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It’s too early to worry that you’ve had your last order of dan dan noodles at Chao Ku. PoPville published that the affordable Chinese restaurant housed in a Shaw rowhouse was up for sale. That may be true, but it’s not the whole story.
Owner John Fielding explains the restaurant is currently exploring its options and is in negotiations with the building’s landlord. He says they currently don’t plan to close, and the move to put the space up for sale is precautionary in case things don’t work out. “We don’t want to wait until we run out of money and resources to move it somewhere else,” he says.
Fielding, who also owns Broad Branch Market and Soapstone Market,admits Chao Ku is not currently on track to break even, but he’s hopeful things will turn around. He explains that opening in the summer was a challenge (people were out of town), and then the restaurant industry saw a particularly tough autumn. “D.C.’s been in a funk because of the election—in October and November, every restaurant owner I know said they’ve had the worst fall in ten years.”
Chao Ku is still open for business as usual and there is no talk of a closing date. Even if things don’t work out in Shaw, Chao Ku isn’t going away. “If we close, we’ll be relocating, not just folding,” Fielding says. He even thinks there is potential to open several more locations. “Where else can you go and eat fun, good food, get drinks, and not spend that much money?” he asks. “That was our thing.” The most expensive dish on the menu, the “Tower of Power,” is $15 and can feed two with its wok-fried spare ribs, pork roast, slow-cooked pork belly, house pickles, and condiments.
Chao Ku was our pick for the restaurant that deserved more hype in our year-end Hungries awards. It also caught our eye from the beginning, and the restaurant’s chef, Paul Pelt, was featured in last week’s column about chefs who expertly cook cuisines they didn’t grow up eating.
Chao Ku, 1414 9th St. NW, chaokudc.com