Dacha may bring to mind beer boots and brats, but the owners of the popular Shaw drinking garden are going upscale with their new Navy Yard restaurant and bar. The retro-chic space opens on Thursday, May 2, in the Dock 79 development with vespers in your glass and lobster linguini on the table. (And don’t worry, there’ll still be plenty of brews and sausages when the massive outdoor biergarten opens steps from Nationals Park in mid-May.)
Owners Dmitri Chekaldin and Ilya Alter tapped chef Taylor Burlingame to up the culinary ante. His finer-dining résumé includes nearly three years with the Mina Group at San Francisco’s RN74, where he worked with chef Michael Rafidi before joining him at Requin. (Burlingame was executive chef at Mike Isabella‘s Wharf French restaurant pre-closure.)
Dishes like escargots, steak frites, and cassoulet lean French, though Burlingame’s menu is modern American (i.e. a melting pot) overall. You’re as likely to dig into southern-style Jimmy Red grits—a sought-after heirloom variety—with seared scallops and bacon-cauliflower foam as you are an Asian-accented tuna tartare tartine.
Chekaldin and Alter were both born in Russia and met in Washington as college students. Russian-American themes play out in the decor. A portrait of JFK, designed by Russian dissident artist Igor Ponochevnyi, looks out over the 140-seat dining room. Just as a huge mural of Elizabeth Taylor is the focal point of Dacha Shaw, the owners wanted to center the Navy Yard space around American icons (a 16-foot Jackie graces the exterior). The design plays on themes of 1960s America and the former Soviet Union, and the interaction between the two. General manager Sean Alves says the team studied State Dinner and other White House menus from the Kennedy era and took inspiration for some of Dacha’s grander touches. Take the massive, bone-in, dry-aged ribeye with sauce béarnaise or a whole honey-glazed duck presented table-side with confit croquettes and huckleberry jus.
The team also researched JFK’s favorite drink (reportedly a Hemingway daiquiri) and Jackie’s (a vesper). Sip both in the 69-seat bar with huge windows opening to the water and a 40-seat patio. Being Dacha, a lengthy cocktail list is joined by an even lengthier beer list with 26 drafts. German and Belgian brews feature heavily (you’ll find six styles of Weihenstephaner) plus locals like Right Proper Raised by Wolves (a hopped pale ale) and Union Craft Old Pro gose.
The indoor space is the only place you’ll find drafts; Due to structural constraints, the 800-person beer garden will hone in on specialty cans. Beer nerds can still get their hops from a bunch of limited-releases and special collabs, like a Dacha-specific beer from DC Brau. Burlingame is planning a simple garden menu of pretzels, sausages, and other brew-friendly eats. And of course, with the owners being Russian, there will be Moscow mules and just plain vodka.
“We’re Russians so we believe vodka should be clear, tasteless, and wonderful like air,” says Chekaldin. “You don’t drink it, you breathe it.”
Dacha will be open for dinner-only to start with the beer garden menu and weekend brunch to follow.
Dacha Navy Yard. 79 Potomac Ave., SE; 202-919-3800