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“There will be things here that people don’t think can be on a skewer,” says restaurateur Aung Myint. He already brought Georgetown a Burmese salad restaurant this year with Bandoola Bowl. Next up, he’s debuting another fast casual restaurant in the same neighborhood that serves food on sticks, inspired by his travels in Japan, Thailand, and Myanmar. Sticx is scheduled to open at 1728 Wisconsin Ave. NW in a former Mailboxes Etc. space this fall.
Myint and his business partner Yo Sangkhankaw were globetrotting in Asia when the idea for the restaurant came to them. First they were in Bangkok, Thailand when they chatted up a street vendor who exclusively serves mu ping—grilled pork skewers.
“The vendor said he gets the sticks from producer who makes half a million per day,” Myint recounts. Myint and Sangkhankaw looked around and saw at least 40 other vendors nearby selling the same thing. “There were so many of them. We were doing the calculation in our head. Oh my god, it is possible to need half a million sticks a day.”
“People love food on sticks” became the accidental thesis of the journey. “We weren’t taking a trip for this,” Myint says. “We wanted our own spot, but there was no pressure on when to open. We didn’t know what concept we wanted to do. Noodles were in the mix.”
Then they got stuck in Tokyo on a 13-hour layover to Myint’s home country of Burma (now Myanmar). They made the most of it, discovering yakitori shops specializing in various parts of skewered, charcoal-grilled chicken.
When they finally reached Myanmar, the pair hit the night markets Myint was never allowed to visit when he was living there as a child. “I was young so my parents never asked me to go out at night,” he says. “We sat down at one of the stalls. What if we just have a store that has everything? All of it. That’s where the idea came from.”
The 2,220-square-foot restaurant serving lunch and dinner will have 20 seats at a communal table. Some dishes Myint plans to serve include Chinese cho cho beef, Isaan sausage, chicken meatballs, and shrimp teriyaki. There will be ample grilled, skewered vegetables and tofu for vegetarians. Customers can mix and match sticks to make a meal and complete it with bowls of rice and possibly salads inspired by Bandoola Bowl.
One dish Myint is excited to bring D.C. is hoi jor—crab and minced pork or chicken wrapped in dried beancurd skin and fried. “When my daughter was younger, that’s the only thing she would eat at a Thai restaurant,” Myint says. “I’ve been searching for it here, but there aren’t any anymore. Everybody seems to have scrapped it.”
The hoi jor, like almost everything else, will be served on a stick. Same with sushi.
Kyoto’s tourist-friendly Nishiki Market is famous for vending sashimi on sticks, called sakana kushi. Often, thick slices of tuna, salmon, and octopus will receive a brush of soy sauce and a sprinkle of seaweed flakes or sesame seeds right before they’re displayed for customers to purchase. “You can pick them up and they count the number of sticks to get the price,” Myint says. “I was like, ‘Oh man, no one does this, we gotta do this! We’re already doing sticks. Why not?”
In addition to sashimi on sticks, Myint wants to pierce actual sushi rolls. “The chef we hired, he’s not totally on board with it,” Myint admits, not revealing the name of the chef he has hired. “He’s like, ‘You want me to stab a roll and serve it sideways?’ Sushi can be very playful.”
Those dining in can pair a meal with a selection of beer, wine, sake, and soju.
“I don’t want to do the daily grind anymore,” Myint says, reflecting on his new theme restaurant. He and his family have run Silver Spring Burmese restaurant Mandalay Restaurant & Cafe since 2004. “I just want to have fun. Just 20 seats. I own the space. We don’t have to worry about making rent. We want to be more playful than serious.”
Sticx, 1728 Wisconsin Ave. NW; sticxdc.com