WASHINGTON — Buredo is on a roll.
Just three weeks ago, the downtown lunch spot that makes burrito-sized sushi rolls opened its doors at 825 14th St. without a formal announcement or a social media blast.
“We just opened the doors, just to see what happened,” says Travis Elton, co-owner of Buredo.
What happened was something Elton and his business partner, Mike Haddad, hoped for, but never predicted — at least not so soon.
Lines for the oversized rolls encased in nori and sticky rice stretched down the block. During that first week, the fast-casual concept routinely ran out of rice and blew through its orders of salmon and tuna.
“That was embarrassing because, you know, we sell sushi,” Elton says. “But we just weren’t anticipating the type of business that we’re getting. Luckily now, at the end of week three, we’ve sorted most of that out.”
Now Buredo, which means “sharp blade” in Japanese, gets fresh fish and produce deliveries every morning to keep up with demand. (Elton estimates Buredo sells 400 to 450 rolls each day.)
The menu has something for everyone, but unlike a typical burrito joint, it’s not build-your-own. The Chipotle-style assembly model was something the business partners experimented with, but they ditched the idea when they realized that not all of the ingredients on the line go well together.
“There are too many clashes … if you do a build-your-own. It can go tragically wrong,” Elton says.
A few menu options are modeled after more traditional sushi rolls — albeit in a much larger format. The Hanzo has yellowfin tuna sashimi with avocado, cucumber, pickled fennel, arugula, tempura crunch and lemon aioli, and the Sofie is made with shrimp tempura, avocado, pickled cabbage, carrot, toasted sesame seeds, red tobiko and sriracha mayo.
There are some nontraditional combinations as well, such as the Crazy 88 (slow-cooked pork shoulder, carrot, kimchi slaw, red onion, cucumber, corn, jalapeño and Baja sauce) and the Riki (spicy beet, pea shoot leaves, avocado, jicama, pickled cucumber, red onion, garlic and dill yogurt.)
Buredo may have become a success overnight, but building the business didn’t happen so quickly. Elton, a former consultant, says he and Haddad have been working on the concept for close to two years. Both are D.C. natives, and Elton says they wanted to open a business in their hometown community.
Buredo recently expanded its hours to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Elton and Haddad are also looking into a second location.
“There’s only so much we can do out of 750 square feet,” Elton says. “I think we pretty much tapped out the potential of this place, so I think it’s time to look for location no. 2. And if D.C. continues to love it, then locations three, four and on.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of the story mentioned Buredo is open from noon to 5 p.m. on weekends. Buredo is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays only.