What ketchup is to the American table, hummus is to the Middle Eastern plate. And for a too-short (but delicious) month, hummus is on every single plate at the pop-up Sabra Hummus House on Wisconsin Avenue in the heart of Georgetown.
Chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon, salt—simple ingredients that come together as much more than the sum of their parts. Thick, creamy and fairly healthy, hummus is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Yet according to Sabra, a majority of Americans are still unfamiliar with this quintessential Jewish food, which has been consumed for millennia in the Middle East. Thus was born the Hummus House, open in DC through October 26.
As international as hummus is, Sabra and its Hummus House have intimate ties with this region. Sabra recently opened the largest hummus-processing center in the world just outside of Richmond. It sources the chickpeas and other ingredients from surrounding farms.
The Hummus House itself occupies a converted townhouse, its whitewashed walls decorated with calming Mediterranean seaside prints, the tables and chairs of dark wood and the ceiling crisscrossed by ivy-covered trellises right out of your neighborhood sukkah (how timely!). Upstairs, there’s a loft-like event space that has, in the past, hosted everything from a dance class to yoga to chef demonstrations.
But let’s get to the food. The bright, one-page menu is full of “new, chef-designed fusions as well as classic favorites that allow guests to taste, see and experience hummus in an entirely new way,” says the Sabra manager. Chefs personally visit farms and markets each week to source fresh produce like purple cauliflower, French breakfast radishes, heirloom cherry tomatoes and microgreens. Plus, as head chef Mary Beth Albright points out, “Now that we’re in the sweet spot of produce in Mid-Atlantic, not to use local produce would be a crime,” and the House has made a deep commitment to source locally.
When guests order the Hummus Plate, a dedicated chef creates the hummus at a tasting table in front of diners. Each ingredient, from chickpeas to za’atar, is laid out in spotless dishes. Talk about farm-to-table.
Local-meets-international is especially poignant in the East Meets West Platter, a sampler of hummus prepared three ways and served with local vegetables: the first is Japan-inspired, with edamame, crystallized ginger and sesame oil; the second has highly seasonal pumpkin seed and pumpkin seed oil, which play off the nuttiness of hummus, and the third comes with chopped preserved lemons and spiced crispy chickpeas on top, a sort of deconstructed hummus with lots of texture.
To put it all together, Sabra connected with famous (and Jewish) local chef Mary Beth Albright. Not only a writer, teacher and expert in public health and food policy, she’s also a longtime Washingtonian with deep connections in the local culinary scene.
Because of her regional roots and passion for food, this partnership with the Hummus House was nothing if not natural (just like the ingredients). Albright calls hummus “food for the soul,” and if that’s true, then hummus is the new chicken soup.
If there’s room, desserts and sides are a must—and of course, that’s all local, too. You’ll find Whisked! cookies, lollipops and marshmallows from Capital Candy Jar, 2 Armadillos organic roasted chickpeas and vibrant small-batch pickled veggies from Fresh Crunch.
Hummus House lets both hummus ingredients and history be fully enjoyed. A 15-foot-long communal table invites people to gather around food, share and talk. It’s all presented, as Albright declares, “in a way that makes us proud to share our heritage with the larger DC community.”
Alas, just like the sukkah, this pop-up will be gone all too soon, meaning we only have until the end of the month to get our fresh hummus-fusion fix.
Sabra Hummus House, 202-333-0500, 1254 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC; September 29 to October 26, Lunch 11 am–3 pm, Dinner 5 pm–9 pm.
Top photo: The East Meets West Platter at Sabra Hummus House.