80°Overcast

The Shaw Bijou. Fin.

by Prince Of Petworth January 16, 2017 at 10:02 pm 68 Comments

shaw-bijou-1
1544 9th Street, NW

Thanks to all who sent emails/tweets/messages. The Washingtonian reported:

“Two and a half months after opening and less than two weeks after slashing prices, the Shaw Bijou has closed.”

I feel neither joy or pain. I feel nothing. Though I do feel bad for those who poured their hearts into it. Wishing better luck in their next endeavor. Updates when we learn what becomes of the space.

9th and q
9th and Q St, NW

  • Trinidaddy

    Good riddance. Viva free market and capitalism.

  • JohnH

    It’s nice to see the owner try to help its staff and shockingly, sounds like some were living in a bubble. But I don’t really feel sorry for the owners and chef. They didn’t seem to want to learn that this was not a good idea (I think floating this concept around to more than your wealthy BFFs may be a good idea next time).

    • Tsar of Truxton

      From the WaPo article, it sounds like the owner kept trying to get the chef and manager to change the concept, but they would not change, so he closed it (though I still don’t feel bad for him). I still believe that this place could have succeeded if the food was worth the trip. If it crushed it in early reviews, there are plenty of wealthy people who would have thrown money at them, but it struggled out of the gate (perhaps not surprisingly since he had never run a restaurant before), and after that, it had no chance.

      • Anon

        This place was owned by a hairdresser and run by a rookie chef with no prior experience running a restaurant. I feel like this sums things up fairly succinctly.

  • Otis Gal

    Spent NYE there and couldn’t have had more fun in such a beautiful space. Staff were generous, kind and accommodating. Chef Kwame was approachable and volunteered to teach my son how to cook after learning of his broken heart from a cancelled Cooking class at his school. Sad to see them close after such a short time. Good luck to them all.

  • dh

    does anyone else feel like the restaurant bubble is bursting?

    • jaybird

      No. Restaurants close all the time. Good ones and bad ones.

    • FridayGirl

      Possibly. Honestly, my biggest issue with DC dining is that there are really only two categories: 1) really expensive and/or tapas places, and 2) fast-casual salads/bowls. If anything, I feel like new restaurants would do great if they stopped all hopping on the exact same bandwagon.

      • Anonabeer

        you just need to leave the 14th street corridor, get out in the neighborhoods.

        • MadMax

          You know that “14th Street corridor” is a neighborhood too, right? Actually, several.

          • Anonabeer

            Great comment!

        • FridayGirl

          I do! Actually, I lived and went to school half way across the city for 2.5 years. It was basically the same as here except even LESS variety. Obviously there are some hidden gems here and there but compared to other cities, we DO lack a lot of variety.

      • Anonynon

        Yeah theres definitely a lot more options out there, you just have to look

      • dcd

        Drawing conclusions about the state of the restaurant industry in DC based on the early demise of this particular establishment strikes me as . . . misplaced.
        .
        “there are really only two categories”
        That simply isn’t true. As Anonabeer said, if you get off 14th street, there’s a ton of excellent options. (And even on 14th, there are a bunch – Kapnos is one of my favorites.) In the last 2 weeks on Popville, we’ve discussed favorite Thai places (admittedly thin on the quality) and favorite ramen places (a much deeper bench). Just in my old neighborhood, there’s Thip Khao, El Chucho, Room 11, Bad Saint, and a bunch of more average places (both in quality and concept). Also, tapas places and “really expensive” are almost definitionally mutually exclusive.

        • Tsar of Truxton

          I would argue that mezze (i.e., Kapnos) falls into the small plates/tapas category. While I agree that small plates do not necessarily mean expensive, it is often the case. Instead of buying one entree for $23-28, you need to buy 2-3 small plates per person, which typically cost $12-18 per plate unless it is a veggie only plate. I would say it typically comes out to ~30pp or more at small plates restaurants, which is not outrageous, i.e., “really expensive,” but it is expensive for a lot of people. I agree with the larger point here, that there are plenty of decently-priced restaurants if you get off 14th though. Pub and the People, Red Hen (if you go for pasta), All Purpose, and Thally to name a few in the Shaw/Bloomingdale area.

          • dcd

            You’re right about mezze = tapas; I don’t think of Kapnos as a mezze place because we usually get the large protein for the table. And the taramasolata, which is one of my favorite dished in DC.

          • JohnH

            Shaw’s Tavern too. All Purpose is good but it’s pricey for some pizza (I could eat an entire pizza there – they aren’t that big, but maybe I just need to cut back on carbs…)

          • FridayGirl

            This was my point exactly. Kapnos is a tapas place (although they do have a great happy hour), and $30pp is pretty expensive for some of us….
            .
            Although I suppose if you’re a doctor or a lawyer and are earning well above average income then $30-$50pp is a drop in the bucket.
            .
            (Also it should be known that I rarely eat out on 14th. I was making a general statement that others have made in the past and I’m not sure why I’m being so jumped on for it!)

        • facts

          Beyond “really expensive,” “tapas,” and “fast casual salads/bowls” on 14th street alone there is a huge range, from slipstream to amsterdam falafel to saint ex to lupo verde, busboys and poets, taqueria nacional, b too, da hong pao, ted’s bulletin, matchbox, doi moi, le diplomate, obviously I could go on and on but none of these constitute any of the three categories you mentioned. But if you want legit tapas Estadio is slinging them.

          • Tsar of Truxton

            Love Estadio. I feel like people forget about it because it has been around longer than most of those places, but it is legit. Those mushrooms…now I am hungry!

          • JohnH

            Well, it’s all relative right? I consider a $25 entree expensive for a rando dinner (i.e. Le Diplomate). Lupo Verde too – how is that an economical dinner? Their cheapest pasta dish is $19 and it’s not like it’s really meant to be a full entree. Getting a salad and pasta would be over $30.
            .
            But yes, there are casual restaurants on 14th that are reasonably priced. Absolutely. Your Ted’s, Commissary, Logan Tavern, etc.
            .
            That being said, there are a lot of them pushing the envelope on price (even Ted’s is pretty expensive for the quality of dinner – you get a lot of food, but it’s pretty basic stuff – which is probably why it’s not that busy for dinner).

          • wdc

            What is Amsterdam Falafel if not fast casual?? Matchbox is really expensive for pizza. Le Diplomat isn’t Minibar prices, but it ain’t cheap either. And I had the worst dining experience of 2016 at B Too, so unless the list you’re compiling is title “terrible restaurants who don’t deserve another cent” I’d leave that one off.
            I agree with the overall point that there’s a lot of variety if you step away from the marketing, but your examples aren’t good.

          • FridayGirl

            Thank you, JohnH. Some of us don’t want to pay $25-$30 an entree without drinks/appetizers/desserts for a rando dinner.

          • textdoc

            Agreed with JohnH. I’d say $25-$30 for a main dish qualifies as “expensive.” I guess you can categorize the price levels beyond that as “very expensive,” “extremely expensive,” and “stratospherically expensive.”

          • Tsar of Truxton

            I would love to live in the dream world that you guys live in. No one WANTS to pay $25 for an entree, but you live in an expensive city. Restaurants have to pay the bills or they can’t survive. The point that people are making is an objective one, i.e., that restaurants in this price range are the norm in big cities such as this. That is the going rate for a normal restaurant so to speak. Subjectively, it may be cheap, average, or expensive depending on your income and personal thoughts on the value of eating out. If you want cheaper, you are going to have to move to a place with a lower cost of living.

          • HaileUnlikely

            To quote that little chihuahua of late 1990’s fame, you quiero taco bell.

          • anon

            Man, please stop with the ‘restaurants have to make a living thing.’ I’m not sure how some poor restaurants have survived so long serving up good food at modest prices (they exist) while the above ego project goes bust in 2 months. If a restaurant can’t sell good food at a good price, let it go down. I don’t need the lectures here about how $25 is somehow a just price because some dude has to fund his overpriced lease and gaudy decor. And for what it’s worth, $10.99 at Olive Garden will get you salad, bread sticks, a pasta entree, and dessert.

        • anon

          I think it’s fair to say that the DC dining scene has in the past few years become a significantly more expensive space in which to operate. We’re now seeing multi-million dollar investments before doors even open, and ‘concepts’ which – to the earlier point – seem tired. It’s pretty easy now to blow $150 on a completely forgettable meal in DC thanks to $14 wine pours, $13 ‘starters’ and $26 pasta or chicken entrees.

      • Anon Spock

        As others have echoed, that idea means you need to get out more.

      • Dognonymous

        To be fair, a lot of the places cited as “not really expensive” in the replies are still pretty expensive. It depends on what FridayGirl is calling expensive. Even in a place as moneyed up as DC, a night out at Le Diplomate or Red Hen is still a pretty big treat for most. But I do agree that just going to Petworth or Brookland or Bloomingdale or heck, even H Street, is going to yield plenty of places where you can get a really good sit-down dinner for $15-$18.

        • facts

          Restaurants where the average check would be over $100 a person are “really expensive.” $20 entrees (available at all the restaurants I cited) are not “really expensive.”

          • JohnH

            I think you’re arguing semantics. I think the “really expensive” quip meant more along the lines of places you wouldn’t go for an everyday dinner. I don’t think your typical person is looking to spend $50/person on any given night for dinner.

          • Anon

            Gotta love people trying to present ostensibly subjective opinions (“its expensive”) as “facts”. It’s cute, almost.

          • dcd

            The lines between moderate, expensive and really expensive are absolutely subjective. I consider $100/person, including tax, tip, and alcohol, to be expensive. *Really* expensive is reserved for places that are $350-$400+ for two – Fiola Mare, Pineapple & Pearls, Komi, etc. If I can get out of dinner for 3 (including a couple of drinks) for $100-150, that’s moderate (to me, at least).

          • JohnH

            Let’s all list how much money we make! Go!
            .
            #humblebrag

          • Tsar of Truxton

            $15-$18 is like Olive Garden/Chain pricing. There are very few places in the city (or even out of the city) where you can get a really good meal at that price (other than a burger/sandwich or pasta). I would say a typical dinner cost in the city (DC and other cities) with a few drinks is 50-65 per person after tax and tip. While that may not be in everyone’s budget for an everyday meal, it is certainly not what I would call “really expensive.” I agree with dcd.

          • Dognonymous

            Well, when you add the clause “with a few drinks,” that scales things up quite a bit. And as subjective as “expensive” is, “really good meal” may be even more so. Way too many moving targets here.
            .
            In sum: in DC, there is often food, and you can pay money to eat it, but not at Shaw Bijou. Sad trombone.

          • HaileUnlikely

            For a lot of people, places like Ted’s Bulletin and Matchbox are “really expensive” and places like Shaw Bijou aren’t even on the radar. More expensive than that and we’re talking really special occasion and way less than once a year. I regard paying $50 – $65/person at most of the places on 14th St as a big ol’ waste of money. Not to say that I never do it, but when I do I almost invariably end up kicking myself. I’d much rather spend $18 at Olive Garden than $65 at most of the places on 14th St.

          • JohnH

            To be fair, Olive Garden gives you two entrees – one to take home!
            .
            Maybe I live in naive-land, but I think everyone’s on different pages – you throw out “really good meal” – is that an everyday meal? I guess maybe you only eat really good meals and cancel out sandwiches/pasta/pizza as serf-food. I guess if you’re Donald, every meal is really, really, really good. Is that it’s own price point?
            .
            le sigh.

      • MadMax

        FWIW I agree, for the most part. That’s not to say there aren’t some cool places that occasionally open that buck that trend, but I’m so sick of chefs / waitstaff telling me their menu is designed to be shared, as if prior to 2010 we were all hoarding our plates away from our fellow dining companions.

    • neighbor

      The City Paper article on this was right on. There are all sorts of reasons this place was horribly conceived from the get go.
      .
      I do think some markets are a little saturated (14th St NW, H St. NE), but a lot of neighborhoods could still use more options (Kennedy St., outer Brookland).

      • JohnH

        The area that Shaw Bijou is located could use more average priced restaurants – the issue isn’t a lack of higher end restaurants, especially when you’re so close to the downtown area with Gallery Place, Mt. Vernon Triangle, Metro Center/City Center that offer so many high-end restaurants. There’s very little between the Giant hot bar and $25+/entree restaurants.

    • MtP

      I don’t think this closure really signifies the bubble bursting, but I have been wondering the same thing recently. It is MUCH easier to get reservations or walk-in to very highly acclaimed restaurants, whereas before you just couldn’t do that. Sure, they’re still busy, but the sizeable increase in number seems to have lessened the crowds at them.

      • Anon

        It’s also winter time – significantly slower business for most restaurants. I’m guessing some of those reservations are going to be harder to come by once it warms up.

      • Anon

        With the election results (WH and the Hill), a lot of residents are changing jobs. I have many friends who are, and we started being more conservative with eating out starting November 9th. Hopefully they will all land on their feet.

    • ah

      Maybe the $400/person restaurant bubble.

    • Ted O’Connor
    • Michael Pierce

      I think the bubble for really expensive restaurants situated in Shaw may have just burst. Time will tell. But just like real estate values in DC will never approach infinity despite their current trajectory, there is certainly a saturation point for restaurants in DC. And a lot of people are unwilling to acknowledge this.

      • JohnH

        Bingo. Shaw isn’t that densely populated to begin with. And a lot of the people who have moved there are spending a lot of their disposable income on housing. I think it may actually be a reason that there are not a ton of average priced restaurants – a lot of the actual residents aren’t going out to eat on a regular basis and a lot of the people coming to the 14th St/Shaw restaurants are people coming from outside the area that want to come to the hip area. A lot of the more casual restaurants like Ted’s, Matchbox, etc. are not very busy at all in the evenings, so I don’t think it’s the neighbors that are flooding the restaurants (there’s also been very high turnover on U Street with average priced restaurants).

        • Tsar of Truxton

          I think you are making a lot of assumptions based on zero data.

          • JohnH

            Logan Circle-Shaw has been one of the most expensive neighborhoods to live in DC for the last several years. I think that automatically means people are spending a higher percentage of their income on housing there than living in many other neighborhoods.
            .
            I also said “I think it may…”, not exactly a statement of fact. Don’t think many comments on this website are based on actual data, ala the average DC dinner costs $50.

          • Tsar of Truxton

            “And a lot of the people who have moved there are spending a lot of their disposable income on housing.”

            “I think that automatically means people are spending a higher percentage of their income on housing there than living in many other neighborhoods”

            Or those people have higher incomes and spend the exact same percentage on housing. Banks won’t lend to people if their debt-to-income ratio will be over 43%, so people in higher priced neighborhoods are spending more on housing on a monthly basis, but not necessarily a higher percentage of their income. I suppose landlords might be renting to people at a higher income to debt ratio than that but doing so would be pretty ill informed. If you want to talk about who spends on what without any proof, I would guess that the young, wealthy people who move to places like Shaw are precisely the people who spend disposable income on going out.

            I admit my $50-65 is anecdotal, and there are certainly cheaper places, but I have been to enough restaurants in DC to know that a typical place charges 22-30 for a non-sandwich/salad entree (with maybe a few entrees that go over that). If you buy a $22 entree, which is on the low end, and have two drinks (say ~$8/each), you are at $38 plus 10% tax ($3.80) plus 20% tip ($7.60), which comes to $49.40 for one person with no appetizer or dessert.

    • A Nony Mouse

      90% of restaurants fail within the first year. This place had it’s fair share of problems.

      • wdc

        That number is just false. It’s more like 60% in the first year, up to 80% by year 5.

    • MadMax

      It might be bursting for the restaurateurs / investors, they’re opening at a clip that outpaces the influx of eaters demanding new restaurants, but it’s a great time if you’re a diner, with more options than ever before (even if they’re stifled in the same few growth areas).

  • Tony

    This pretty much sucks all around. Was very excited to see the restaurant established at that location, and Chef Kwame is insanely talented and seemed like a really good guy when we met him at the Union Market cheesesteak pop up (which was mobbed btw). Definitely someone that you wanted to root for.

    And yet… when the pricing details were released, there was no conceivable way I could ever conceive of going there. And the whole “members only bar” thing was just so gobsmackingly idiotic (which if I recall correctly, the media quotes at the time on the bar concept came from the owner now pointing his finger at the chef and GM) and made the venture seem like peak hipster douchce – which was so avoidable! Just imagine if they had gone the Bad Saint route – small intimate space, unique flavors (Nigerian-influenced global flavors, perhaps), approachable prices, no reservations….there would have been a line down the block to the school every day probably. Build a following there, make that a cash machine, then add the splurgy tasting option or carve out a space-within-a-space (worked pretty well for Minibar!).

    So yeah, basically this sucks all around. At the same time if the team sticks around, admits they flew a bit too close to the sun, and tries something that I can actually afford, I would welcome it with open arms and mouth. I mean, that cheesesteak was damn delicious. And who doesn’t love a good comeback story? (End Rant)

    • MtP

      +1 to all of this.

    • Anon

      Yup – agree completely. There was waaaaaaaaay too much chest thumping early on. An experienced owner would’ve nipped this in the bud, but that wasn’t the case with the Immortal Beloved guy. You have to deliver if you’re charging $500 per meal. They didn’t, it seems.

      • Hill Denizen

        You have to more than deliver. Even if the food is good, few people are going to give you a chance at that price if you don’t have a reputation.

    • dcd

      “Just imagine if they had gone the Bad Saint route – small intimate space, unique flavors (Nigerian-influenced global flavors, perhaps), approachable prices, no reservations….there would have been a line down the block to the school every day probably. Build a following there, make that a cash machine, then add the splurgy tasting option or carve out a space-within-a-space”
      .
      + 1 to this – it’s exactly what Aaron Silverman did. Worked out pretty well for him!

  • MtP

    As some commenters have said elsewhere, he really should have opened a more low-end (or regular-end) place and made it incredible and built up a reputation beyond finishing 6/17 on Top Chef. Then he could have done whatever he wanted.

    • JohnH

      Kwame’s Burger Kastle just doesn’t have the same ring I guess! ha

    • Hill Denizen

      He seemed to have this in the works even before Top Chef. His description on the show was always “Exec. Chef Shaw Bijou” or something like that, MONTHS before it even opened. The ego was just insurmountable.

      • James

        +1000

        I think his ego got the best of him. Hopefully this will serve as a reality check.

  • Petworthy

    I was among the lucky few that enjoyed this concept, space, chef and more at the (briefly) lowered price of $95 which included 7 courses + a generous welcome cocktail. We had a lovely experience, everything they served was thoughtful and delicious and I proceeded to recommend going to everyone I talked to in the next 48 hours… right up until the news of the closure. Based on our experience, I would guess the main issue is they were not keeping an eye on margins. Both me and my dining partner love food/restaurants, neither of us is in the restaurant industry but we were scratching our heads as to how they could sustain this model with the high dollar items that continued to be delivered to the table. At one point we were even talking about how we would have had a difficult time recreating that meal at home based solely on cost of ingredients. It’s a shame but I suppose a lesson learned on running a business. Based on the amount of time, effort and money spent to reno this place, I am expecting to hear about whatever “re-imagined” concept they’ll plop in there but one thing is for sure, they won’t leave that space unoccupied for long.

    • Hill Denizen

      Wasn’t one of his issues on Top Chef that he always did too much?

  • Julia Vipsania

    I too loved the cheesesteak and was psyched to try until I saw the price tag. As much as I want to root for all local businesses—it sucks when anyone fails—maybe this was a much-needed reality check. Servers singing his praises course after course, only to meet him at the end like some cult figure? Bringing every table for a photo op? They don’t talk like that at French Laundry or even Alinea. That’s nuts.

    Now I’m super curious about the food costs. Someone must have the figures! And if they need help paying the bills, I’ll bid on one of those Icelandic sheepskin seat covers…

  • 7thStTechGuy

    The schadenfreude around Kwame/this restaurant is getting to be a little fun to watch. It’s almost as if people wanted this place to fail after the goofy schtick around reservations/pricing came out- and I for one was part of it. I met Kwame at an event in DC and he was charming, enthusiastic and truly seemed to love his craft…as a Shaw resident I was really excited to add a restaurant to the rotation for special events and visitors- then they released the pricing. The first thing I said was “ha! that will be closed within the first year, no one here will spend that cash”- Michellin Stared restaurants here dont charge that much, and those restaurants have some clout behind them via past performance of their chefs and ownership; not being a Top 10 finisher on Top Chef.
    That all said- as the owner, you have to have more say than is being let on by the Hells Bottom/Immortal Beloved guy($65+ for a mens haircut??? Wut- no thanks.) Who is just as out of touch as anyone who signed onto this concept; I’m loving his PR blitz.. I wish Kwame nothing but the best, he’s a nice guy- well see him around.

×

Subscribe to our mailing list