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With Beefsteak, José Andrés embraces fast food — and the humble vegetable

The chef  hasn't yet said what will be on the menu at Beefsteak, but the fast-casual restaurant, slated to open in January, will mimic Chipotle's DIY model, with vegetables as the main ingredient. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
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José Andrés has been leaking little details about his forthcoming fast-casual restaurant for months -- years, even, if you count his telling Anderson Cooper in 2010 that vegetables were "sexier than a piece of chicken" as a genius bit of foreshadowing.

Early next year, Andrés will join the constellation of famous fine-dining restaurateurs across the country who are launching fast-casual restaurants. (Think: Danny Meyer and Shake Shack, or Bobby Flay and Bobby's Burger Palace.) But in a market thick with Chipotle-style fast-casuals serving everything from pizza to naan wraps, Andrés is staking out fairly novel terrain: making the lowly vegetable an entree in and of itself.

Read: Vegetables: Are they the new bacon? José Andrés and other chefs think so.

The first location of Beefsteak, as the Andrés restaurant will be known, is expected to open in January  at 22nd and I streets NW, on the street level of the new George Washington University Science and Engineering Hall. In an interview last week, the chef, who serves as an adviser on food initiatives for the university's president, described a restaurant that would lead with simply prepared vegetables, offer a choice of sauces and grains, but serve meat largely as a kind of "side dish." Diners can expect bowl-style preparations, with offerings designed by the chef and his team, but will also have the option to customize their bowls, a la Chipotle.

This week's Food section chronicles how vegetable-focused restaurants are ascendant in the dining world. More big-name chefs are reaching into their arsenal of techniques and applying them to the very veggies that we, for generations, practically had to be bribed to eat (ahem, Brussels sprouts). Andrés, however, might be the first high-profile chef to launch a "vegetable-focused" fast-food eatery.

"A so-so vegetable, boil it in water, add some salt, it's delicious," he told The Post. "We don't like to call it vegetarian. We want to call it tasty, fun, sexy, good-looking."