Sticx, Georgetown’s temple to Southeast Asian barbecue on sticks, has finally thrown open its doors in a cozy, two-story space that is part fast-casual cafe and part intimate wine bar called Stonz. From business partners Aung Myint, Yo Sangkhankaw, Margaux Donati, and Guillermo Roa, Sticx and Stonz (1728 Wisconsin Avenue NW) are located near sister restaurant Bandoola Bowl, the sunny, fast-casual Burmese salad shop that opened in 2019.
Myint and Sangkhankaw came up with the idea for a cafe starring Asian street food on skewers after a 50-day romp across Asia a few years ago. During a layover, they visited the Nishiki Market in Tokyo, where even sushi gets skewered. After that, they went to Myanmar, where Myint is from and where sticks are common at night markets. Burma, the Southeast Asian country northwest of Thailand, is now known as Myanmar.
They arrived back in the U.S. with a goal to combine Burmese, Thai, and Japanese-style sticks in a 20-seat cafe, and in 2019 they announced plans for the restaurant. As the pandemic took a foothold, plans began to change. They finished building out the first floor cafe while waiting for a better time to open.
“But the way things have been going, there isn’t a perfect time anymore to open a restaurant,” Myint says. So they adjusted their plans. First they scratched sushi sticks from the menu because of supply shortages, labor shortages, and skyrocketing prices for products. Then they added a second floor wine bar that increased the seating to 40.
“We are very comfortable with what we know. [Sangkhankaw] knows Thai food and I know Burmese food. So, for the meantime, we’re going to go back to the basics, what we grew up with,” he says.
Pork on a stick comes in a Burmese and a Thai variety; both menu items translate literally to “pork on a stick.” The Burmese version, wet thar dote htoe, uses marinated pork belly. In Myanmar, wet thar dote htoe is a staple of street food culture with tiny stalls dotting downtown streets like Yangon, according to Vice. Whereas organ meat is often used in Myanmar, Sticx uses pork belly. The Thai pork skewer, called moo ping, is made with pork butt. It’s marinated and brushed with coconut cream before hitting the grill.
The Crying Tiger, a Thai barbecued beef, is the most decadent of the sticks. “I’m a meat guy and that hits my heart,” Myint says. The skewers run between $3 and $6 each, so trying a variety is doable. Myint points out that it’s of course okay just to come in and snack on just one as well. Spicy, tangy tom yum soup and dumplings also land on the menu.
The number of sauce options (there are nine) recalls the days of Mandalay, the Myint family’s now-shuttered Silver Spring restaurant known for remarkable condiments that hit the table alongside stand-out Burmese dishes. It’s possible that some dishes from Mandalay may join the menu as specials, according to Myint.
“The sad thing is the only Burmese full-service restaurant in D.C., Thamee, just closed. So everyone is like you have to give us the Burmese food back,” Myint says. Mandalay closed in 2021 after nearly two decades.
Upstairs in the wine bar, diners can munch of skewers while sipping glasses of beer, a choice of over 200 wines from all over the world including sake, fortified wines, plus wine cocktails like spritzes, saketinis, and champagne cocktails. Tasting menus are in the works. With the addition of Stonz upstairs, in what had previously been planned to be a condo, the establishment doubled in size. A petite, nine-seat bar, plus another 16 seats spread across plush velvet seats and a separate tasting room (perfect for private events and educational tastings) is dotted with local art lining the walls (the art is for sale).
Myint seemed to toy with the idea of reopening Mandalay in a recent Facebook post, first picked up by Source of the Spring. With over 400 comments in support of the idea, it started to sound like a possibility. Myint, however, has no plans to reopen Mandalay, according to Donati.
Sticx is open daily from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., while Stonz is open Thursday through Sunday from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. or midnight depending on the crowd.
Update (February 23, 2022; 5:45 p.m.): This story was updated to reflect additional partners in the project. Eater added Stonz as the name of the wine bar upstairs. Eater also updated menu info about Stonz: A meat and pickled veg platter is no longer in the works, but a tasting menu is. Eater also updated the number of wines available. Lastly, Eater updated this story with the information that Mandalay is not being considered for a reopening.