DC’s beloved beer garden welcomes a chic spinoff in the shadow of the ballpark.
Editor’s Note: This story was published in the July 2019 issue before news broke of a lawsuit against the restaurant.
The original Dacha, the crazy-popular beer garden in Shaw, is like a perpetual college party, vexing neighbors by pressing on with the exuberance of youth.
With the May opening of Dacha Navy Yard, it appears our little beer garden is all grown up at its second outpost between Nationals Park and the Anacostia River.
The come-hither beer garden features a polished Airstream travel trailer—an American icon in its own right—converted into a bar, surrounded by tables, a vintage car and a kids’ play area. Then, there’s a mural of Jackie Kennedy, the first clue to the space-race theme of the sleek, 4,000-square-foot restaurant. A blue-toned mural of President John F. Kennedy wearing sunglasses reflecting an image of Nikita Khrushchev holding a shoe (Long story. Google it.) reinforces the midcentury vibe.
While the original Dacha serves elevated and German-inspired comfort foods like mussels with hefeweizen broth and a döner-style ribeye, Dacha Navy Yard features higher-end options like escargot, duck confit cassoulet and lobster linguine. Order a beer, such as the DC Brau DACHNiK Helles Lager, made exclusively for Dacha, or the Kennedy-esque Camelot cocktail—basically a Last Word but with rum filling in for gin.
A share-plates section listed before the appetizers often signals tiny plates are headed your way. Not so at Dacha, where executive chef Taylor Burlingame doles out generous portions for each course. The menu pulls from across the globe but leans heavily on French influences. A light, gingery tuna tartine and tender meatballs are excellent ways to start, although we wished the meatballs arrived with some sort of bread to swab up the very tasty Italian-style sauce.
A gorgeous springtime salad of grilled and shaved asparagus, pickled shallots, peas, favas, radishes and a poached egg is so fresh and enjoyable that we all but licked the plate clean. The Dacha Caesar is served dramatically as a stack of whole romaine leaves tarred and feathered in dressing and Parmesan shavings.
Housemade linguine is a bit too gummy to be considered the perfect noodle texture, but it’s close enough—especially when you pile luscious chunks of tender lobster, strips of fennel and a briny, creamy foam on top. We loaded up on apps, but will return soon to try the hangar steak with frites and bearnaise, or the scallops and grits.
Desserts are a mixed bag, with a too-sweet rum cake leaving us wishing the poached pineapple tasted more like, well, pineapple. But a chocolate semifreddo with peanut butter cremeux, caramel ice cream and a sweet-salty peanut-pretzel tuile ensured that dinner still ended on a sweet note.
With its fun vibe, great drinks, warm service and excellent bites, Dacha Navy Yard is a welcome new star among the stellar restaurants orbiting the baseball stadium. // 79 Potomac Ave. SE, Washington, DC
Owing to the beer garden and large bar, there’s no shortage of space to grab a drink at Dacha—but Bardo Brewing’s outdoor brews (25 Potomac Ave. SE, Washington, DC), The Salt Line’s oyster shooters (79 Potomac Ave. SE, Washington, DC) and All-Purpose Rivefront’s Italian ice cocktails offer great alternatives if you want to bar hop (79 Potomac Ave. SE, Washington, DC)
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