When you walk into Shouk, you’ll see a setup similar to its fast casual counterparts like Chipotle and Cava Grill. However, Shouk prefers to call themselves straight-up “fast food” rather than fast casual. They are well aware of the stigma behind the term, but aren’t afraid to challenge it – they’re confident in their people and their product. This bold nature transcends pretty much every aspect of the restaurant, which is why I just can’t get enough of this place…
After a few glances at the menu, you’ll notice one major food group is missing: meat. Everything at Shouk is completely vegan, but they don’t have any of that tofu or seitan weirdness. The entire menu is plant-based, and takes advantage of the bounty local farms have to offer.
One thing that totally blew me away about Shouk before I even took a bite was the amount of thought put into each and every menu item. They might be “fast food,” but they’re using techniques you’d find in a five-star restaurant. A prime example of this is Shouk’s cashew labneh. In Mediterranean cuisine, labneh is typically a strained yogurt served as a dip or topping. At Shouk, they take cashews, soak them in water, ferment them for three days, and then whip them up in a food processor. That’s it. One ingredient, and it is perfection. The dip is creamy yet tangy, and its resemblance to yogurt is uncanny.
This cashew lebneh also makes an appearance on the beet salad alongside sweet potato, arugula, nuts, and pomegranate vinaigrette. I took over thirty photos of this salad alone, because the colors were so vibrant and beautiful. This is definitely a salad with personality, in both taste and appearance.
Next up was the cauliflower rice bowl, with tomato, scallion, tahina, and jalapeño oil. This dish just screams comfort. The roasted cauliflower takes on a nice meaty quality, and the other ingredients make this a very filling dish. I also have to point out that a side of Shouk’s famous harissa is a must for this one. A couple drops could do, but I prefer to dump the whole container on there, because the sauce is just that good. Usually harissa is so numbingly spicy that you can’t really absorb the flavors, but Shouk’s version has a lot of depth. The spice is still there, but you can taste all the other good stuff, too.
Other snacks worth mentioning on the menu are the polenta fries and hummus. The polenta fries were perfectly crispy and filling – definitely get these to share with a friend because they’re kind of a whole meal in themselves. These babies are served with the legendary labneh as well, and you know I threw some harissa into the mix, too.
The hummus was hands down the smoothest hummus I’ve had in my entire life. I know that’s a bold statement, but I swear I’m not exaggerating. The secret is they make a fresh batch every couple hours, and the dip is never refrigerated, because cooling it down changes both the texture and the flavor profile. These guys are freaking geniuses.
Last but not least is the drink selection. Shouk totally kills it here as well. They make a sweet drink called the Almond Delight, which was written about in the Washington Post. It’s pretty crazy that a fast food joint was written about in the Washington Post, and for a beverage. Shouk also makes a killer rosemary lemonade that is perfectly tart, flavorful, and not too sweet.
If you work anywhere along the yellow or red lines, Shouk has to be your new go-to lunch spot. Honestly, I’d happily make the trip all the way from my humble abode in Capitol Hill to get my fix, because it’s just that good. Not to mention, everything on the menu except for their pita and chocolate chip cookies are gluten free. Don’t worry, I convinced them to start making GF cookies. These should be making their debut soon.