Chipotle CEO Steve Ellis wanted to use the burrito-chain model for another sort of food, so Tim Wildin took him on a trip to his native Thailand.
Wildin, the director of concept development for ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, said the sell was easy. A team from Chipotle toured the shophouses, ate “a ton,” and figured out a way to make the street food of Southeast Asia work in a fast casual Chipotle spin-off.
On Wednesday, Wildin helped open the fifth ShopHouse location at Bethesda Row. It’s in the former space of the City Lights of China (4820 Bethesda Ave.), a site Wildin said immediately appealed to him because of the way it extends out to the street.
“It’s not unlike what you’d find over there — grilled meats, curries on top of rice,” Wildin said. “The shophouse in Asia sort of works like the Chipotle of over there. I would say we’re definitely offering something unique.”
ShopHouse uses naturally-raised meats and local produce and markets it much in the same way as Chipotle.
“We are food that takes hours to prepare but seconds to serve,” Wildin said. “I think the price point can’t be beat for this quality of food.”
A bowl starts with a choice of white rice, brown rice, noodles or salad. Then there’s grilled chicken satay, grilled steak laab, pork and chicken meatballs or tofu. Vegetables include broccoli, charred corn, eggplant and thai basil or green beans.
Then, customers can choose a sauce — tamarind vinaigrette, green curry or spicy red curry — a topping — green papaya slaw, pickles or herb salad — and a garnish — toasted rice, crispy garlic or crushed peanuts.
The bowls go for the same as a Chipotle burrito, around $7 or $8.
Wildin said opening in Bethesda was a natural next step after opening the first ShopHouse in 2011 in Dupont Circle and another location over the summer in Chinatown. There are two locations in Los Angeles and another planned for Pike & Rose near White Flint.
ShopHouse is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.