Bright, colorful walls, Spanish music and tropical vibes welcome neighbors to Qui Qui (1539 Seventh St. NW), Shaw’s destination for creative Puerto Rican cuisine and cocktails.
Ismael Mendez, the owner and chef, was formerly an IT programmer at Barclays. He landed a similar opportunity in programming in Maryland after being laid oﬀ, but found himself unhappy.
“My boss pretty much said, ‘What do you want to do?’,” Mendez remembered. “So, I pretty much got severance pay, went to L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg and went to school. The rest is pretty much history.”
When he visited the District before moving here 13 years ago, Mendez found a surprising lack of Puerto Rican, Cuban and Dominican cuisine available.
“I could never ﬁnd good [Puerto Rican] food,” Mendez said. “The opportunity (to open a restaurant) presented itself in Shaw and I love the diversity that’s here.”
Before Mendez opened his restaurant, he started out operating a food truck which he sold two years ago. While working at other restaurants around the District, Mendez worked did pop ups on his days oﬀ. He emphasized that creating a place for neighbors to come and enjoy his authentic cuisine was a big part of his decision to open at his current location above the popular Passenger bar.
“I wanted to create a space where people can come in and just enjoy food,” Mendez said. “I want to bring our food to the forefront of DC and educate people on Puerto Rican food and how delicious and good it can be.”
Qui Qui only seats 35 people, but Mendez said he is eager to expand. He hopes to have bartop seating available for customers soon. The restaurant serves a variety of dishes from the islands, including Puerto Rican specialties Pastelon (a sweet and salty Puerto Rican version of lasagna made with plantains) and Chuleta Kan Kan (a Tomahawk pork chop with criollo seasoning). The restaurant also oﬀers a wide selection of creative alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Qui Qui is open Thursday 5-9 p.m., Fri. 5-10 p.m., Sat. 11:30 a.m.-3p.m. and 5-10 p.m. and Sun. 11:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. See their menu, order food to go and make reservations at quiquidc.com.
Sarah Payne is a general assignment reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.