In the heart of Washington, DC’s Penn Quarter neighborhood, a cultural experience unlike any other sits tucked away in the oldest standing commercial building in the city at 641 Indiana Avenue NW.
The oldest original building in Pierre Lenfant’s layout for the nation’s capitol, and later on known as the old manufacturing plant for Siemens – Lungren in the late 1800’s, the location is now home to D.C.’s hippest new South Asian eatery, Grand Trunk.
The very definition of Indian-American fusion, the restaurant’s namesake was inspired by Grand Trunk Road, one of Asia’s oldest and longest major roads. For thousands of years, it has served as a thoroughfare, guiding travelers and traders alike from Pakistan to Afghanistan.
For founders Kamran Cheema and his brother Salman, his Grand Trunk also serves as a guiding force, connecting food and travel enthusiasts to his family’s passion for serving authentic cuisine steeped in rich tradition.
With their “gourmet fresh, gourmet fast” approach, Grand Trunk’s menu features dozens of traditional (and non-traditional) Indian-inspired meals, which we were lucky enough to taste alongside Kamran himself.
Staple dishes such as chicken tikka, gujranwala lamb masala, and tandoori chicken made appearances:
While more unheard of items such as the famous “Grand Trunk Naan Burger”, Garlic Fries, and “Spiced Potato Naan” rounded off the extensive dinner menu:
For drinks, Grand Trunk serves up a popular traditional Indian yogurt-based drink – the Mango Lassi – a blend of yogurt, water, spices, and fruit.
And the people don’t just pack in for the food, either.
Thanks to a recent trip to Tokyo, Kamran made sure Grand Trunk’s high-tech, eccentric atmosphere would provide patrons with an “out of this world” cultural experience. (An understatement in our opinion).
Upon entering the establishment, guests are surrounded by the sound of the day’s hippest tunes from Kygo, Daft Punk, and The Chainsmokers, among others. Faux-crocodile banquettes adorned with faux rhinestones, and plush retro swivel chairs call for weary and hungry travelers to rest their minds and fill their stomachs. The sparkling chandeliers hung strategically from every corner, and the futuristic tandoor oven used to bake the freshest Naan (at a smoldering 1000 degrees) demands attention in the center of the room.
And that’s just what people see on the ground level.
As they make their way down a flight of translucent glass stairs to the level below, a series of plasma flat screen TV’s aluminate the walls and the path beneath them. From the 2,000 pound custom made communal table carved from a single tree, to the intricately detailed tiles, every item from floor to ceiling has a story and a purpose.
According to Kamran, the story is the same when it comes to the ingredients used in their unique dishes.
Meats are cooked fresh twice per day, and Kamran’s family ensures that no menu item contains dyes, preservatives, or pre-packaged spices. (In fact, his mom invented all of the spice mixes used in the creation of each Grand Trunk dish). While protein is a big component in traditional Indian cuisine, Grand Trunk also offers an array of vegetarian options such as the Four Cheese Naan, Spiced Potato Naan, Cinnamon Sugar Naan, and the Sabzi of the Day (seasonal vegetables sautéed in sauces and roasted spices).
Open from 11 am to 10 pm each day, patrons can also order online via Grand Trunk’s custom built iOS and Android Apps from the comfort of their own homes.
If you’re looking for a late night Miami-esqe cultural club experience after a night on the town, or a wholesome but varied lunchtime option during a busy work day, Grand Trunk has it all. When you visit, don’t forget to tell Kamran (or another one of his family members who are always working) that East Coast Contessa sent you.