A hit surf-and-turf burger born in Navy Yard during the pandemic just made a surprise return, this time in Arlington. Starting this month, chef Armani Johnson brings back his beloved “AJ” crab dip burger at Irish pub Mattie & Eddies every Monday night (1301 S. Joyce Street, Arlington, Virginia).
The new weekly pop-up, dubbed I Am a Sandwich, resurrects some of the culinary ideas Johnson initiated as executive chef at Erik Bruner-Yang’s now-closed cafe ABC Pony (the Southeast space is now home to chef Tim Ma’s Any Day Now).
The AJ, which stands for its inventor’s initials, features a six-ounce patty topped with a mustard-heavy mixture of crab meat, cream, cream cheese, cheddar, black vinegar, and Old Bay. He originally created the crab dip at ABC Pony as a standalone dish with cheddar biscuit dough baked on top. The AJ iteration, which he debuted the following year in 2021, was named one of the best new burgers in town by Washington Post food writer Tim Carman.
Johnson’s not classifying his new pop-up menu as an ABC Pony reboot, per se, but rather a representation of his Prince George’s County roots and the Mid-Atlantic soul food he ate growing up. “[Bringing] together the flavors I’ve cherished from my upbringing and those that have captured my heart throughout the years,” he tells Eater.
Another handheld called the “Banh Moe” puts a half-smoke spin on a classic Vietnamese banh mi. D.C.’s signature sausage subs in as the main protein, joined by pate, pickled jicama, carrots, fresh herbs, cucumber, jalapeño, and an XO aioli sauce.
Chef Cathal Armstrong’s Pentagon Row restaurant hosts the pop-up from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. as part of its game-time menu to mark the return of NFL’s Monday Night Football.
“The name [I Am a Sandwich] takes inspiration from the playful debate of ‘is a hot dog a sandwich’ — which clearly conveys my position on the matter,” says Johnson.