Hawkers Street Asian Fare, a fast-growing chain based in Florida, will bring a variety dim sum, tiki drinks, and curries to a millennial-friendly development in Ballston next spring.
The 4,380-square-foot corner location will sit at the Ballston Exchange complex (4201 Wilson Boulevard). Hawkers has already announced plans to make its D.C. area debut at Bethesda Row. Co-owner Kaleb Harrell says that location will open in the fall.
Founded in 2011 in Orlando, Hawkers lists nine locations on its website, including six in Florida, one in Atlanta, and two in North Carolina. The brand, which pays homage to “hawker” street food stalls found across bustling night markets in Asia, leans on recipes from co-founder Allen Lo’s family. One is the roti canai, a Malaysian flat bread served with curry sauce.
“People can’t get enough of [the sauce] — whatever’s left they pour on anything they can find in their house,” Harrell says.
Other hit orders include pad Thai, twice-fried Korean wings, miso pork belly ramen, skewers grilled over 1,000-degree heat, and the Singapore “chili” crab, a soft shell crab with chile garlic sauce served on a fried bao bun.
Ballston will function as the first test site for an expanded menu of dumplings and dim sum stuffed with everything from soup to pork to faux meat from Impossible.
“I’ve always been a carnivore at heart but that product is amazing,” Harrell says. “I can’t tell the difference.”
The Ballston location will also sport a large patio and an indoor/outdoor bar slinging cocktails like a fiery Margari-Thai and to-go boozy pouches that have been a popular pandemic-era addition. A walk-up takeout window will click on its neon light when it opens — a touch that’s reminiscent of Krispy Kreme’s doughnut signal.
Hawkers joins brands like Philz Coffee, Cava, Shake Shack, and We the Pizza at the burgeoning Ballston development.
“The D.C. metro area is really a top three market for me — it’s a food epicenter, particularly in the Mid-Atlantic,” Harrell says, adding the team is actively looking for a location in D.C. proper.
Despite its fast-paced growth, he calls the brand an “anti-chain chain.” The Hawkers in Ballston plans to integrate local ingredients, beers, and spirits across the menu. Each location features its own industrial vibe, complete with neon lighting designed to illuminate diners’ food and drink.
Here’s an example of the current menu in Delray Beach, Fla.: