The good news: You don't have to be a partygoing college student to appreciate Muncheez Mania in Georgetown. The potentially bad news: You might have to utter words such as Dude and Choco Max when ordering from its menu.
Don't let that stop you, because the offerings at this brand-new eatery are more sophisticated than you might expect. Take, for example, the saj. The pitalike bread, cooked on a dome-shaped pan of the same name, is more akin to something you might find at a cafe in Lebanon. Try it folded around thick, tangy labneh with black olives and mint ($3.99) or slathered with Wild Thyme ($2.99), an aromatic mixture of olive oil, sea salt and zaatar, the classic Middle Eastern spice blend.
Behind Muncheez Mania's intriguing combination of youthful attitude -- the walls are covered in brightly painted murals including one of a young woman's face and another of a DJ spinning tunes -- and thoughtful menu (no pizza slices here!) is Washington-born David Nammour. Now a 22-year-old graduate student at Columbia University, Nammour hatched the idea for Muncheez back in 2008, when he was a junior at Duke University.
But he hit a few roadblocks, including a crashing economy, and decided to shelve the idea. The next year, he turned to his father, Bechara Nammour, who owns Capital Restaurant Concepts Ltd., the group behind such local institutions as J Paul's, Paolo's and Old Glory, for help setting up shop.
"I wanted to serve fresh, funky food that was fast but not fast," (as in fast food), David says.
So far, he's succeeding. But how does he keep tabs on his budding business while getting his master's degree in New York? For one thing, day-to-day operations are in the hands of his affable Lebanese-born general manager, Karim Najjar. For another, says Nammour, "I come down and check on things regularly."
Among those "things" are wraps, side salads ($2.99 to $3.99) and, keeping with the sweet trend du jour, crepes, made to order and served from a street-facing window. Choices range from savory ham and cheese ($4.99) to sweet, chocolaty Nutella ($3.49).
While a crepe fresh off the griddle is great, it can become a bit soggy if not eaten right away. The crisp, delicious wraps have more staying power. Our favorite was the beef brisket cheese steak ($6.99), whose meat Nammour buys from Old Glory; bacon lovers will appreciate the porky BLT ($6.99). The bread dough is made daily at Neyla (another CRC restaurant) but is stretched and baked to order at Muncheez. The Dude, it turns out, is fantastic: a sort of personal-size pizza topped with locally sourced ground beef seasoned with onion and parsley, garnished with sliced tomato and a drizzle of mayonnaise ($5.99). "It's a take on the Lebanese ground-meat kofta," Nammour says.
We didn't get to sample the Choco Max, made with chocolate, Nutella and bread ($4.99), because some of the ingredients were not available. He plans to extend hours of operation into the wee morning hours soon. For anyone prone to late-night hunger pangs, that is the best news of all.
-- Catherine Zuckerman (Good to Go, Nov. 3)