Restaurant Review: Kirby Club
From the owners of D.C.’s acclaimed Maydan and Compass Rose, a winning new kebab concept in the Mosaic District.
The temperature is below freezing on the night of my first visit to Kirby Club, but soon I’m warming up with a za’artini—a clever riff on a dirty martini made with olive bitters, vermouth and gin infused with za’atar, a spice mix of thyme, toasted sesame seeds and sumac. Droplets of olive oil on the cocktail’s surface add a sultry richness.
Moments later, dishes of silken hummus and a minty, lemony yogurt dip hit the table, along with two fresh-from-the-oven flatbread rounds in a filigree toast stand. The tasty cocktail and spreads make me feel like a party’s about to start—and in fact, one is.
My companion and I have ordered the “shindig” ($75), a shareable feast that alleviates decision paralysis by allowing diners to sample the lion’s share of the menu in one sitting. “It’s perfect for three or four people, but lots of two-tops have been getting the shindig and leaving happily with leftovers,” says co-founder Rose Previte, who launched the Middle Eastern concept in late December with longtime business partner Mike Schuster (a Falls Church resident) and ThinkFoodGroup alum Mayu Horie. Previte and Schuster are the team behind D.C.’s Michelin-starred Maydān and its sister Compass Rose.
My party is one of those hungry two-tops. The centerpiece of the shindig, which the menu simultaneously refers to as “Sitto’s kebab party for the table” (sitto is Lebanese for grandmother), is a platter piled high with yellow turmeric rice, six charcoal grilled kebabs (steak, kofta, chicken, shrimp, lamb, oyster mushrooms), charred tomatoes, flatbread triangles and a vibrant mélange of pickled vegetables.
The feast comes with sides, too, including pickled eggplant, a crunchy salad tossed in dill-y labneh-ranch dressing, and four sauces—garlicky toum; spicy-sweet chili-date harissa; ezme (think Turkish salsa); and zhough, a zesty blend of green chilies, cilantro and garlic.
Egyptian American executive chef Omar Hegazi, whose D.C. résumé includes stints at Bourbon Steak and Zaytinya, makes liberal use of herbs and spices at Kirby Club with flavorful results. His beef-and-lamb kofta is laced with cumin, sumac and allspice. Oyster mushrooms are bathed in chermoula—a purée of saffron, parsley and cilantro—before grilling. Fenugreek is a front note in the chicken kebab, while hibiscus and coriander coax sweetness out of shrimp.
The idea for the shindig grew out of a research trip that Previte and Hegazi took to southern Turkey in May 2022. “It’s the home of the kebab,” Previte says. “We went to so many restaurants there. You’d sit down and platters of kebabs would show up. We wanted our shindig to be like that.”
The concept is also an homage of sorts for Previte, who was born and raised in northwest Ohio in the small town of Ada. She named the restaurant Kirby Club after the Lebanese American social club her grandparents and their friends created in Akron in 1933. The original club—its moniker shorthand for the Lebanese village of Kherbet Khanafar—was founded by immigrants wanting to maintain ties with their Lebanese heritage while also assimilating into American culture.
“The language wasn’t handed down to my mother [who was born in Akron], but the food was,” Previte says, recalling how her mother, Jeanne, ran a catering business from home, making Lebanese food, including kebabs, and driving to Toledo or Detroit to buy lamb. “It was her dream to open a restaurant. She finally got a brick-and-mortar place, Jeanne’s Kitchen, when she was 60. I wanted to open mine before that [age].”
At 43, Previte has already achieved her goal and then some, having opened Compass Rose in 2014 and Maydān in 2017. “Kirby Club is a Covid project,” she explains of the concept, which at first was going to be called Tawle (Arabic for table) after the takeout feasts her D.C. restaurants began offering when on-site dining was shut down.
That Kirby Club is debuting outside the city is not happenstance. The dining landscape shifted during the pandemic, she says. “Our guests who lived in the suburbs weren’t working in offices anymore and they wanted us closer.”
When Mosaic’s developer, Edens, approached Previte and her partners about the space fronting Strawberry Park (formerly home to Jinya Ramen, which moved a few doors down), they seized the opportunity. A second Kirby Club is slated to open in Clarendon in late summer.
Color is an essential ingredient in the restaurant’s ’70s-inspired décor, which includes trailing plants, curvy blue velveteen booths, retro wallpaper and recessed alcoves painted in sunset hues. Designed by Michelle Bove of D.C.-based DesignCase, the 3,000-square-foot space seats 75 inside and 30 outside on the patio. A gallery wall of family photos chronicles Previte’s kin through their decades in America.
The color parade continues on the table, in dips such as a lush green bessara made from fava beans; a bright orange carrot dunk speckled with fried onions; and a ruddy red pepper-walnut spread sweetened with pomegranate.
A bright pink tahini sauce accompanies tiny fava-bean-falafel patties in a cast-iron skillet. Most dishes are topped with unfiltered olive oil from Lebanon’s Koura district, the birthplace of Previte’s grandfather.
Other appetizers include the tepsi kebab, a juicy beef-and-lamb patty baked with tomatoes and bell peppers, and za’atar-dusted crinkle-cut fries served with apricot marmalade and whipped feta. (The fries sound better on paper than they turn out to be, but maybe that’s because I’m not a crinkle-cut fan.)
Previte and crew have shrewdly designed their menu as mix-and-match to suit all kinds of diner preferences. They offer various combinations of kebabs and sauces, a green plate for vegetarians and a meat lover’s one for carnivores. All come with rice, salad and sumac onions.
Picnic platters—which will be perfect for taking to the lawn in front of the restaurant in good weather—center on a whole roasted chicken, beef ribs or a combination of the two.
For now, the sole dessert is a tasty date-and-oat-milk soft-serve, but Previte says that may change once the restaurant installs a planned grab-and-go area for carryout.
Kirby Club is a convivial spot, where warm vibes abound and warm bread is a primary vehicle for dipping, dunking and wrapping.
Personally, I can confirm that my shindig over-ordering strategy paid off. Chef Hegazi may be aghast to read this, but I mixed together all the leftover dips and sauces at home the next day and used the amalgam as a topper for grilled salmon, served on turmeric rice. Color me happy.
2911 District Ave., Fairfax (Mosaic District)
571-430-3650 | kirbyclub.com
Dinner 4-10 p.m. daily
The Mosaic District offers plenty of free parking in multiple garages.
Appetizers: $7 to $12
Kebab platters: $17 to $32
Shindig feast (six assorted kebabs,
plus dips, sides and sauces): $75
What to Drink
Beverage director Drew Hairston has curated a small but intriguing rotating wine list from small production wineries in Spain, Slovenia, Lebanon and Georgia, all available by the glass ($11 to $15) and bottle ($58 to $70). The 11 offerings on my visits included Chateau Kefraya “Les Bretèches” blanc 2021 from Lebanon and Teliani Valley Glekhuri Kisi 2019 from Georgia.
There are five craft cocktails ($14), with options such as the Crystal Visions (gin, mint and lime) and Little Suns (vodka, chamomile, black tea, lemon and ginger).
Four draft beers ($8) are available, plus two canned beers ($6-$7).
Three spirit-free offerings ($7) include a sparkling minty limeade to which you may add your spirit of choice for $13.