makes everything fresh, which means there are no soggy ingredients under a heat lamp. My pita was hot, and the hummus was a colorful collection of spices and herbs and had that made-right-then taste — something you can’t achieve when it travels a far distance to get to you. The falafel wrap was life-changing (and I eat a lot of falafel), and the za’atar cauliflower paired perfectly with the stew of chickpeas and red peppers that accompanied it.
I finished my meal with malabi, a coconut milk pudding infused with raspberry, mint and rose water. While I had never tried malabi and didn’t really know what I was eating, I can attest that it was delicious.
I left Shouk a better person for two reasons: I was less hungry than before, but I was also newly inspired to consume with intention. No part of the dining experience was sacrificed for socially responsible operations.
My food was amazing, the price was reasonable and I supported a business that was doing some serious good. After all, when was the last time you enjoyed a wind-powered pita wrap?
While I am not sure if I deserve to write this article without trying the world-famous Shouk Burger, I can confirm I am definitely returning tomorrow. I promise to keep you all posted.
Audrey Biles is a first-yea in the College of Arts & Sciences. The Hungry Hoya will appear online and in print every three weeks.