Is there a better pairing than pizza and beer? How about &pizza and the Broccoli City Festival?
The latest cultural remix in Shaw finds &pizza, the customizable pizza chain that has spread from H Street NE to New York, Philadelphia and beyond, collaborating on a bar and restaurant with the creators of Broccoli City, the vibrant music festival that has brought Cardi B, Migos and Solange to town for concerts for Earth Day.
Dubbed Broccoli Bar and perched above the entrance to the Shaw-Howard University Metro in the former Uprising bakery space, the new venue celebrates its diversity and community while trying to rework the happy-hour model.
Broccoli Bar’s happy hour runs from 5 to 10 p.m. every day, long after most similar discounts have wrapped up. And it does more than just offer drink specials — in this case, $6 draft beer and wine. &pizza co-founder and CEO Michael Lastoria wants to change “what a happy hour can be.”
On a recent Friday evening, the tour DJ for Grammy-nominated rapper GoldLink spun a set for a diverse crowd sipping cocktails and eating pizza in that window between after-work and going-out. But if you didn't know about the special guest supplying the tunes, “you might not have noticed,” says Broccoli City co-founder Brandon McEachern.
Making casual nightlife vibes accessible to 9-to-5ers is one of the goals of Broccoli Bar’s happy hour: “Typically, to get that curated set, it has to be at a nightclub, or late at night,” Lastoria says. “Having that experience at 5 or 6 o’clock is something we haven’t seen.”
Besides, McEachern adds, “I know a lot of people who have jobs and get up at 8 a.m.,” and with this happy hour, “You get to have that party experience and get up the next day.”
The unexpected partnership between &pizza and Broccoli City began in 2017, when Lastoria was invited to speak at a conference attached to the festival. The relationship that sprouted was “extremely quick and extremely organic,” McEachern says, because the festival and the chain have similar audiences, though “we bring people in from different sides of the diaspora."
Their collaboration, hatched at this year’s South by Southwest music festival, brings in elements from both groups: &pizza’s familiar black-and-white aesthetic gets punched up with green plants hanging over the angular bar and throughout the restaurant, and the omnipresent ampersands are paired with silhouettes of broccoli florets. The large outdoor patio, located at the top of the Metro escalators, will be getting a new look early next year, with what Lastoria calls “beer-garden-esque foliage.”
The menu reads like the greatest hits of &pizza’s menu; perhaps inevitably, there also is a pizza topped with broccoli — and pickled red onions and beer cheese. It’s the first of what Lastoria says will be a series of “limited-time pies” not available at other locations. (One note: Although their pizzas can still be customized in endless ways, ordering doesn’t involve following an assembly line, as at other &pizzas. Just tell your server what you want, and they bring it over.) Brunch brings an avocado toast pie and $20 carafes of sparkling cocktails. Speaking of drinks, Broccoli Bar’s beverage menu doesn’t get too fancy, with drinks like the Ossie Davis (whiskey, Cotton and Reed’s allspice dram and bitters) and the sweet, citrusy Grown Folks Lemonade, made with limoncello, vodka, lemonade and fresh mint.
But as with happy hour, Broccoli Bar's founders are thinking beyond the food.
A few years ago, Broccoli City launched an app called Chip’N (pronounced “chip in") allowing users to earn rewards, such as tickets to the Broccoli City or Afropunk festivals, by volunteering to clean up a park or mentor a child. McEachern says Broccoli Bar will continue along that community-minded path: “We’ll be doing things where people can come in and make lunch bags for the homeless, and then go out and distribute them.” On the first Saturday of the month, the restaurant plans to organize community service days — the first of which involves working on flower beds and mulching pathways for the Howard University Community Garden.
Regular “Broccoli Talks” will bring in special guests, such as community activist Tony Lewis Jr., who spoke about prison reform last week; Christopher Bradshaw, who is working to provide greater access to healthy food in underserved urban communities, is scheduled for Wednesday. It’s special, McEachern says, “to have the ability to program in that space and not just serve pizza.” With these types of events, “young people are getting the chance to see [the speakers] and say, ‘That’s what I can possibly be.’ That’s what we’re trying to provide.”
Broccoli Bar, 1817 Seventh St. NW. Open 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.