You have one week to get your last funky, fancy cheesesteak from Philly Wing Fry—at least for a while. Chef Kwame Onwuachi is closing the Union Market location of his fast-casual restaurant on Nov. 27. The first location, inside the Navy Yard Whole Foods, closed in June. At that time, Onwuachi told Washingtonian that he was looking for a standalone venue for Philly Wing Fry.
Now Philly Wing Fry is in a holding pattern as Onwuachi says he’s focusing all of his efforts on his next full-service concept, plus making sure Kith/Kin “continues to be a great restaurant.”
“It’s very enticing for chefs, especially in my position, to open another restaurant and another restaurant, but you spread yourself too thin,” he says. “I don’t have the bandwidth of someone like José Andrés. He’s been doing this as long as I’ve been alive and I still have a lot of growing and learning to do.”
Onwuachi has had a mammoth year. He received a James Beard Award, Kith/Kin just got a nod in the New York Times, and his memoir is being made into a movie. “It’s really easy when you’re getting these accolades to continue opening and opening, but I don’t want that,” he says. “I want everything I do to be calculated and pointed.”
Philly Wing Fry, which Onwuachi hopes to revive one day, specializes in cheesesteaks made with dry-aged ribeye, smoked provolone, roasted garlic mayo, and both caramelized and pickled onions. There’s also a vegetarian version that relies on the meatiness of mushrooms. Tamarind-glazed chicken wings and waffle fries sprinkled with berbere—a classic Ethiopian spice blend—round out the menu.
“For this concept to work, we need our own space because we make everything in house,” Onwuachi says. “It’s labor intensive. I love it because of that. It doesn’t taste like other fast-casual places because we have our hands on everything. Even our spice blends. We make them all. I’m proud of that. I want to continue doing that.”
The chef says he’s found a home for all of the Philly Wing Fry cooks, whether at Kith/Kin or other restaurants in D.C.
Philly Wing Fry at Union Market, 1309 5th St. NE; phillywingfry.com