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Lucky Buns, known for its high-stacked, deeply satisfying burgers and fried chicken sandwiches, will open in Southwest D.C. as a part of “Phase 2” of The Wharf’s development. Chef and co-owner Alex McCoy is predicting it will open in October 2022. While you wait, you can get a taste of bogan buns, hot tiger buns, and curry chips at the original Lucky Buns in Adams Morgan or its stall inside Union Market.
“Lucky Buns is the brand we love,” McCoy says on the expansion. He’s also opening one in Baltimore on Jan. 17. “It’s the type of food people want right now. It makes you feel good. A big messy burger is what you want to get you through all of this.”
Like the Lucky Buns in Baltimore, the one at The Wharf will be large enough to expand the food menu to include an array of appetizers like crab rangoon dip with wonton chips, vegetarian lumpia filled with jackfruit, taro, and mushrooms, a riff on macaroni and cheese that relies on Korean ttekbokki rice cakes, and nachos.
“Right now we have the chips with the braai spice,” McCoy says. “It’s a barbecue spice in South Africa that you put on your chicken or beef. I try to incorporate as much of that as possible—places I’ve been and food cultures I’ve spent time around.”
The 3,000-square-foot space also boasts more room behind the bar. Company beverage director William Jackson is drawing up a menu of “fun, juicy, punchy” cocktails, including frozen drinks, which will change frequently. They make their own sodas and ginger beer.
Jackson is currently testing recipes in Adams Morgan (2000 18th St. NW). Sample the “Dirty Banana” with two kinds of rum, Mr. Black coffee liqueur, creme de cocoa, banana syrup, oat milk, and olive oil or the “Plum Crazy” with blended whiskey, sour plum syrup, yuzu, tamarind shrub, and grapefruit juice. Both drinks are $10.
“If you’re at The Wharf and you’re hanging out having drinks and spending the day there, you can get some appetizers and frozen cocktails,” McCoy says, envisioning patrons in his space. “One of the great things about us is we have a price point that’s unique. We’re not super expensive and we’re not a takeaway burger.”
Lucky Buns will serve brunch, lunch, and dinner. But the best news is they’ll be open late to catch concert-goers streaming out of nearby venues. Sometimes it’s hard to find a place to pad your stomach after a show lets out.
The restaurant, being designed by //3877, faces the water and has a mix of indoor and outdoor seating. It’ll have some TVs for sports fans. McCoy is enjoying the design process because he’s always signed leases for what’s known as “second-generation” restaurant spaces in the past: “This is the first one we’ve designed from the bottom up. It’s a big one for us and the company.”
McCoy and his business partners are also taking a new approach to raising capital for the project. They’re fundraising through SMBX, which allows individuals traditionally shut out of investing to buy bonds and back small businesses they’re passionate about. The city partnered with the company to create its DC Rebuild Bond Program. The District invested $500,000 to help attract $5 million in bonds from individual investors to small and local businesses—with a focus on ventures in wards 5, 7, and 8.
“We picked it as opposed to going with a bank because I really like what they stand for,” McCoy says, adding that he appreciates the opportunities the company provides for women and BIPOC entrepreneurs. “Since we’ve been building this company we’ve realized how hard it is for people who aren’t certified investors to invest in businesses. I like the idea of people, local D.C. people, having equity in this business and being the ones that benefit from it.”
Lucky Buns, address coming soon, luckybuns.com