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NYC Restaurateur Keith McNally Shares Plan to Bring Minetta Tavern to D.C.

The famous Balthazar owner says on Instagram he’s proposed terms to move into a Union Market space

Keith McNally at Minetta Tavern
Keith McNally says he’s signed a letter of intent for a restaurant space in the Union Market district
Daniel Krieger/Eater

Keith McNally, the famous New York City restaurateur known for influential Manhattan dining venues like the Odeon, Balthazar brasserie, and Pastis, announced he’s working with a landlord to build a location of fancy burger destination Minetta Tavern in D.C.’s Union Market district.

In an Instagram post published Monday, August 23, McNally’s account says he’s signed a letter of intent on a two-story, corner space with a “sensational private dining room” and a “secret” rooftop bar. A letter of intent is a proposal of terms for a commercial real estate deal, not a binding agreement. McNally’s post speaks to his plans for a D.C. branch of Minetta Tavern, including bringing in chef Laurent Kalkotour and operations director Roberta Delice from the original. “The new Minetta Tavern will have a similar menu to New York, but not identical,” the post reads. “The look and the feel of the DC restaurant will be the same, if not better.” At the end he adds, “see you there in 18 months!”

Eater reached out McNally and will update this post if more information becomes available.

The original Minetta Tavern opened in 1937 as a bar that served Italian food and became a hangout for literary types like Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and E.E. Cummings. McNally revamped it in 2009, garnering a winning review from the New York Times that referenced a cote de boeuf so “sublime” that “you dream about hours later, pine for the next day and extol in a manner so rapturous and nonstop that friends begin to worry less about your cholesterol than about your sanity.” The tavern quickly became synonymous with its Black Label Burger, which included a patty of aged ribeye, skirt steak, and brisket generously doused with clarified butter and caramelized onions. Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson, the chefs who created that burger and ran other McNally restaurants, went on to open award-winning Frenchette on their own.

McNally partnered with fellow restaurant magnate Stephen Starr to relaunch Pastis in a new location in 2019. Minetta Tavern’s move to the Union Market neighborhood would bring some competition nearby for Starr’s St. Anselm, which adopts a high-end tavern vibe with a steakhouse-style format.