You’ve probably heard of Beefsteak by now, the “fast-good” vegetable-focused eatery in the basement of Houston Hall. Owned by renowned DC-based chef José Andrés, this lunch concept adds something different to the growing number of fast-casual establishments around campus. You can either get a bowl or a salad, pack it with an insane number of different delicious fresh veggies, grains, sauces, and toppings, all for an affordable price. If you haven’t been recently, you should check out their new fall items (I loved the “Oh My Squash” bowl!).
Executive Chef Pat Peterson sat down to chat with us over lunch about the inner workings of Beefsteak. His job is to ensure the daily functioning of all of the Beefsteak locations, to come up with the recipes and the menu items, and to supervise ingredient sourcing and preparation. While most chefs would consider the “make-your-own” menu option to be a nightmare of potential flavor clashes, Chef Peterson relishes the challenge of creating sauces, dressings, and toppings that will harmonize with each other, no matter how crazy the customer’s choices get. I have made some pretty unappealing fro-yo cups and salads in my time “making-my-own ___”, so I’m grateful to Pat that he is making sure that I literally cannot ruin my own lunch through being too enthusiastic about my options.
I am from the DC area, so I am familiar with José Andrés’s other restaurants, which range from the Mediterranean to Mexico in their inspiration. Aside from being he only fast-casual restaurant of the bunch, Beefsteak is unlike those other restaurants because it doesn’t have a country of origin guiding its menu items, but rather, as put by Chef Peterson, offers a story of the future in its globally-inspired offerings. You don’t have to ground yourself in any one place, but can combine a Spanish-influenced tomato sauce with kimchi, or a Mediterranean garlic yogurt sauce with toasted seaweed. The only thing you are bound to is deliciousness.
Another reason I can get behind Beefsteak is because of its focus on sustainability and health. They compost as much as possible and recycle the rest, and menu items are sourced as locally as possible with a mind towards fair food practices. Plus, I already mentioned that it’s easy on the wallet ($10 at most for a menu item, and only $5 for a Beefsteak Tomato Burger!).
Chef Peterson mentioned that the classic beefsteak burger may be changing seasonally, with a pickled beet burger and a purple sweet potato burger in the works. And meat lovers, never fear! Beefsteak offers juicy artisan chicken sausage made by a local butcher to satisfy your meat tooth.
As mentioned before, I tried the “Oh My Squash” soup bowl, which has a creamy vegan butternut squash soup base and is topped with blanched broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries. It was light yet satisfying and very flavorful, with nutty crunch from the pumpkin seeds and a sweet-tart pop from the cranberries. If you’re looking for an expert opinion on what to order, the chef’s favorite menu item is the “Cauli-power” salad, which features delicious curry-roasted cauliflower florets and is topped with crunchy corn nuts.