Chef Ris Lacoste has spent the past decade serving a sophisticated menu to a clientele of VIPs at Ris, but while the coronavirus pandemic keeps D.C. under a state of emergency, the food and the prices at the West End restaurant have gotten much humbler.
Back in September, the power dining staple around the corner from the Ritz-Carlton was serving dinner to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and a several Senate Democrats. Now, under the tagline of Ris’ Soup Kitchen, the restaurant is catering to neighborhood regulars with $15 “care packages” for takeout and delivery that include a salad of the week, pint-sized soups, and fresh bread. There’s no delivery fee for customers in the West End or nearby neighborhoods. Hours are weekdays from noon to 6 p.m.
“I do all of the deliveries myself,” says Lacoste, who was a James Beard award finalist at 1789 before opening her namesake restaurant. “It is nice to talk with folks and gets me outside. And there is a built-in trust factor.”
On Monday, Ris offered two soups: an olive oil tomato soup with arancini and a cauliflower and white chocolate soup.
There are specials every night, too. Monday calls for meatloaf, followed by taco Tuesdays (Cinco de Mayo’s menu featured chicken lime tortilla soup, tacos. Lacoste calls back to a famous pasta commercial from New England for her special on Wednesday, which “is always Prince Spaghetti Day in Boston.” Thursdays are for meat and potatoes, chicken Milanese, and lamb stew.
Fried chicken Friday is the biggest sales day so far, Lacoste reports. Customers stock up for the weekend on pork sausages for brunch, soups by the quart, and frozen chicken pot pies. There are also leafy greens by the gallon and seasonal produce like asparagus, radishes, and cilantro. Large potted Dahlia flowers are designed to brighten up homes.
Desserts include the restaurant’s ice cream, sorbet, and cookies by the dozen in flavors like butter pecan and peanut butter. To-go bottles of wine and shaken-or-stirred cocktails are available, too.
Ris is also working with Off Their Plate, a national grassroots movement affiliated with Jose Andrés’s World Central Kitchen, to cook lunch for nearby GW hospital workers every week.
Lacoste’s takeout venture is a far cry from how she envisioned 2020 would go. The owner oversaw a recent renovation that customers can’t appreciate. She was also banking on an additional revenue stream right about now: leading the menu at an exclusive new wine vault and bar nearby that was originally targeting an April opening.