On August 28, SKWR, a new fast-casual kabob restaurant, will open in the heart of Downtown Washington, D.C. (1400 K St NW) for lunch and dinner. While kabob is as common but versatile as the hamburger, owners Tamim Shoja, Hemad Khwaja, and Masoud Shoja plan to differentiate their fast-casual restaurant with their takes on classic kabob recipes.
Originally a word in Farsi, kabob is now a globally recognized word, transcending cultural and language barriers. The lack of vowels in the brand’s name reflects the lack of vowels in the alphabet of their native Farsi.
SKWR is at once a return to tradition while also being a departure from it. The recipes draw from tried-and-true kabob techniques filtered through the lens of a new generation. The ground sirloin meatballs, for example, begin with the Turkish technique of grating red pepper and onion into the meat with spices, then take a turn for the unusual with the addition of sriracha sauce as a flavorful binder, and finally approach Afghan cuisine with a dash of turmeric.
Afghan-born cousins Tamim and Masoud Shoja grew up in Virginia operating their parents’ popular kabob restaurants: Dulles Kabob and Reston Kabob. In a twist of fate, the cult hit Reston Kabob let the lease end, shutting its doors right before SKWR opens, giving longtime fans of the hidden gem a new place to source the family’s famous kabobs. With the combined experience of more than 20 years in the niche kabob market, the owners of SKWR are confident they have perfected the kabobline.
Middle Eastern food in D.C. tends to be mislabeled as Mediterranean. Diners today are not afraid to try new foods from unfamiliar cultures. SKWR seeks to highlight the difference between East and West, embracing and portraying the elements of oriental cultures that resonate with a contemporary audience.
The modern twist can be seen in the restaurant’s design as much as in the food. Instead of reclaimed wood, charred, blackened timbers adorn the walls, calling to mind the open flame employed in the kitchen. Other textured walls and a terra cotta stained floor create a sense of antiquated finery without invoking stereotypes last seen in the movie Aladdin. Two shades of blue—a deep navy and a cool aqua—incite the hues found in Afghanistan’s lapis mines, colors celebrated by artisans throughout the region in jewelry, architecture, clothing, and more. The clean design is both cutting edge and traditional.
The streamlined ordering process is similarly present-day. SKWR follows the straightforward model of choosing a base (bowl or wrap), a spread (chutney, yogurt and cucumber, olivieh, and more), a protein (ground sirloin, lamb, chicken, beef, and more), and finishing toppings (cabbage, quinoa, carrot slaw, cilantro, peynir, and many more).