Fueled by the success of its flashy flagship on the Wharf, Mexican hotspot Mi Vida will triple down in D.C. with a fresh pair of locations in 2022.
A Logan Circle outpost is scheduled to open next spring in Matchbox’s vacated address (1901 14th Street NW). Mi Vida Penn Quarter will follow in the fall in the cavernous Capital One Arena-adjacent space that formerly housed D.C.’s long-running Rosa Mexicano (575 7th Street NW). Each high-profile corner, sized around 10,000 square feet, will get Mi Vida-styled makeovers.
Mi Vida’s anticipated Wharf debut in 2018 (98 District Square SW) marked New York City restaurateur Roberto Santibañez’s first splash in D.C. The collaboration with D.C.-based Knead Hospitality + Design (Succotash Prime, The Grill, Gatsby) opened with rave reviews from Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema, who gushed over its “lush” hand-crushed guacamole and “mesmerizing” details like its life-size faux tree flanked with color-changing flowers, hand-painted butterflies, and a “dreamily” illuminated bar.
Identical design accents and that top-selling guac, which gets a tasty twist from blue cheese, grapes, and smoked almonds, will appear at the subsequent locations. Santibañez also plans to import his hit mole negro-soaked enchiladas and slow-braised baby back ribs.
The Mexican-born chef/founder of the Fonda family of restaurants in NYC also wows Wharf diners with vibrant ceviches; stretchy queso fundido flecked with chorizo; assorted tacos (braised pork, marinated skirt steak, and crispy cod are featured fillings); a generous roast chicken main, and fried churros with chocolate dipping sauce. Anthem attendees regularly pregame shows with Mi Vida’s reliable margaritas by the pitcher and its large selection of tequila and mezcal.
Its new Penn Quarter location will also benefit from entertainment-driven foot traffic. Knead co-founder Jason Berry has past professional ties to the space; he was formerly Rosa Mexicano’s chief operating officer during a chunk of its 16-year stretch in Penn Quarter. When the national chain closed the location during the pandemic, he pounced at the chance to put Knead’s modern Mexican replacement inside.
“It’s one of the best corners in the entire city,” says Berry.
The main bar will be reconfigured into a massive U shape to cater to Penn Quarter’s 9-to-5 happy hour market. Mi Vida’s 14th Street NW location plans to bring its nightlife neighborhood a selection of after-hours small plates.
“There is ability there to capitalize on a late-night dinner crowd who don’t want full entrees,” says Knead co-founder Michael Reginbogin.
Knead had an exceptionally busy 2021, expanding its D.C. portfolio big time with openings including Navy Yard’s glitzy diner Gatsby, Dupont’s Tex-Mex oasis Mi Casa and subterranean food hall in London-based mini-golf bar Swingers, and the Wharf’s all-day French cafe Bistro du Jour. Knead also ramped up its DMV partnership with hit NYC bakery Mah-Ze-Dahr and retooled Penn Quarter’s Succotash Prime into a steakhouse-leaning venture with celebrity chef Ed Lee.
An entirely new Knead concept in Florida is under construction, the team tells Eater, with an opening scheduled for early 2023.