84°Mostly Cloudy

Native Foods Cafe Closing Both DC Locations

by Prince Of Petworth December 7, 2015 at 4:00 pm 41 Comments

native foods

A reader reports:

“So sad to say the two Native Foods in DC are closing.”

Native Foods Cafe opened their first DC location at 18th and M St, NW back in September 2014 and in November of that year they opened their Penn Quarter location.

Another reader writes about a change.org petition he started asking “Native Foods to pay the workers through the end of the year”:

“I started this petition because Native Foods, with locations near Farragut North and Penn Quarter, gave its workers (and customers) just one week’s notice that they’re closing down on December 8 (Tuesday).

Stinks for customers, but even worse for the dozens of workers who lost their jobs with just one week’s notice and so close to the holidays!

My petition (disclaimer that I work for Change.org but am doing this independently because I really like Native Foods but think this is a bad business move for a company that talks about compassion so often) asks for Native Foods to pay the workers through the end of the year.”

  • Lady Gray Skies

    This is really a surprise. Up until recently, I worked the Penn Quarter location and it was packed during lunch everyday. The food was very good.

    • jumpingjack

      The Dupont location is also generally packed at lunchtime. I read elsewhere that the stores had expected more evening and weekend business. Basic market research would have told them that there isn’t a big evening and weekend crowd for restaurants like this in that area of Dupont.
      That really stinks that they’re only giving employees one week notice. Not cool.

      • Anon

        Im pretty sure packed bc service SO slow that everyone just sitting and waiting on food. I went to the DuPont location once. Walked out knowing they would be out of biz in 6 months. 30 minute wait for my takeout salad. Everyone around me had similar situation. That won’t fly for casual lunch spot in business area.

      • Many places that close give zero notice, employees just show up to locked doors. One week is actually a rarity.

        • sounds like you’re implying they should be grateful that they got a week’s notice? okay.

          • By restaurant standards? Yes.

  • oh2dc

    I eat meat, but I love the idea of a vegan restaurant and would support more vegetable-centered fast casual food options. However, I really did not care for this place. The menu was so focused on fake meat products. I don’t want to eat things that are adapted to taste like meat. It never comes close. I just want the non-meat to be a great preparation of its own glory and not the shadow of meat.

    • goaldigger

      Yeah, I am plant eater and I tried to like this place but I was always disappointed with my food. I hit both places and I thought the folks that worked there were very nice and efficient so hopefully they will move on to other positions quickly.

      • anon

        it’s gone downhill as they were acquired and undergone a more corporate expansion. I still can’t get my head around the disposal plates/utensils at PQ location. That’s SO out of line with founder’s principles. Even the original SoCal locations have declined.

    • This. Was always so disappointed in their menu, given how you could easily make a variety of tasty curries without resorting to the fake meat. Even their (limited) salads had fake meat!

  • Uh….

    Nice sentiment I guess but that’s not really how business works. I don’t see them gifting former employees thousands of dollars because some strangers with zero stake in the matter think it’s the right thing to do.
    You could donate money to pay these employees yourself if it’s that important.

    • Derek

      My thoughts exactly; people need to realize that the value of petitions are greatly exaggerated. I think this person if they do care about the employees should collect donations and provide directly.

    • Pulin

      The petition got them an extra week’s severance. And I’m not a stranger. I’m a regular customer who has spent a lot of money at their DC locations as well as those in other states. Businesses pay attention to customers because that’s how they make money. That is actually exactly how business work.


      • ah

        Hey, congratulations.

        So they get basically two more weeks’ pay – one for working and one as severance. Seems reasonable to me – yeah, it’s rough to do it at holidays but it is business and two weeks notice is what goes the other way too.

  • Tom

    Did it ever occur to the person staring the petition that the stores are closing because they are having financial problems? Usually, when someone shuts a business down it’s because they can’t pay the rent and the employees with the money they are making from selling their goods. Logic would suggest that it would be even more difficult for them to pay their employees when they are not selling anything. Of course, most people tend to be quite generous with other people’s money.

  • stcohi

    I’m torn here. I’ve liked their food (I’ve only been to the DuPont location), but I often found the waits to be excruciating. Even ordering online in advance, I’ve had to wait when I’ve arrived to pick up my meal at the pre-determined time. Wasn’t exactly a cheap meal, but usually tasted pretty good. Shame. DuPont has some great food options, but not so much that was unique like Native Foods. Hopefully they’re replaced by something good.

    • Anon

      The service was SO SLOW. I waited 30 min for a takeout lunch salad on my first and last visit. I was not anomaly on that day anyway.

  • Anon

    You don’t make friends with salad!

    • Caroline

      I don’t know, Sweetgreen seems to be doing really well.

  • John

    I enjoyed the “cheeseburger” I got at th Dupont location, but it was more of a novelty, and not enough to keep me from going to Sweetgreen/ShopHouse/Chipotle.

    I tried the Penn Quarter location for lunch and was very disapointed. $10 for a Thai tofu curry and I thought that the portion was very small. On top of that, it was a really long wait even though it wasn’t all that crowded.

    • John

      Side note: despite being a meat eater I liked that Vegan place that used to be on 19th, near L. Not sure why it went out but I thought it was a much better value and had better food than Native Foods.

      Also, I think these Vegan places would be a bit better if they focused on good, “naturally” vegan foods such as indian/thai curries or lentil/bean based dishes rather than just having tons of fake meat.

      • JAVA GREEN! Man, I loved that place.

      • Anon

        JAVA GREEN WAS SO GOOD! They expanded and opened a place called Cafe Green that wasn’t great and it brought both places down. I miss that place so much. I typically don’t like fake meat either but I think it has its place if done really well. I thought that Native Foods did an excellent job and I’m sad to see them go.

      • James

        Java Green closed because their DuPont location ran into financial problems and eventually sunk both. Native Foods was lightspeed when compared to JG’s DuP location. I once waited almost 2 hours for a salad. The owner of JG was trying to raise money for a new restaurant but hasn’t had any luck. Nice guy but terrible at business.

  • Will

    The Penn location was always filthy. Restrooms were disgusting and the tables always had old food and wrappers on them. I think the concept and food is really good. but you have to take care of something if you want it to last.

  • Sharon

    And last month they closed the Falls Church location first… and it was the last one to open out of the 3 in the Metro DC area.

  • MarkQ

    Surprised by this too as their PQ location definitely always seemed packed. I frequented the place because it was close, but it started losing out to a reliable trip to Chop’t. The food just wasn’t that great and the value wasn’t their.

  • Truxton Thomas

    Tried it once at the Dupont location. It had obviously been reheated in the microwave. Once was enough.

  • Michelle

    Why not open for lunch only? Try closing weekends and evenings. How dare you ” compassionate” people close with a week’s notice before the holidays? At least compensate people through the holidays!!!

    • James

      Because a restaurant’s main expense is their lease and you often can’t make enough just being open for lunch. Yes, there are tons of carryouts in Farragut that are only open for lunch/breakfast but I suspect they have very old leases and do way more in volume than Native Foods.

      • anon

        the 10000 Au Bon Pair, Panera, Pauls, Pret A Manger located downtown may disagree

        • palisades

          Those are large national chains. Not quite the same situation.

          • elle gee

            their rent is the same regardless

    • Why should “the holidays” be some period where businesses are exempt from failure?

  • Mmk11

    I was a regular at the Penn Quarter location and avoided the service problems by ordering online. I always found that very efficient and easy, though it bothered me that there was no way to opt out of having it put in a brown bag every time (so wasteful, as was serving eat-in orders in plastic).

    Anyway, I comment to say I’m very disappointed in their handling of this both towards customers and employees. To not announce it in any way except signs on the doors when they have an active email list (or they could’ve done a press release) was not very considerate of their many very loyal patrons. I went in a week ago (I go at least once a week) and might not have known about this in time if someone hadn’t sent me the Borderstan post. And if you didn’t get in soon after that post, they were out of many of the best things already. So much for one last oatmeal creme pie or order of nachos.

    For the employees, the lack of notice (more so than lack of severance, which I don’t think is unusual) does bother me given their mission and marketing. I wonder how long they’ve been considering or planning this and just didn’t tell the employees so as not to lose people if they didn’t close.

    • According to more than one poster here even ordering online provided quite a bit of delay still. I’m also not sure why they should care about the feelings of customers when they no longer plan to be in business here. It’s like asking your ex-girlfriend what color to paint the bedroom.

  • Anon

    POPville — the manager at the Penn Quarter location told me yesterday that they are scouting new locations and might be open again soon. He said that the rent was too damn high for them to survive while growing their business. I hope that is true – maybe you can ask them!

  • amanymouse

    Shuttered a day early, and on National Brownie Day!

  • Mister Frackles

    This is so upsetting! It’s one of the few reliable vegan places downtown. I ate at the Dupont location all the time.


Subscribe to our mailing list