From matador hot pink to Tbilisi grey — “Tricorn Black,” the owners say — the wedge of a restaurant building in the 1400 block of E Olive Way is nearly complete with its Eastern European transition. It is almost time for Dacha Diner to serve its first “Eastern European cuisine with Jewish fare” breakfasts and lunches.
CHS broke the news in September on the new project from Joe Heffernan, Tom Siegel, and Tora Hennessey as the plan rounded into shape for an Eastern European flavored diner to replace the tacos and tequila of The Saint. “There’s a frugal character to it. The flavors come through with a certain honesty,” Siegel said of the cuisine Dacha Diner is setting out to share. “When it’s done poorly, it’s shameful. But when it’s done properly, there’s nothing like it out there.”
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Dacha Diner will serve “Eastern European and Jewish foods, coffee/espresso, and a small selection of alcohol” seven days a week, breakfast and lunch only. Expect a counter-service setup with a diner feel. Born from the same restaurant family as Madison Park’s Independent Pizzeria, we’re going to guess that Dacha’s khachapuri — Georgian cheese breads — will be on point.
UPDATE: Hennessey shared a preview of the planned menu offerings — and, yes, khachapuri is on the bill:
We will offer khachapuri but only on Saturdays and Sundays. We will have rotating specials like various kinishes, chopped liver, and shashlik. Some of the items that will be static on the menu are borscht, matzo ball soup, latkes, vareniki, pelmeni, khinkali, golumpki, brisket, blini, blintzes, housemaid pickles, infused vodkas (hopefully… still waiting on our liquor license), drip coffee and espresso from Olympia Coffee Co., and a few other delectables. Being that we are a diner we will have eggs, kielbasa, and toast, too.
Inside, the feel will be simple but cozy. “Dacha is a Russian word for a cottage or vacation home. I’m not interested in kitsch design so there will not be Soviet decor or 50’s diner themes,” Hennessey said. “The focus will be the food. Like the Independent, we do not have private investors. So, as it was with the Indie, much of the interior work is done by myself and on a tight budget. I just want to create an environment that is comfortable to be in. Capitol Hill is my home and I want this to feel like our second home. As if we just invited people over to dine. I want a chill atmosphere. This isn’t fine dining, this is comfort food.”
When it opens Dacha Diner will join Dingfelder’s Delicatessen in the Capitol Hill Jewish food+drink trend. The provider of stacked pastrami and corned beef sandwiches debuted its walk-up counter this summer at 14th and Pine and plans to open with indoor seating soon. Westman’s Bagels and Coffee from Monica Dimas also opened this year and continues to draw lines on E Madison.
Quentin Ertel’s sale of The Saint, meanwhile, is part of a small wave of transactions in the food and drink space around Capitol Hill this year. You can also add Tallulah’s (here), Sun Liquor (here), Anchovies and Olives (here), the Baltic Room (here), the Canterbury (here), Quinn’s (here), and Cure (here) to the sales roster.
Dacha Diner’s social media has been targeting a December 1st opening but given the occasional last minute challenges of city and county permits, try not to be too disappointed if you have to wait a few extra days. Hennessey says the current plan is “mid December.”
Hennessey tells CHS that Dacha Diner will also be dedicated to keeping things as affordable as possible for great food. “It’s important for our food to be accessible, affordable, and delicious,” Hennessey tells us. The ethos extends to the staff — and the kitchen. Hennessey said Dacha will pay all staff $18 an hour “regardless of the position they hold” and that tips will be split evenly. “What good are we if our employees are struggling to buy groceries and pay their bills,” she says.
Dacha Diner is located at 1416 E Olive Way. You can learn more and keep track of opening plans at facebook.com/dachadiner/.