Restaurant group Knead Hospitality + Design has started moving ahead with its local expansion plans for NYC-based bakery Mah-Ze-Dahr. The popular brand, which arrived in D.C. with Madagascar vanilla cream-filled brioche doughnuts and turkey and gruyere croissants in September, is building its biggest location to date in Arlington and plans to open near Amazon’s HQ2 by April.
Amazon’s construction project is reportedly on-schedule to complete its first phase by 2023, and the delivery giant will lease office space before then. The incoming cafe could represent a marquee attraction for Crystal City, one of a few Northern Virginia areas attempting to rebrand as National Landing.
New customers to Mah-Ze-Dahr will be able to sample cookies, cheesecakes, and dark chocolate brownies at a 3,000-square-foot cafe with a huge patio (1550 Crystal Drive). The 80-seat setup will double as a commissary kitchen that will eventually supply up to five area Mah-Ze-Dahr locations with its baked goods.
Mah-Ze-Dahr comes from Umber Ahmad, a former investment banker who was a 2019 semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Baker award. Mah-Ze-Dahr’s new location in Navy Yard (1201 Half Street SE) represented its first venture outside of Manhattan. An expanded menu in Arlington will add savory items, with a focus on breakfast and lunch across the dark blue and marble-toned space.
“It’s a little more over-the-top than Capitol Riverfront,” says Knead co-founder Michael Reginbogin. “Every time we open one, we want it to be better than the last.”
Mah-Ze-Dahr’s first D.C. location, across the street from Nationals Park, will supply pastries and desserts for Knead’s delayed American restaurant Gatsby, which sits in the same 9,000-square-foot complex.
Gatsby, which can has room for 350 people, is waiting for public health restrictions to allow at least 75 percent capacity before it opens to the public. The owners are hoping that’s feasible by February or March, leading up to a 2021 MLB season in which professional baseball expects to bring fans back to stadiums in some fashion.
“Gatsby needs the energy and vibe of guests. There’s a big bar on the first floor, and the last thing we want to do is walk into a space and not have a bar crowd,” says Knead co-founder Jason Berry. “We don’t want to open at 25 or 50 percent capacity, or outdoor only. It won’t showcase what it does.”
The in-the-works menu, billed as “reimagined American diner classics,” plans to include spaghetti and meatballs, chicken fried steak, and year-round Thanksgiving staples.
Knead’s opulently designed Succotash Penn Quarter, which temporarily closed in July due to the neighborhood’s depleted foot traffic, also hopes to reopen around the same time Gatsby arrives.
Regulars who are missing chef Edward Lee’s Southern-Korean cuisine can order Succotash holiday dinner for pickup from Gatsby, which also hosted a popular Thanksgiving to-go spread.
Mah-Ze-Dahr’s year-end plans include making gingerbread house and bake-at-home brownie kits for pickup or delivery starting Saturday, December 12 through Christmas Eve.