Fueled by the success of its flashy flagship on the Wharf, followed by a summer 2022 opening in Logan Circle, Mexican hotspot Mi Vida triples down in D.C. on Friday, April 28 with its largest location yet.
Mi Vida Penn Quarter debuts right across from Capital One Arena in the cavernous space that formerly housed D.C.’s long-running Rosa Mexicano (575 7th Street NW). Mi Vida opens with daily dinner service at 4 p.m., with lunch, happy hour, and brunch debuting in May.
The first Mi Vida landed on the Wharf in 2018, marking New York City restaurateur Roberto Santibañez’s first splash in D.C. The collaboration with D.C.-based Knead Hospitality + Design (Succotash Prime, The Grill, Gatsby) earned rave reviews from Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema, who gushed over its “lush” hand-crushed guacamole.
Knead crunched the numbers, and the two Mi Vidas combined have sold a whopping 371,747 guacamoles as of this week. One gets a tasty twist from blue cheese, grapes, and smoked almonds, and a seafood variety comes with diced crab, shrimp, cilantro, and habanero. Needless to say, “we are one of the biggest buyers of avocados in the city,” says Santibañez.
Another top-selling starter since day one is slow-braised duck with layered corn tortillas and a spicy roasted habanero cream.
Santibañez, the Mexican-born founder of the Fonda family of restaurants in NYC, also imports hits like vibrant ceviches; mole negro-soaked enchiladas; stretchy queso fundido flecked with chorizo; assorted tacos topped with braised pork, marinated skirt steak, achiote-marinated mushrooms, and crispy cod; and fried churros with chocolate dipping sauce. A sharable “Sabores de Mexico” platter, starting at $43, assembles a cross-section of Mi Vida’s greatest hits into one large order. Roasted tomatillo salsa also makes its way over from 14th Street NW.
Mi Vida’s reliable margaritas and agave cocktails, served by the glass, pitcher, and as tasting flights, joins one of the largest selections of tequila and mezcal in the city.
The full-scale renovation features familiar Mi Vida design accents like a life-sized steel and fiberglass tree flanked with flowers and hand-painted butterflies, signature pink fins, rose gold-lit screens, and intricate tile work. New for Penn Quarter is a woven textile installation made in Mexico that runs around the bar. The dramatic piece was well worth the $70,000 price tag; “I can confidently say you can’t find this anywhere in D.C.,” says Michael Reginbogin, who co-owns Knead with Jason Berry.
Mi Vida Penn Quarter will capitalize on its location with themed parties tied to concerts going on at the 20,000-seat entertainment venue across the street. Mi Vida plans to pay homage to Madonna’s D.C. tour stop in September with playlists and specials from the “Like a Prayer” singer.
The 356-seat location with a sizable patio is the first Mi Vida entirely situated on one level. “Servers are excited they don’t have to use elevators and staircases to trek to tables,” says Reginbogin.