Riding the wave of its flashy flagship hit on the Wharf, modern Mexican hotspot Mi Vida unveils a follow-up location across town on Monday, August 8.
The three-story sophomore outpost, dubbed Mi Vida 14th Street, breathes dramatic new life into the 1900s-era brick building that most recently housed Matchbox (1901 14th Street NW). Daily hours kick off at 4 p.m. to start, with brunch and weekday lunch coming in the next week.
The original Mi Vida on the Wharf marked Mexico City-born celebrity chef Roberto Santibañez’s first splash in D.C. The collaboration with D.C.-based Knead Hospitality + Design (Succotash Prime, The Grill, Gatsby, Bistro du Jour) opened in 2018 with rave reviews from Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema.
The newest 287-seat Mi Vida takes note of its on-the-go nightlife neighborhood with smaller bites and shareable orders that don’t necessitate silverware or a ton of time. New snacks include miso-marinated tuna taquitos and a section of skewers (agave-marinated chicken; Chilean sea bass with pumpkin seed salsa macha; and skirt steak with mole negro and crispy shallots).
“There’s a lot of people going out here, drinking and clubbing, so we want to offer some more grazing and communal items,” Knead co-founder Jason Berry tells Eater. “You don’t have to sit down and have a full meal.”
The high-profile corner, sized around 10,000 square feet, got a Mi Vida-styled makeover filled with stylish accents from top to bottom. Two dreamy and illuminated bars, a life-size faux tree dotted with 75 hand-painted Oaxacan flowers, decorative railings and tiles, starry pendant patterns, and twinkling rose gold lights should make Wharf regulars feel right at home while enjoying a contemporary Mexican menu filled with new and old favorites.
Mi Vida’s top-selling guac, which gets a tasty twist from blue cheese, grapes, and smoked almonds, joins a new hand-crushed seafood variety with crab, shrimp, habanero, and cilantro. Culinary director Santibañez, the founder of the Fonda family of restaurants in NYC, also imports Wharf hits like vibrant ceviches; mole negro-soaked enchiladas; stretchy queso fundido flecked with chorizo; and assorted tacos topped with braised pork, marinated skirt steak, achiote-marinated mushrooms, and crispy cod.
Mi Vida’s ever-popular La Frozen (tequila, mango, passion fruit, agave, and lime juice), on the Wharf menu since day one, also makes its way to Logan Circle along with margaritas by the pitcher and lengthy list of tequila and mezcal options. Mi Vida 14th Street gets the party started with inaugural tequila flights, featuring four one-ounce pours starting at $49.
Knead’s surf-and-turf sibling The Grill serves a best-selling starter sampler, and the team adopted that same approach at Mi Vida 14th Street. The “Fiesta de Botanas” platter, starting at $47 for three, assembles a cross-section of Mi Vida’s greatest hits into one large order (shrimp cocktail, steak skewers, chicken taquitos, empanadas, queso fresco, chicharrones, pickled veggies, and habanero and avocado salsas).
“You can try more things that way. It’s a more easygoing approach for snacking at night with a margarita in hand,” says Knead co-founder Michael Reginbogin.
Hours run until 11 p.m. on weekdays and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays to start. Weekday happy hour (3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and starting at 4 p.m. during opening week) includes $7 wines and cocktails, $5 beers, and discounts on snack spreads, plus a two-for-$9 Taco Tuesday special.
Bigger parties can opt in for a $43-per-person dinner spread that covers apps to desserts, and the family-style meal is mandatory for groups of seven to nine. A debut Dulce Sueños platter lets tables with a sweet tooth try all five finales, from espresso flan to fried churros with chocolate dipping sauce. Homemade almond cookies and fresh fruit round out the $49 sweets sampler.
A new cocktail flight designed for two lets drinkers try four Mi Vida cocktails at once ($52). Colorful carafes lined up on a board come with garnishes for a fun and interactive cocktail tasting, with hand-blown glass goblets handed to each participant.
“You can pour your own cocktails throughout the meal and decide which is the favorite,” says Reginbogin.
Options include La Buena Vida (Espolòn Reposado, Grand Marnier, agave, orange) and a fruity Ponche de Lolo with mango-infused vodka.
Knead is no stranger to turning century-old raw spaces into something beautiful. The team transformed the dilapidated Equitable Bank Building into Succotash Penn Quarter, which won Eater DC’s 2018 Design of the Year.
“That construction scarred me — this one beat me up not as bad,” says Reginbogin.
The aging Logan Circle building got gutted and updated with modern systems while keeping its exposed brick interior and giant vaulted ceilings intact. Prior to Matchbox’s 10-year run, the storied space housed everything from a billiards bar to jazz club.
“There is a historic, rustic quality of the space that lends itself beautifully to a Mi Vida,” he says. Unlike the Wharf’s Mi Vida, which took shape inside a sterile glass box, “this one comes with a story, and the walls have that energy.”
Wavy, bright pink panels suspended above — a familiar welcome element at the Wharf — lead the way to a custom wood and concrete host stand. Matchbox’s former service station on the mezzanine level was transformed into a bar, and a plaster-framed Hacienda room serves as a new private events perch up top.
A new 75-seat outdoor patio adds a durable, year-round seating area with heaters, fans, music, and banquettes running the length of the building. Mi Vida opens on the strip just as the neighborhood’s taco-and-tequila standby Tico closes to make way for a new Japanese restaurant.
Mi Vida isn’t done expanding in D.C. A third Mi Vida is scheduled to open in Penn Quarter this winter, in the cavernous Capital One Arena-adjacent space that formerly housed D.C.’s long-running Rosa Mexicano (575 7th Street NW).
Mi Vida 14th Street’s weekend brunch is expected to join the mix on Saturday, August 13, with weekday lunch coming on Monday, August 15. Mi Vida is open for dinner daily at 4 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. on weekends. Reserve a seat online.