After selling over 72,000 breakfast sandwiches in its first year, Butter Me Up is graduating from ghost kitchen status. The offshoot of HalfSmoke, Andre McCain’s Shaw bar known for over-the-top sausages, milk shakes, and other diner fare, recently announced it’s moving into a dedicated restaurant space at 1409 T Street NW in July.
The new location for Butter Me Up, formerly home to Taqueria Nacional, will bring an expanded menu, including dishes like breakfast tacos, acai bowls with Greek yogurt and granola, and fried Oreo pancakes. Fresh juices and kombucha will be added to a drink menu that includes coffee and tea from fellow Black-owned companies Büna Coffeehouse and Calabash Tea & Tonic. Mimosas and bloody marys will be available on a menu divided into sections with titles like “adulting” or “cake & eat it, too.”
“The notion [is] that one day you can have a smoothie or a juice on the healthy side, or the next day you can have a sandwich,” McCain says. “And on your splurge day, you can have some really awesome pancakes.”
The focus on incorporating ingredients from local companies will continue, as seen in breakfast sandwiches that feature Logan’s Sausage and pickles from Gordy’s Pickle Jar on Panorama Bakery buns.
A new breakfast menu features playful, meme-inspired names like ”Sorry Not Sorry” shrimp and grits. Existing breakfast sandwiches are named “Morning Bae” and “Woke Up Like This.” Coming up with names was a collaborative effort from HalfSmoke’s team during the pandemic.
“It was a very stressful time,” he says. “We wanted to have as much fun as possible,” he said.
The ghost kitchen launched at the beginning of the pandemic, and McCain had just had to lay off 50 staff members. Thanks to the breakfast delivery pop-up, he says he’s been able to add more shifts and hire 75 employees.
The new, 2,500-square-foot shop will have 45 seats inside and 15 seats outside, with the ability for customers to make contactless orders on their phones. Hours will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but eventually, the plan is to move into offering breakfast for dinner, too. Butter Me Up’s menu will still be available to order at HalfSmoke in some capacity, McCain says.
McCain followed vast amounts of data from the year-old business’s online sale while deciding where to plant Butter Me Up’s storefront. “We definitely saw a massive amount of customers in that area,” he says. But he has another important constituent to consider: delivery app drivers.
“Brick and mortar locations are essentially now becoming hubs for delivery and pickup,” McCain says. He wanted to capitalize on that by moving to a location that’s easily accessible with a more dense-delivery radius. “[Drivers] give you reviews, and their reviews are much more impactful than even the customer reviews in terms of how you’re ranked on the platforms,” he says.
The move to a new brick-and-mortar solves another problem, since Butter Me Up’s gotten so much business that it overwhelmed the kitchen at HalfSmoke. “Now we’ll have the space to really, really focus on Butter Me Up,” McCain says.
HalfSmoke is in expansion mode, too. The company celebrated a Baltimore opening in mid-April and plans to open a location in Rockville this summer. McCain says the pandemic’s been tough, but the success of Butter Me Up has exceeded all his expectations.
“The story of Butter Me Up is a silver lining in the sense that we are able to bring people back to work and grow a business, but also really be a part of making the beginning of peoples’ days get off to a great start,” he says.
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- Butter Me Up [Official Site]