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Shaw’s Tequila-Fueled Cortez Closes to Make Way for a New Ethiopian Restaurant

The Mexican standby just traded hands to a group of Ethiopian brothers who plan to open Broz Dynasty soon

Two-level Cortez served its last rooftop margarita this month.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Shaw’s Baja-styled destination for tacos, tequila, and airy rooftop vibes since 2018 permanently closed this month, and a new family-owned Ethiopian venture will soon slide in.

Better Hospitality Group owner Ryan Seelbach tells Eater he sold two-story Cortez to Ethiopian-born Samuel Tesfaye, who plans to flip the color-soaked space into his first stateside restaurant called Broz Dynasty (1905 Ninth Street NW). The finalized menu and website are still in the works, Tesfaye tells Eater, and Broz Dynasty could open as soon as the end of August.

“In general it will be a fusion place with injera, a bit of vegetarian foods, and tapas,” says Tesfaye, who runs a cluster of Broz Dynasty locations in Ethiopia with his siblings.

His two younger brothers, who handle the culinary side of the operations, arrived in D.C. last week. Seelbach quietly put Cortez on the market this summer and says he fielded a handful of offers before picking Broz Dynasty to take over the term of the lease.

“We have so much going on as a company this year and wanted to focus our energies on our largest businesses,” says Seelbach.

BHG will maintain presence in Shaw with its popular beer garden Takoda, which expanded across town this spring with a new location across from Nationals Park. Cortez and its Mexican menu full of tacos, guacamole, dozens of tequilas, and Latin American beers could be revived elsewhere down the line, he says.

The replacement project suits Shaw nicely. The area around 9th and U Street NW, unofficially designated as D.C.’s “Little Ethiopia,” is home to neighborhood pioneers like Dukem, well-established Chercher, and relative newcomers like Family. D.C. alone is home to the biggest Ethiopian community in the U.S., and Ethiopian-born Tesfaye has longtime local ties to the area (he graduated from George Mason University).

The blue-hued downstairs bar at Cortez.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Broz Dynasty will perform a light and quick remodel. The second-level dining area for 50 is joined by a 70-person rooftop bar that plans to serve a purpose.

“We are going to host networking events on the rooftop to bring the community together. It’s not just a bar or lounge,” says Tesfaye.

The 2,400-square-foot structure, built in 1922, previously housed dimly-lit neighborhood restaurant 1905 and underwent an extensive makeover for its latest life as Cortez.

Cortez opened in 2018 with whitewashed brick walls, lots of coastal accents, graffiti murals by a West Coast artist, and funky lighting fixtures.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

This summer, Seelbach also closed Boardwalk’s original location in Penn Quarter to shift attention to its twice-as-large edition on the Wharf that opened in February. BHG’s anticipated wine bar Easy Company will debut on the same Southwest Waterfront stretch soon. Construction is over 75-percent complete, he says.

Broz Dynasty plans to host community events on the rooftop.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC