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Fava Pot founder Dina Daniel has never let adversity disrupt her mission to expose the region to Egyptian food. She launched her food truck in 2013 in the middle of a miserable winter. She’d pull up to office parks in Tysons Corner and hand out free samples, turning customer after customer into a fan of koshary, a hearty mix of pasta, lentils, chickpeas, rice, caramelized onions, and spicy tomato sauce.
In the years that followed, Daniel opened a full-service restaurant in Falls Church and a stall at Union Market with a tighter menu. Now she’s taking a risk by opening a Fava Pot downtown in the midst of a pandemic. She and similarly situated restaurant owners are hoping the vaccination process proceeds swiftly and workers return to their offices sooner than later. Having a second location in a new neighborhood will at least allow Fava Pot to expand its delivery radius.
“It took me blood and sweat to introduce Egyptian cuisine,” Daniel says. “I believe if we didn’t get held back by the pandemic, 2020 was going to be a great year. That’s what made me not give up … If I don’t open, someone else will open. The cuisine is out there. They love it. They love our culture.”
Fava Pot will replace OKI Bowl DC at 1817 M St. NW. Daniel is targeting a late May or early June launch. She told Arlington Magazine in September that she was opening a spinoff concept in Rosslyn. That project is off, according to Daniel. The downtown location is her immediate focus, but she’s pondering bringing a larger restaurant to Chevy Chase. Fava Pot has built a loyal following in the D.C. neighborhood through coordinated neighborhood drops.
The downtown menu will mimic the one at Union Market that has the feel of a fast casual restaurant. Diners will be able to try from-scratch falafel, koshary, kebab bowls, and kofta sandwiches. Having just returned from a three-week trip to Egypt, Daniel says she’s adding a few specialities. Once the downtown restaurant finds its footing, she’ll introduce a fish dish called singari and a variation on bread pudding that uses a croissant-like pastry called feteer meshaltet.
Daniel also brought back a few antiques from Egypt that will add to the atmosphere of her latest Fava Pot. The space is small with 12 seats inside and four seats outside. It will be open Mondays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The restaurateur is optimistic about her latest venture despite a challenging past year. “What we went through was a lot,” Daniel says, referring to each new blow dealt by the pandemic. She’s grateful for the $36,600 Paycheck Protection Program loan she received in May to keep her businesses viable and staff employed.
“We have a very good system here in America,” Daniel continues. “I have seen small businesses in Egypt go out of business and no one cares about that. I’m an immigrant. I came here in 2004. I love my country, but I feel blessed here.”
Fava Pot, 1817 M St. NW, favapot.com