QA with Astro Doughnuts, Prescription Chicken, Saya Salteña in Shaw DC

Shared kitchen space helps eateries more efficiently offer Washington their tasty treats

Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken recently moved into a shared kitchen space with Prescription Chicken and Saya Salteña in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington. The doughnut chain will use the space to expand service in the local area. Saya Salteña joined the shared kitchen venture in December. We caught up with Astro co-owner Elliot Spaisman, Prescription Chicken (PC) co-founder and co-owner Valerie Zweig, and Saya Salteña (SS) founder and owner Maria Itturalde to find out more about this new collaboration.

District Restaurant News: First, how will this new location impact the Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken menu and how will business expand in its to-go only format out of Shaw?

Astro: This is a great opportunity for us to expand in a new neighborhood. People are working from home these days, and a lot of people live in the Shaw neighborhood, so we’re able to serve our popular menu to new and old customers alike. Because we partner with third party delivery apps we don’t get to control our delivery radius. This new location opens up an opportunity to deliver to more parts of the city, which we can’t reach as easily from our G Street location. Most of our menu items are available at the Shaw location: our chicken and sandwiches are made-to-order right there, and our doughnuts are made at our G Street location and delivered every morning to Shaw.

DRN: Please give us an update on Satellite Sandwiches and how that virtual concept from Astro’s is doing.

Astro: Satellite has been doing well and it has given us an opportunity to keep our kitchen busy and creative during a challenging time. The warm, made-to-order cookies have been a huge hit and we figured out a way to bake them on-site in Shaw so we hope they’ll be a nice complement to our doughnut and chicken offerings.

Prescription Chicken's Matzah Ball soup is prepared out of the shared kitchen in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, DC.
Prescription Chicken’s Matzah Ball soup is prepared out of the shared kitchen in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, DC. Photo by Olga Berman, Mango Tomato.

DRN: Tell us about how this arrangement came together for Prescription Chicken.

PC: We lost our home this summer (COVID Casualty) and we needed to find a centrally located base for our deliveries. We spotted 1819 7th Street and approached the landlord whom we knew to be progressive due to the concepts that had previously lived in this corridor. He was excited about our idea to use this as a shared kitchen space to help small food businesses during a crazy time.

DRN: Can you dive deeper into Prescription Chicken’s menu, its genesis and how customers can order from this location?

PC: Everyone knows that chicken soup is liquid gold, and chicken soup – that you don’t have to make yourself—can cure whatever may be ailing you today. Prescription Chicken is all about making and delivering chicken soup to help you feel better! Prescription Chicken was started after I got laryngitis two times in 6 weeks and couldn’t find good chicken soup to be delivered to my door. I mentioned this to my cousin Taryn and we
decided to create a business dedicated to making and bringing delicious chicken soup to the DC area and beyond!

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We focus on over 8 different chicken and chicken-style soups along with complementary items like homemade mini challahs, freshly-baked salted chocolate chip cookies and challah slider sandwiches. We have a variety of packages that make a perfect gift for someone you love. Guests can walk in and order, or order through our website for pickup or delivery, or through delivery sites like UberEats, Postmates and more. Prescription Chicken soup is also carried at independent grocery stores such as Glen’s Garden Market, Odd Provisions and select Streets Markets, as well as Whole Foods and Balduccis.

DRN: Please share how this collaboration with shared space and resources helps Prescription Chicken and its partners.

PC: Rent and utilities are expensive, and for a small business, that can be a lot to shoulder. Collaborating with other businesses helps lessen the burden as we can share some of the monthly expenses. We got our start in a shared kitchen and have always operated in shared spaces, so our plan was always to share and collaborate, which helps support our business as we look to grow. Astro and Saya Salteña are long-time friends and so we knew it was a natural, complementary fit!

DRN: Bolivian food is rising in popularity in the Metropolitan Washington area. Tell us about Saya Salteña’s story and its menu.

SS: I moved from La Paz, Bolivia in 1999 to attend George Washington University. I started cooking as a break from the demands of my studies and found a passion for cooking and sharing Bolivia’s unique gastronomic heritage. As a starting point, I started dreaming about bringing the salteña, a unique mix of a soup dumpling and pot pie enjoyed on every street corner in Bolivia, to an American audience. Bolivians have enjoyed the salteña’s slightly sweet, crispy pastry and savory stew it contains for hundreds of years.

Saya Salteña prepares its tasty salteñas over a period of three days. The eatery shares a kitchen with Astro Doughnuts and Prescription Chicken.
Saya Salteña prepares its tasty salteñas over a period of three days. Photo by Saya Salteña.

Salteñas are extremely labor intensive to make and require practice to perfect the intricate roping that visually distinguishes salteñas from empanadas and similar meat pies. They take three days to make: on the first day we make the bone broth and vegan broth and peel and dice all the vegetables and proteins. On the second day the jigote (filling) and the dough are prepared, and on the third day we build the salteñas. Additional painstaking tasks include tracking down the unique ingredients and adapting the recipe from Bolivia’s high altitudes to Washington, DC, which is only about 400 feet above sea level.

Saya Salteña also offers a variety of Bolivian staples such as “humintas” (pureed andrea corn, spices and singani), “Sandwich de Chola” (roasted pork shoulder topped with pickled carrots & red onions on brioche bun), “Pukacapa” (a spicy cheese empanada) and the classic beverage “Mocochinchi” (peach pit cider & spices) that is very popular during summer.

DRN: What does the shared kitchen space mean to Saya Salteña and how has it helped expand your reach?

SS: It’s all about location and the right partnership. I met the “soup ladies” back in Mess Hall, long before Prescription Chicken, and we kept in touch all this time. We reconnected a few months ago and the idea of joining them in this shared space was just the right fit. This location is central and convenient for deliveries; it also has great potential for walk-ins. So joining forces with Prescription Chicken as well as Astro Doughnuts is a great opportunity for us. The three companies offer quality products that complement each other. During this pandemic we all have to be extremely creative and make the best out of such difficult times, especially in the food/hospitality industry that has been hit so hard.

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This story was originally published in the winter issue of District Restaurant News. Catch the latest issue of DC’s restaurant trade industry magazine here.

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