House of Falafel Closes on Upshur Street, La Joya Steakhouse applies for Entertainment License

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221 Upshur Street, NW

Thanks to all who’ve sent emails about House of Falafel which opened back in February. One reader writes:

“Any word on if House of Falafel is still open? I walked by yesterday and most of the table/chairs have been removed and nothing looks open. No responses to phone calls and nothing on their twitter feed.

I was hoping this would be a great addition to Petworth.”

and yesterday another wrote:

“Just drove by House of Falafel on Upshur St and saw what appeared to be Police supervising a crew moving all tables, chairs, etc out of the space–any idea what’s going on?”

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And just up the block at 201 Upshur St, NW another reader writes:

“La Joya Steakhouse on Upshur applies for entertainment endorsement:

Request is for an Entertainment Endorsement. Entertainment will include music played by a DJ and occasionally have local groups play live music with dancing.


30 Comment

  • What a shame…House of Falafel was great!

    • epric002

      i’m sorry to see they didn’t do well, but i’m not surprised. i went once and waited FOREVER for food that was only ok, and kind of overpriced.

    • I went there in March. I liked it, big portions, nice proprietor. He was nervous about the ability to succeed; we talked about what a big financial jump it is to start a restaurant. I’m not surprised based on the lack of customers I would see there that he folded.

  • I feel bad but it was really bland and portions were small. Also took forever to get your food. Seemed like a nice guy though.
    How the hell is La Joya still open though. That place seems like the biggest front in history.

  • I’m thrilled to finally have some live music in the neighborhood! This is going to be fantastic.

  • I’m rooting for Petworth but I just don’t see it keeping many businesses yet. Hopefully I’m wrong and Upshur continues to develop. Probably still 5-10 years away for consistent retail though (other than a handful of places).

    • VarnumGuy

      Well, I think it depends on what part of Upshur we’re looking at. This is at the very end, right by the Armed Forces Retirement home–it is a potentially interesting little strip that right now has 2, maybe 3, convenience stores a laundromat, an (empty?) school building, and La Joya. The only draw is across the street, really, the Hitching Post, which has been there forever. The issue that the poster below brings up is important in this stretch of Upshur. It isn’t right near the metro, it is a bit less densely populated, mostly row houses, but there are also several smaller apartment buildings in a few block radius.

      • I was talking Upshur in general, closer to 8th too. Just don’t see it yet.

        • Wha? The block of Upshur between 8th and 9th is blowing up with new restaurants and bars. You should check it out again.

    • I probably would not go out of my way to open up any kind of retail store in Petworth right now. But I would definitely invest in a new bar or restaurant. There is certainly demand for more of those. That strip of Upshur near Georgia Ave can easily become another 11th St (the two blocks stretching from The Coupe to Wonderland), which has pretty much no retail and is doing quite well.

  • Petworth’s running into the same problem that Tenleytown has: the residential is low density, so there just isn’t enough people to support a lot of businesses unless it can turn itself into a destination.

    • I think a big issue with this stretch of Upshur has been the marketing of these places. I don’t have training in marketing or anything, but take these two businesses for example.

      House of falafel had a variety of pretty good food for relatively cheap prices, and also very good coffee. But it labels itself simply House of Falafel, limiting the perception of what it offers, and then doesn’t keep regular business hours. Since not many people are going to want falafel more than once a week (but would buy coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and quick lunch and dinner options multiple times a week), and nobody can tell when they’re going to be open, the business loses money. Well, yeah, of course.

      Until I hear otherwise, I’m going to assume La Joya is a legitimate business, but have you ever walked by the place? It looks about as inviting as a prison. There’s one cheap sign strewn along the top, and the lights always seem to be out. Hopefully the entertainment application doesn’t mean they’re turning to late night parties that are going to cause trouble for the neighborhood.

      Now look at Hitching Post – of course it has a valuable history that a new business can’t replicate, but especially now with the new ownership, there’s nice seating outside, the interior is bright, and it’s become a regular spot for a lot of neighborhood folks. It keeps regular hours and provides good quality, but not fancy food at reasonable prices.

      I don’t think this stretch is going to really draw a destination type place like the recently opened places on Upshur closer to Georgia. I think the neighborhood is dense enough to support one or two more solid, somewhat cheap, food and drink options, but they have to keep regular hours and appeal to a a wide audience.

      • saf

        ” it’s become a regular spot for a lot of neighborhood folks.”

        It always was that.

        • +1
          Is the food still good there? I loved the massive plates of fried chicken and humongous burgers, and the whole head of broccoli they would serve as a side. The only downside was that they skimped on the mac and cheese!

        • yeah but it seemed to be declining as the previous owners neared retirement. there’s new life in the place with the new ownership.

  • We live in the neighborhood and frequented House of Falafel. Nice owner and we really wanted him to succeed. We were hopeful this would be the beginning of continued development at the upper end of Upshur.
    It seem like a challenge as there just isn’t enough foot traffic to sustain the business. What kind of restaurant/bar/retail would be a good fit here and be able to survive with a mostly residential neighborhood? Would love to see a few businesses/food options land on this strip.

    • VarnumGuy

      Donut/breakfast food and coffee place? Something that might also appeal to the residents/visitors to the Armed Forces Retirement Home/Lincoln’s Cottage?

      • ” Something that might also appeal to the residents/visitors to the Armed Forces Retirement Home/Lincoln’s Cottage?”

        • VarnumGuy

          Something/type of food easily enjoyed by everyone (whatever form that would take.) I went to Lincoln’s Cottage and they were encouraging people to bring lunches to enjoy on the property. You think if there was a restaurant close by that could prep orders for picnic lunches for visitors, that would be another option for community engagement.

  • I really enjoyed the food at House of Falafel and am sorry it’s closing. But I’m not surprised. That location is terrible for foot traffic. Plus the hours were somewhat irregular, which makes it hard to build up a customer base. If that place had opened further down Upshur or on Georgia Ave, and if the owner had committed to it – his primary gig is or was a food truck – it would be doing really well.

  • It’s too bad, because House of Falafel was a nice inexpensive but relatively healthy counterweight to the higher-end places popping up around Upshur. However, it really is hard to build a business that far away from a main commercial area and in a really low-density residential area.

  • Is that “tree of heaven” in the lower right-hand corner of the photo? I hate that nasty weed.

    • VarnumGuy

      I think so. Aren’t those the things you can’t cut down because they just shoot up more runners that sprout trees? You have to dig it out by the roots, right?

  • I really Really wanted to support a small local restaurant like House of Falafel. The family that ran it was so sweet and it seemed like a simple thing the neighborhood could make a regular meal. But paying that much for some fried chickpeas on a pita and having it be totally underwhelming in taste just wasn’t gonna cut it. The first time I took a bite I felt so sad because I knew that at that price and taste I would never go there again.


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