September 7, 2018 | by Tierney Plumb, Eater DC | Photos by Rey Lopez
Bright and whimsical British fast-food chain Leon is ready to bring its all-day lineup of affordable salads, toasts, wraps, and sandwiches to D.C. — with nothing on the menu over $10.
The health-conscious eatery’s first U.S. location and first of many D.C. area locations (1724 L Street NW) is scheduled to open on Monday, September 10 and operate on weekdays only to start, from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sides like baked fries and hummus start at $2.50, and most meals cost around $6.50 to $8.50. “Big boxes” — served with kale slaw and brown rice — include a cumin and cardamom-spiced lamb kofte topped with pickles, aioli, chili sauce, toasted seeds, and fresh herbs ($9.95).
Upon entry, customers are welcomed by the brand’s marquee-style Leon signage, as well as its huge orange logo painted on a wall. The 2,000-square-foot space is also accented by images of trumpet-playing female figures and framed family photos of Leon staff members hanging above tables.
“We are definitely not fast-casual. It’s a fast food model,” CEO John Vincent told Eater this year, noting that most customers can get in and out in under three minutes.
The company bases its food around the Mediterranean diet, which means lots of fruits, vegetables, and seeds are in the mix. During each seasonal menu shift, Leon’s management works with nutritionists to create what it calls “gut friendly” foods like egg pots; avocado feta toast; vegan meatballs; sweet potato falafel wraps; chicken burgers and more. As an ode to its British roots and its 50 London locations, there’s a breaded fillet of fish wrapped with romaine lettuce, pickles, and its own quinoa tartare sauce ($7.50). Another non-traditional Leon condiment is tarragon-olive oil mayonnaise. The brand also makes its own lemonade and is the first D.C. restaurant to serve organic Tractor sodas.
The packaging — think: compact vegan falafel wraps — encourages on-the-go eating. Leon also wants its diners to eat more at home: Its colorful two-year-old cookware line from U.K. retailer John Lewis is sold inside the store, as are thick stacks of Leon cookbooks. Sustainability is also a big part of the expansion-minded brand, with paper straws and biodegradable cups for coffee.