Food

Mexican Spot Mi Vida Opens on 14th Street with a Controversially Colorful Mural

"I stand by it," says Knead Hospitality co-founder of the hot pink, floral design.

Mi Vida opens on 14th Street. Photograph by Washingtonian staff

Knead Hospitality + Design, known for big, splashy DC restaurants like Succotash Prime and Gatsby, just unveiled their latest venture: Mi Vida on 14th Street, a spinoff of their Mexican flagship at the Wharf. The three-story venture, which takes over from Matchbox, is roaring out the gate with a glitzy tequila-fueled bar; group-friendly “grazing platters” loaded with Mexican snacks or desserts; and full-service lunch, brunch, and dinner. Also, a massive pink mural on the brick facade  that’s drawing a lot of attention—and criticism—from onlookers. 

The building at 14th and T Streets, Northwest—originally built in 1907 as a bowling and billiards alley—maintained an old time-y look in its Matchbox days, complete with flickering lanterns. Knead designed the space with architect //3877 and commissioned Brushdecor artist Jose Roldan Rendon to add some (well, a lot of) color. Haters—mostly Popville commenters—are calling the bright, floral design “tacky AF,” “mediocre at best,” and “like Lisa Frank threw up all over it.”  Defenders—also Popville commenters—make points like: “The city doesn’t need to look like Lincoln was shot last night.” For their part, married Knead Hospitality + Design founders Jason Berry and Michael Reginbogin want to set the record straight. 

“The mural on the front is not on historic brick, and we restored the majority of the trim and molding on the building—which was fairly dilapidated and falling apart,” says Reginbogin. “We wanted to add a splash of color. Mi Vida means ‘My Life,’ and that is not tones of beige.”

The main dining room and bar at Mi Vida. Photograph courtesy of Mi Vida.

Paint-haters can find unscathed, original brickwork on the side of the building where an all-seasons patio hosts diners—as well as weekday happy hour with discounts on margaritas and tacos. Indoors, a theatrical “tree of life” installation blooms over the dining room and bar.

Mexico City-born chef Roberto Santibañez brings a party theme to the menu with new family-style platters like an appetizer sampler that can serve three-to-five guests with tacos, shrimp cocktail, empanadas, queso, salsas, and more. Family-style set menus are also available ($43 for adults, $21 for kids) in addition to a la carte options. Tequila flights and pitcher cocktails also play to a crowd. 

A Mexican appetizer sampler platter. Photograph courtesy of Mi Vida.

And if anyone is still questioning that pink mural? 

“I stand by it,” says Reginbogin. “You have people who like it, and then you have the people who hate life and love commenting negatively on anything that DC puts forth. I wish them well—and they can come in any time for margaritas.” 

Photograph by Washingtonian staff

Mi Vida. 1901 14 th St., NW

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.