After years of waiting, Maketto opened to the public this morning at 7 a.m. and it is unlike anything else in D.C. What once was a dollar store has been transformed into a three-level space with a central courtyard, catwalks and a roof deck. Everything is stark black and white with entirely custom-made furniture. The entire first floor is visible from the street, from the gallery-like retail space to a bar to the central courtyard and back to the main kitchen in the space’s rear carriage house. "We really wanted to build a space that was unique," said Will Sharp of DURKL, who heads up the retail portion of the space. "If it took this damn long, it better be good," Erik Bruner-Yang joked.
Maketto co-owners Bruner-Yang and Sharp wanted to let Maketto’s products — the food, the retail, and the coffee — speak for themselves, which explains the gallery-like interior. Designed by Bruner-Yang and Sharp with architect/designer Michael Francis of Queue Design Agency, visitors who step into the space walk through the the first-level shop, where shoes and menswear are displayed behind glass. Upstairs is home to Vigilante Coffee Company's coffee bar, with plenty of seating and wifi for guests and more retail products like beard balm and art books. Guests can make purchases anytime Maketto is open, and the coffee bar will transform into a secondary bar in the evenings.
On the first level, walk past the retail shop and there’s the main bar, which will serve Frenchie’s pastries and bread in the morning. Cocktails served here will feature ingredients like Kaoliang, Taiwan’s national spirit, Chinese Pu'reh tea, and vinegars in flavors like hibiscus, beet, pumpkin and maple. Seating at Maketto is communal and first-come, first-serve.
There’s 30 more seats in the courtyard and the patio, and seating as well in the main kitchen. On the menu, find items divided into small format plates like scallion pancakes, oyster pancakes, pork bao, pan-fried leek buns and grilled Khmer sausage, or large format plates, like whole fried fish, wok fried noodles and Taiwanese fried chicken and bread. "It’s the way I eat at home or eat with my family," Bruner-Yang said, explaining that diners can order a few small format plates and a large format plate or two to share. The cafe menu will be available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with options like soy milk and Chinese doughnuts, Cambodian pork noodle salad and a Cambodian sandwich served on bread made by Frenchie’s.
There’s one more opportunity to shop at Maketto: a vending machine is outside on the upstairs level and it’s stocked with Asian candy, Kidrobot toys, headphones, lucky cat figurines and more fun stuff. The vending machine is from Guerilla Vending, and it's owned by Toki Underground employees and friends of Bruner-Yang. "I told them, ‘Put some stuff in there I’ll need,’" Bruner-Yang said, which explains why there’s Tums, gum, sharpies and notebooks in there too. And it’s already a hit: Bruner-Yang and Sharp said that they made $100 from the vending machine at last Saturday’s sold-out housewarming party at Maketto and someone nicely bought them a lucky cat.
Maketto, 351 H Street NE; website
Correction: Maketto does not plan to take reservations.
Editor's Note: Photographer Rey Lopez is a Maketto investor.