Photo by Darrow Montgomery
Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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The second location of Falafel Inc. will open at The Wharf in early summer, bringing $3 falafel sandwiches and $4 salads to a neighborhood where a five-spot doesn’t buy you much at restaurants like Del Mar, Kith & Kin, or Requin. “The employees there have no where to eat,” says Falafel Inc. founder Ahmad Ashkar. “I couldn’t have picked a better space.”

The falafel shop will be going into a two-tenant pavilion positioned not far from where the water taxis tote passengers back and forth to Georgetown and Alexandria across from The Anthem.

Georgetown is home to the first Falafel Inc. at 1210 Potomac St. NW. It opened in May with the goal of supporting refugees around the world. For every $10 customers spend on food and drink, the restaurant donates the cost of feeding a refugee for a day, which amounts to about fifty cents. “We’ve provided 25,000 refugee meals so far from opening until the end of 2017,” Ashkar says.

He partners with the The World Food Programme (WFP) to fund the meals. The Palestinian initially wanted to target donations to the Middle East but ultimately decided to let WFP make the determination. “We could earmark it, but we had to decide if we’re in the aid business or the food business,” Ashkar says.

Falafel Inc.’s second D.C. location is just the start. Ashkar says he’s signed franchise partners in Boston and the San Francisco area. He’s also in negotiations for a location in Colorado. Locally he wants to open a Falafel Inc. in Tysons Corner so that he can fulfill the other part of his mission—hiring refugees as employees. Ashkar says there are a lot of the refugees from the Middle East living in the suburbs.

“My goal is to serve one million meals a year each year by 2020,” the entrepreneur says. He also hopes to add restaurants he doesn’t own including major companies like Chipotle under his “Food For Good” umbrella organization that he’s in the process of forming. The purpose is to set restaurants up to make philanthropic contributions part of their overall operations. 

The menu at The Wharf will largely be the same as in Georgetown, with a few subtle changes. Ashkar says they’re experimenting with a new sandwich that replaces falafel balls with za’atar-spiced French fires and a few new flavors of hummus.