Former farmers market stand Chaia is scheduled to open its second brick-and-mortar tomorrow, bringing vegetarian tacos served in handmade tortillas to Mount Vernon Triangle.
The new shop (615 Eye Street NW) is 2,000 square feet, twice as big as Chaia’s first location in Georgetown.
Chaia chef/owners Suzanne Simon and Bettina Stern began serving their meat-free tacos at area farmers markets before setting up shop on Grace Street NW in 2015. The new store will offer an expanded selection of tacos and longer hours (11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily) as well as a new quartet of draft cocktails.
“With healthy food everything in moderation is fine,” says Simon, adding Georgetown regulars include people who crave beers and tacos after yoga class.
Current cocktail options, which will rotate quarterly, include a margarita, a Milian Park infused with bourbon and amaro, a paloma, and a hot toddy made with an apple shrub. The goal is to welcome drinkers at the entrance, which features wooden bar stools, standing-height counters, and Eye Street views.
“We are in the base of a legal office — we hope they will come down and grab a cocktail,” says Stern, a co-founder. She also hopes to capture foot traffic before and after book signings and shows at nearby Sixth and I.
Imported menu items from Georgetown include best-selling tacos like creamy kale and potato — with pepperjack cheese, poblano crema, salsa verde, and pickled onion — and braised mushrooms with feta, salsa roja, and cilantro. Seasonal tacos are stuffed with roasted butternut squash or citrus-roasted beet.
A new “Beyond Tacos” section of the menu includes the El Bol, which gives diners the option to go tortilla-free and put taco fillings over grains. Sides include carrot-kohlrabi slaw and winter white soup with potato, fennel, and chili oil.
“The category is designed to give you the sense there is more to come and it might change,” Simon says.
“Shrub” drinks, served cold or hot, include spiced apple, lemon ginger, and grapefruit.
Other non-alcoholic options include hot spiced café au lait with oat milk, lavender, cinnamon and cardamom; coffee and nitro cold brew from Vigilante Coffee; Wild brand kombucha; and hot teas from NYC’s Bellocq Tea Atelier.
Simon went the extra mile to source hand-woven wooden lanterns, spotting them on a family trip to Mexico and hiring a taxi to bring them to the airport. Now they live at the entrance of Chaia, welcoming guests above beds of palm leaves.
“It definitely has that modern, natural, and organic vibe you see in Mexico City,” she says.
Stern also found some statement pieces during her travels, buying large dreamcatchers made of yarn from the Carolinas that hang in the bathrooms. A reclaimed wooden bench came from D.C. antiques store For Your Eyes Only, and a modern bar cart will hold used plates and glassware.