Navy Yard gets a mega dining boost today with the anticipated arrival of Gatsby, a reimagined American diner serving an In-N-Out-inspired burger, throwback cocktails, vegan Caesar salads, and elegant cakes in a show-stopping setting frozen in time.
Prolific D.C. restaurant group Knead Hospitality + Design unveils its two-story Southeast stunner on Thursday, April 8, complete with a front row seat of Nationals Park across the street. To start, Gatsby is open daily from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. with weekday happy hour until 6 p.m. (1201 Half Street SE). Brunch, then lunch, will follow.
Gatsby is the glamorous finale of a two-piece project that kicked off last fall with an all-day offshoot of Mah-Ze-Dahr. The revered NYC bakery from James Beard semifinalist Umber Ahmad powers Gatsby’s desserts section with decadent pies, cakes, sundaes, and ice cream.
Unlike Knead’s largely cuisine-specific destinations like The Grill (steakhouse), Mi Vida (Mexican), and Succotash (Southern), Gatsby’s catch-all menu created by Succotash National Harbor alum Lisa Odom dabbles by design.
“It’s a little bit of everything for everyone, which is important for this dense [Navy Yard] neighborhood,” says Knead co-owner Jason Berry.
When hours are in full swing, customers can flock to Gatsby to curb cravings for everything from a croissant and cappuccino to a midday burger and beer to bone-in ribeye and a glass of red wine for date night. Its double smashburger strives to be the “closest thing” D.C. has to California’s cult fast-casual In-N-Out, says Berry, albeit a “little more elevated” at Gatsby.
Packed with polished and elegant touches from top to bottom, Gatsby encapsulates the bygone era of the 1920s when greasy-spoon Americana was born, art deco decor was all the rage, and its Great Gatsby literary namesake was published. Knead’s go-to architecture firm //3877 handled the look.
A classic cocktail list adds modern edits to popular throwbacks like an appletini and white Russian.
“It’s all classic cocktail recipes we’re bringing back to when they were actually good,” Knead co-founder Michael Reginbogin tells Eater.
Knead’s debut highball machine behind Gatsby’s glowing bar exclusively produces chilled Jim Beam shots and fizzy cocktails served with sleek, slender ice cubes. At happy hour, the whiskey shots are $4 and their cocktail companions are $6.
Gatsby was already all dressed up with nowhere to go a year ago when COVID-19 shut down the city. Pressing a pandemic-caused pause on the opening granted the team time to rethink and refine the menu.
“We said, ‘what do we really want this place to be — what is missing in the neighborhood?’” says Reginbogin.
With a whopping 300-plus seats, Gatsby can still welcome a generous amount of diners at a time during D.C.’s current 25-percent indoor capacity restrictions for COVID-19. The setup also sports an 80-seat patio.
Each day of the week is dedicated to a different “Blue Plate” special. Monday calls for fried chicken with spiked honey and loaded cornbread, and Gatsby celebrates Thanksgiving every Thursday with a hearty plate of turkey breast and gravy, brioche-chestnut stuffing, seasonal greens, and cranberries. Saturdays swing Italian with lasagna, beef and pork ragu, and garlic bread. It pays off to be an early bird and order from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., when rotating specials come with a sizable discount.
Paying homage to great American diners of past and present means there’s plenty of places to find calories at Gatsby (think: hearty helpings of country fried steak and meatloaf). But health-conscious dishes done right also make surprising appearances on the menu.
Vegan options sprinkled throughout include lettuce wraps with tofu, peanuts, cilantro, and hoisin and a vegan Caesar that’s as “good as any Caesar I had,” says Berry. Its answer to cauliflower steak — an entree “everyone is doing” these days, he observes — is a celery root “steak,” braised, roasted, and seared alongside herbed Israeli couscous and roasted beets. Scoops of sorbet in coconut and granny smith apple flavors also swing vegan.