Red Apron Burger Bar, the fast-casual spot that introduced local sourcing to the traditionally opaque world of hamburger patties, will shut down its storefront off Dupont Circle on Sunday, less than nine months after it debuted to much fanfare. Neighborhood Restaurant Group and Red Apron Butcher, partners in the venture, will relaunch the concept Tuesday at EatBar on Barracks Row for both delivery and dine-in.
This is the second restaurant that NRG has shut down at that Dupont Circle address after a short run. GBD, a fried chicken and doughnut concept, closed in March 2016 after three years in the space.
“We’ve been pleased with the response” to the burger bar, said Michael Babin, owner of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group.
At the same time, Babin said, the burger bar is a fairly unique concept in the ground-beef business: It’s all-natural, humanely raised beef is sourced from Virginia cattle only, including Ancient White Park cattle that graze exclusively on grass at Leaping Waters Farm. Such beef does not come cheap. Red Apron’s burgers cost more — sometimes $3 more, if you select a standard double-patty burger with Ancient White Park beef — than similar hamburgers at Shake Shack, a brand with far better name recognition (and a storefront just one block down the street).
There may be a sizable audience for Red Apron chef and founder Nathan Anda’s locally sourced burgers, but they’re not all clumped around Dupont Circle. The target diner, Babin said, “has to be one who really cares about what they’re eating.”
Those diners are, ideally, located all around Washington. To serve them, NRG and Red Apron are moving the burger bar into the delivery game. But the kitchen at 1323 Connecticut Ave. NW, the restaurant’s current location, is too small to handle the potential volume of a delivery business, Babin said. So operations will move into the EatBar space on Barracks Row, another NRG property, where the kitchen will prepare orders for residents of the District only.
The original burger bar menu will also be available for dine-in customers at EatBar. In fact, EatBar will expand its weekday hours just to accommodate its new partner. EatBar will now open at 11 a.m., Monday through Friday, and serve the Red Apron Burger Bar menu exclusively until 4 p.m., when the spot will transition and offer both its regular menu and the burger bar’s. On the weekends, from noon to 4 p.m., EatBar will offer a brunch menu that combines dishes from both operations; after 4 p.m., the restaurant will serve the full menus of both EatBar and Red Apron Burger Bar. Got it?
Customers will be able to place a delivery order from Red Apron Burger Bar’s website, from its new mobile app (set to debut Tuesday on iTunes), and from GrubHub and UberEats. The new mobile app will feature a loyalty program, including such rewards as a free order of fries (cooked in dry-aged beef fat) with your first order.
Red Apron and NRG expect to expand the burger bar’s delivery/dine-in concept to Virginia in October. It will be based out of B Side, located in the Mosaic District in Fairfax, and will probably offer a similar split-menu format.
In the meantime, Babin is not sure yet what he will do with the former Red Apron Burger Bar/GBD space on Connecticut Avenue. Whatever becomes of it, you have to wonder how long it’ll last.
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