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Restaurants significantly improved their takeout abilities throughout the pandemic. Along the way, a new category of heat-and-eat meals that require a little elbow grease from customers evolved as a popular new category of to-go food. Washingtonians could eat cheffy food without feeling like useless sacks. The chefs behind meal-kit lines learned to include everything from cooking and reheating instructions to plating suggestions and notes about ingredient sourcing and inspiration. The goal was to box-up hospitality. Nina May and Rose’s Luxury were among the early adopters.
Even though restaurants have fully reopened and more people are eating out again, some owners are still betting on this new revenue stream because it remains popular with diners. Platforms like Table 22 make it simple for businesses to launch monthly meal subscriptions that will likely be a permanent part of the hospitality industry landscape. Customers can cancel them at any point.
Table 22 launched at its first restaurant in May 2020. While it operates in more than 50 markets, founder Sam Bernstein says D.C. is one of its top cities. “What we try to do is help restaurants build these subscriptions that create really impactful revenue that’s incremental, stable, predictable, and helps them get closer to their best customers,” he says.
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Lebanese Taverna launched a monthly chef’s tasting menu membership club this month to stay relevant after 42 years in business, according to co-owner Grace Abi-Najm Shea. “We’re trying to have most things be off-menu,” she says. “They’re things we’d make at home instead of the restaurant. I get bored of hommus and pita and shawarma. My neighbors and friends love when I cook stuffed cabbages and stews. It’s a way to extend that to the public.”
Each menu will take diners on a “journey through Lebanon.” They cost $89 for two people or $159 for four people and include comforting dishes like okra and lamb stew, stuffed rolled cabbage, and shanklesh, a feta cheese ball spiced with za’atar and paprika. Olive oil, mulberry syrup, and other surprise provisions also make their way into boxes, and you can pay extra for wine selections. “We’re working hard to import more and more from Lebanon,” Abi-Najm Shea adds. “It’s education, a cultural experience, something beyond the restaurants.”
The deadline for the December box passed, but those who are interested in subscribing can look forward to January. Pick-up is free. Local delivery is $15. Ordering and more details.
Chef Kat Petonito says La Collina started its twice monthly pasta club to keep people well fed at home. Each box is filled with a pound of house-made pastas in unique shapes and 24 ounces of jarred sauces that keep well. “We have a puttanesca coming up,” Petonito says. “It’s not easy to make at home, but we make it for you. Just boil the pasta, pour the sauce, and boom, incredible pasta.” Look for fun finishes like cheese and herbs from the Capitol Hill newcomer. Members receive two shipments per month; there’s only one size, which feeds two to four people for $85. You can opt to pay more to tack on a bottle of wine or add additional servings if you’re trying to feed a crowd. Pick-up only. Ordering and more details.
The difficulty level for December’s subscription chef’s dinner was high because it starred a whole Peking-style duck. Chef Scott Drewno filmed a how-to video so members could feel confident reheating the bird and carving it before nestling morsels into steamed bao buns. Future monthly spreads containing dishes from both popular Fried Rice Collective restaurants won’t require as much skill.
“We started CHIKO because we felt like people wanted to eat at home more,” Drewno says. “During the pandemic there was no other choice, but we felt like people wanted to have great food at home and not have to cook it. The subscription service is kinda cool. Once a month you’re eating out but not really.”
December’s New Year’s Eve duck dinner has sold out, but look forward to the Lunar New Year meal in January that runs $90 for two people or $175 for four people. It’ll arrive on Jan. 31, as the holiday falls on Feb. 1. Beverage pairings are typically available for an additional cost. Pick-up from CHIKO on Capitol Hill is free. Delivery inside the Beltway is $10. Ordering and more details.
Federalist Pig’s Rob Sonderman pulls inspiration from many cultures when it comes time to curate his monthly “pitmaster’s tasting menu.” “So far we’ve covered the Mediterranean with smoked lamb, Southeast Asia with crispy smoked duck lettuce wraps, and Tex-Mex with brisket birria enchiladas,” he says. Next month, look for a French bistro menu with smoked duck confit, chicken liver pate, and smoked duck fat fingerling potatoes. “It’s a great way for people who’ve enjoyed our barbecue over the years to support us and also get a taste of us flexing our creative muscles,” Sonderman says.
In addition to a main protein, the meals typically come with a spread of sides and dessert. If you want to up your own barbecue game, members will get a newsletter every quarter with tutorials, recipes, and videos from Sonderman. Packages cost $95 for two people and $175 for four people. You can get 20 percent off your first month if you join before Dec. 26 for January’s meal. Beer and wine pairings are available for an extra cost. Pick-up only. Ordering and more details.
If your winter diet consists mostly of carbs, sign up for Stellina Pizzeria’s monthly subscription service that keeps the pasta and pizza coming. The restaurant is filling December’s sold-out basket with a mix of fresh and dried pasta, plus sauces to make a few complete comforting dishes. In January, co-owner Antonio Matarazzo says the restaurant will showcase its frozen entrees like lasagna and pizza. Each box also contains surprise provisions like fresh mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, imported jams, and cookies. The meals go out the third Thursday of every month and cost $75 for two people and $150 for four people. Pick-up from the NoMa and Shirlington locations is free and delivery within D.C. is $10. Members also get special access and discounts on monthly pizza classes. Ordering and more details.