Blame it on the kids.
At least that’s what it sounds like when talking to Erik Dorn about the quick change in format from Chickpea Mediterranean Grill, a Chipotle-style fast casual shop with falafel and roasted meats over rice and greens, to Flat Top Burger, a traditional burgers-fries-shake restaurant. And as for quick: The time frame between Chickpea shuttering in December and Flat Top opening was exactly one week.
Dorn, the head of DRP Food Group (Del Ray Pizzeria*, Stomping Ground), says parents would come into Chickpea praising its salads and generally healthier and vegetarian-forward options but would complain their kids wouldn’t eat the food. Customers would visit every two to three weeks. “We’re getting a lot of families in now,” says Dorn, who says his regulars are streaming in two or three times in one week.
Flat Top is especially kid-friendly (read: cheap for parents) with a $5.50 option where children can pick any two items from a dream scenario of mini burgers, hot dogs, mac and cheese, chicken tenders, house salad or fries. It also comes with a drink. Free games from the Pac-Man arcade and housemade frozen custard for milkshakes round out the calculated play toward pleasing a younger audience.
The regular menu is slim: a single or double patty of house-ground meat (free and paid toppings range from sriracha aioli to a fried egg) or a veggie burger concocted of quinoa, cashews, bulgur and mushrooms. Hot dogs, sandwiches (chicken club, BLT) and salads round out the menu. The only crossover is the homage Chickpea salad of mixed greens, chicken, quinoa, cucumber and feta in a tatziki sauce. No actual chickpeas. // Flat Top Burger: 529 E. Howell Ave., Alexandria
*The space above Del Ray Pizzeria where the (also) short-lived Reserve 2216 served Southern-ish fare is still empty. Dorn has a hearing scheduled with the city to decide if the space can be used for special events, like ticketed beer dinners.