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Ghostburger is popping up inside Taqueria Las Gemelas for the winter. The ghost kitchen from Josh Phillips and Kelly White Phillips launched during the early stages of the pandemic as a strategy to meet diners’ comfort food cravings and keep its host restaurant, Espita, financially viable. Ghostburger continues to operate out of Espita in Shaw, where diners can order off both menus. That’s how it’ll work at the taqueria in the La Cosecha market when the pop-up launches Thursday.
“One of the greatest things about Ghostburger at Espita is it expanded the reach of the restaurant,” Phillips says. “You’d think tacos and burgers target the same person, but it doesn’t. A much broader section of the city started coming to Espita.”
The reason for the pop-up is two-fold. Phillips says he’s negotiating a lease to open a brick-and-mortar Ghostburger in the same neighborhood. The pop-up allows the team to test the market. They’re keeping the name even though the restaurant won’t be a ghost kitchen anymore. “At this point, I’ve tattooed a little ghost on myself so it’s staying,” Phillips says.
The other reason? “Snowmicron,” Phillips says. “Las Gemelas, in general, is a warm weather concept. With the pandemic, [La Cosecha] became an outdoor-focused market. They’ve done a good job at making an inviting outdoor space. But at 28 degrees, no amount of heaters can help. Between that and hesitancy to come inside, business slowed down to the point where we have the capacity to do more. I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure my staff keeps their jobs and pays their rent.”
Short and sweet, the menu leads off with burgers. “La Hamburguesa” features a Pat LaFrieda beef patty topped with queso Oaxaca, peanut macha, smoked tomatillo relish, and cilantro. You can choose to add a patty or carnitas for an extra charge.
There’s also a fried chicken sandwich with chipotle mayo and fresno hot sauce; carnitas nachos with charred tomatillo salsa and smoky beans; and brown butter chocolate chip cookies. With the exception of the soft serve, everything is available for delivery through apps such as DoorDash. See the menu below.
“We like dishes that are funny and make us happy,” Phillips says. “We wanted to do a Manwich so we broke out our green chorizo and took some mole, ketchup, and cumin and cooked it down. It was kind of a joke, but it makes a dope Sloppy Joe.”
Familiar comfort food is trending across D.C. In recent weeks, decadent sandwich slinger Fight Club inked a lease on Capitol Hill, burger and fried chicken sandwich joint Lucky Buns announced it’s bound for The Wharf, Dupont Circle landed a new pizzeria with Boogy & Peel, and Honeymoon Chicken opened in Petworth this week.
The Ghostburger menu differs between Espita and Las Gemelas because the goal is to cross-utilize the ingredients and equipment already available at each location. There aren’t any cheesesteaks at the Ghostburger out of Las Gemelas because the restaurant doesn’t have easy access to a freezer. The best cheesesteaks start out with frozen ribeye, according to Phillips.
If you’ve ever wanted a burger at 9 a.m., you’re in luck. The Ghostburger menu will be available whenever Las Gemelas is open—weekdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Phillips says he expects the pop-up to last until early spring. If the standalone Ghostburger isn’t open by next winter, the pop-up could return.
Ghostburger at Las Gemelas, 1280 4th St. NE; (202) 866-0550; ghostburgerdc.com