For our series in local business owners Borderstan sat down with brothers Manuel and Juan Olivera to find out more about Fast Gourmet, which they opened with two other investors in October of last year. A take-out/dine-in restaurant would not normally cause a stir — unless you open it in a gas station.
That’s right, the gas station/restaurant at the Southeast corner of 14th and W Streets NW has been talked about by U Street Girl, WUSA9 and BYT, so we thought we would find out more about their unique business model and the food that is getting great reviews.
Borderstan: How did you come up with the concept of a restaurant in a gas station?
Manuel Olivera: Well, sometimes things don’t always happen as you plan. We originally wanted to do delivery only, but the neighborhood was changing so fast that we added eat-in and take-out.
Borderstan: Do you own the gas station as well?
Manuel Olivera: We lease the building for Fast Gourmet and also manage the operations of the gas station for the owners.
Borderstan: Why not sell junk food and soda like all the other gas station convenience stores?
Manuel Olivera: There are so many of them around and lots of competition, we decided to be different. We are going to upgrade some of the snack food we do sell. We also try to be eco friendly — we use environmentally friendly containers for to-go food and we recycle the fryer oil as well.
Borderstan: Tell me about your backgrounds.
Manuel Olivera: We are from Uruguay and have been here for about eight years. We have backgrounds in the food and hospitality industries. My brother, Juan, is the chef and handles the kitchen and food, and I am the general manager.
Borderstan: How did you decide on the menu?
Manuel Olivera: Juan worked with a designer to come up with the menu. It has a variety of things — Latin American, Middle Eastern and European.
Borderstan: What are your most popular items?
Juan Olivera: The Chivito (tenderloin, mozzarella, black forest, bacon, green olives and hard boiled eggs) and the Cuban Sandwich.
Borderstan: How busy have you been so far?
Manuel Olivera: Things have really picked up in the past few weeks. We were not aggressive with advertising when we opened — we hoped people would find out about us through word of mouth. We are usually busy at lunch time and all day on Fridays and Saturdays. We are open until 5:30 am on the weekends and we do get a late night crowd as well.
Borderstan: What are the plans for the future?
Juan Olivera: We would like to add beer and wine to the menu. We are also thinking about a food truck to visit other parts of the city.
Fast Gourmet is located at 1400 W Street NW, two blocks north of U Street.