Students and alumni said goodbye to two of Foggy Bottom’s late-night staples this weekend, after the restaurants served campus for more than a decade.
Panda Cafe and Mehran both shut down Sunday to make room for GW’s multi-million dollar construction project on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Indian and Pakistani fast-food joint Mehran, which came to the neighborhood 1998, has tentative plans to move to K Street and open a restaurant with a more “upscale, dine-in” feel, employee Kamran Khan said. He added that the new restaurant would have the same menu and hours, and would continue to accept GWorld.
Khan said Mehran’s owners initially tried to move to another location on campus and asked GW for leasing opportunities. University spokesperson Kurtis Hiatt declined to comment on whether Mehran had looked into a lease.
“We tried everything to get a lease from GW, but they are not very helpful. There were a couple of places open, but they didn’t get the leases done,” Khan said. GW has yet to finalize a ground-breaking date for the project that will turn the row of restaurants into high-end office space.
Six months ago, Panda Cafe opened a new location at 2122 P St., Panda Cafe employee Sammi Shi said.
The other restaurants on the block, Thai Place and Froggy Bottom Pub, both moved to different locations. Thai Place opened Soi 38 on L Street in April, and Froggy Bottom Pub relocated to K Street last spring.
Alumnus and neighborhood leader Patrick Kennedy said he’ll remember Mehran for the late-night chats, buttered chicken and second-floor window seat he had there.
“Mehran was an everyday place so consistently over the years. It was versatile and it served a working population – taxi drivers, students and neighbors,” Kennedy said. “There was a character to it of being for the working people, regular people, and I will miss that. There are not too many places like that in D.C.”
Like Kennedy, many students and alumni enjoyed Mehran’s small space, which they said created a calm atmosphere. Customers could order both Indian and Pakistani dishes, such as tandoori chicken and lamb kabobs, while seated at one of the three red tables at the bar or in the upstairs seating area.
Junior Alex Rodgers said he will especially miss his late-night trips to Mehran.
“I remember always going to Mehran really late with my roommates, around one in the morning, my freshman year,” Rogers said. “Even if it was after 1 a.m., there would always be people there. I just can’t believe they are leaving.”
Jacob Thayer, who graduated two years ago and served as Residence Hall Association president as a student, said Mehran is one of two things he misses most about D.C. since he moved to Texas. The other is the popcorn at E Street Cinema.
“It was a great place to go and talk about how things were going until the wee hours of the morning. You could look out windows and see what was going on around Pennsylvania Avenue. You could go there with anyone,” Thayer said.
Panda Cafe has also been a staple for students and alumni in search of Chinese food. Its menu included signature Chinese dishes, such as lo mein and vegetable fried rice as well as a variety of sushi, which were often displayed in large dishes by the counter.
Junior Alice Fu, who came to GW from Hangzhou, China, said she frequented Panda Cafe during her freshman year when she missed food from home. Their noodles reminded her of China, she said.
Without Panda Cafe and its neighbors, junior Peter Young said he thinks students have lost choices.
“It’s really sad that Panda Cafe is going to be leaving, not only because there isn’t a whole lot of Chinese food on campus, but it really contributed to the diversity of food in Foggy Bottom. Now that that whole group of restaurants is closing, it’s going to severely hurt the variety of food you can get on campus,” Young said.