A D.C. restaurant group that typically invests big bucks into building full-service restaurants is developing a 500-seat food hall in Dupont Circle that will combine three new fast-casual options from its roster of high-profile chefs with another branch of fast-growing Mah-Ze-Dahr bakery.
Knead Hospitality + Design (Mi Vida, The Grill, Succotash) hopes to open the new project, a collaboration with a European hospitality company, by May. The group won’t share the exact location, but it will sit near the foot of the circle itself. Knead has been teasing details for each of the following businesses with new Instagram pages.
The fast-casual Mexican menu from Knead culinary director and Mi Vida chef Roberto Santibañez will include tacos, churros, empanadas, and other handheld foods.
Chef Edward Lee has come up with a condensed version of the Southern-meets-Korean menu he serves at Succotash with options for towering burgers, sandwiches, and wings. Succotash’s Penn Quarter outpost is on track to reopen mid-to-late spring.
This pizza shop sells tavern-style pies to go along with fried ravioli, arancini with marinara dipping sauce, salads, and tiramisu. A Knead project manager who attended culinary school is helping with recipe development. “He loves Italian — he’s a pizza nut and has been making doughs for months,” Knead founder Jason Berry says.
In addition to the fast-casual complex, the restaurant group is opening another restaurant in Dupont Circle. At Mi Casa, Santibañez will focus on Mexican-American border cuisine inside a 130-seat venue with a large covered patio. The corner space (1647 20th Street NW) used to house Bareburger, the Manhattan chain that pulled the plug on its sole D.C. location last spring. The menu will draw from traditional cooking in Northern Mexico, Texas, and the American Southwest. Look for tacos, fajitas, ceviches, margaritas, and frozen cocktails from a big bar stocked with 100 types of tequila.
“We’re letting our hair down and trying fun things,” Knead partner Michael Reginbogin says. The design is going for “Tulum meets hacienda,” he says, dressed with muted colors, rugged stone walls, plant life, and murals.
The plan is to hire 500 new employees to help operate all of Knead’s incoming locations, which include a second location for Mi Vida downtown; a casual French cafe opening along the Wharf in June; and the arrival of its modern American diner Gatsby next to Nationals Park this spring (or as soon as COVID-19 restrictions improve). Knead recently netted a big hire in regional operations director Wendy Schlazer, an alum at TAO Group and Fabio Trabocchi’s restaurants.
To incentivize vaccinations, Knead is offering employees paid time off.
“As we’re turning the curve here, hopefully we can change the narrative that there is hope D.C. will come back,” says Reginbogin. “There’s a silver lining out there somewhere.”