Latin chefs Miguel Guerra and Tatiana Mora, the founders of elegant vegan venture Mita, break out of the fine-dining world with a casual cafe catering to racket-toting players, after-work crowds, and everyone in between. Eme Cafe and Bar is their new full-service bar and restaurant inside Squash on Fire, the sleek, eight-court sports complex that debuted in 2017 above the revamped West End fire station (2233 M Street NW).
The dining component, anchored by a curved wooden bar, was originally a Mediterranean-leaning cafe that went dark during the pandemic. Guerra and Mora recently took over operations and opened Eme with happy hour, dinner, and weekend brunch service to start.
Eme’s debut menu kicks off with mini empanadas, za’atar guacamole with pita chips, corn and jamon serrano croquettes, papas bravas dressed with blue cheese, beef carpaccio, ceviche with citrusy leche de tigre, spicy tuna tartare, and Korean chicken wings.
Bigger orders include barbecue ribs with tamarind and coleslaw and sweet-and-sour glazed carrot tostadas. Handhelds also get the cheffed-up treatment, with a smoked gouda burger topped with a fried egg, salmon burger, pork belly sandwich with curry mustard, and choripán—an open-faced Argentinian favorite featuring chorizo and chimichurri.
Squash on Fire’s diverse foot traffic appealed to the new culinary team.
“There’s a mix of people playing and sweating here or just in a suit having a happy hour drink after work,” says Guerra, who plans to take advantage of his new workplace by giving squash a go. “I played tennis back in the day, so it brings back those memories.”
Guerra, who grew up in Venezuela, spent years in Miami with desserts king Antonio Bachour and modernist Colombian tasting room Elcielo before moving to D.C. three years ago. He brought his dad’s decadent Medellín doughnut shop Donisima with him, and it’s taken off quickly in D.C. with food hall stalls at Foggy Bottom’s Western Market and Union Market district’s La Cosecha. A Valentine’s Day gift box, available for preorder online, stars a special cheesecake doughnut made with berries, champagne curd, white chocolate, and rose petals. This weekend also calls for a football-shaped Super Bowl doughnut.
La Cosecha’s tasting menu pop-up Mita is offline for now, but Guerra hints at “something bigger” to announce for the pandemic-born brand soon.
Eme’s happy hour runs 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and dinner service ends at 9 p.m. on weekdays, Brunch, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., brings bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches and arepas eggs Benedict with pork belly to the table. Look for lunch to arrive later.
The name “Eme” is the phonetic version of “M” in Spanish. It’s also the first letter of Guerra’s first name and co-chef Mora’s last name—“and we’re also on M Street,” he says.
Anthony Lanier, president of EastBanc Inc., and founder of Squash on Fire owns the mixed-use building housing the recreational facility. The West End neighborhood, also home to Equinox and Rumble, has risen as a fitness mecca of sorts.
Membership-free Squash on Fire, here long before its pickleball cousin took off nationwide, is one of just a few professional squash facilities in the U.S. On February 22 to 26, Squash on Fire will swell with 48 of the world’s best men and women squash players participating in a big tournament.