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Chao Ku, which opened eight months ago, is calling it quits after dinner service on Feb. 5. The affordable Chinese restaurant housed inside a Shaw rowhouse (1414 9th St. NW) couldn’t make it work. “It made sense just to let it go. The road was too long,” says owner John Fielding. “We just never got the foot traffic to make it work, and we spent so much money on the buildout,” he continues.
Rumors of the closing kicked off last month after PoPville sleuthed out that the building housing Chao Ku was for sale. But at that time, Fielding thought there was still hope. He said the decision to go up for sale was precautionary and an experiment to see how much they could get.
Fielding describes his current emotional state as shocked because he feels Chao Ku was filling an important need to have cheaper dining options—places where you get in and out for under $40 and bring the family. “I thought we would at least break even with our price point, but we never got close to that,” he says. “I go to Seattle, Los Angeles, and Chicago a lot. All those towns have good cheap food, and D.C. doesn’t.”
Fielding says he wishes he considered opening in upper Northwest, where his other businesses are located (Broad Branch Market and Soapstone Market).
There is a chance that Chao Ku will reappear in one iteration or another, such as a pop-up at one of Fielding’s markets, but that’s to be determined.
RIP Tower of Power.
Chao Ku, 1414 9th St. NW, chaokudc.com