The plant-based restaurant Shouk opened its third location in the area on Tuesday.
The restaurant features global street foods ranging from mushroom shawarma to pulled jackfruit BBQ. Co-founder and chef Dennis Friedman describes the restaurant as fine dining in a casual setting with an environmental mission.
Diners order from two wide touch screen kiosks and pay where customers can opt to donate a dollar to plant a tree. The money goes to One Tree Planted, an organization that plants trees from the U.S. all the way to the Amazon rainforest. According to CEO and co-founder Ran Nussbächer, the number of trees planted has “been in the thousands” since they began the program months ago. The restaurants run on wind power and use compostable paper and cardboard packaging and wooden utensils.
“What makes us different is we are the next generation of fast casuals, you know, we’re here to make a societal difference to fight climate change, to fight obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and cancer through food,” said Nussbächer.
All the food is made to order, which Friedman believes elevates the quality compared to other fast-casual restaurants such as Chipotle or Cava. Shouk, pronounced shook, is the Hebrew word for market which he believes perfectly encapsulates the food.
Friedman, a Montgomery County local, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and has worked with some of the best chefs in the world. His breadth of training helped him create a diverse and tasty menu that does not have soy, processed and imitation ingredients, and most important, meat. In fact, their Shouk Burger has been highlighted on the Food Network and The Washington Post as one of the best veggie burgers around. However, he dedicates most of Shouk’s vision to Nussbächer.
“Ran wanted to make the world a better place. So he set out to open this restaurant to make an impact and he was looking for just a chef consultant. So we met and I started to help him and through the process,” Friedman said with joy, “I got to really know who he was as a human being and as a person. I was so taken with his drive and his passion and his vision and his selflessness, to really actually want to do something special.”
The two vegan entrepreneurs hope to open their fourth location next year in Bethesda.