All words by Elsie Yang
Fast, delicious, carbacious offerings are getting a major upgrade in the DC area thanks to a flurry of new cafes and bakeries that have opened in the recent weeks. We’ve chatted with the teams behind some of our favorite new spots to learn more about what has catalyzed this delightful new influx of eateries, and what can’t-miss options they’re offering.
You don’t have to go to New York to get your hands on the brioche donuts that could probably bring about world peace if everyone had a piece. DC has become the second home to yet another Manhattan mainstay, this time in the form of Mah-Ze-Dahr, the beloved bakery from James Beard semifinalist Umber Ahmad. And if you have even the semblance of a sweet tooth, the treats from Mah-Ze-Dahr simply cannot be missed. Celebrities and critics alike have sung the bakery’s (and Chef Ahmad’s) praises, and now, DC locals can head over to the Navy Yard for delicious cookies, cheesecakes, brownies, and yes, those unforgettable donuts.
BYT: There have been a slew of new bakeries opening in the DC area (much to our delight)! Can you speak to what inspired you to bring Mah-Ze-Dahr to DC in this moment?
Umber Ahmad: Washington, DC has always been on our radar. In addition to being a cultured, consummate food city, my best friend from business school, Jason Berry, is deeply committed to hospitality in DC. He and his partner, Michael Reginbogin, are founders of Knead Hospitality + Design with myriad restaurants in the city. Our mutual focus on, and commitment to the highest level of food, experience, and hospitality led us to dream up and then execute a plan to build a restaurant and bakery together. Being able to join efforts and create this incredible destination like this for the people of DC is a dream come true. Opening now, in the midst of a pandemic, made sense to us. Now, more than ever, we all need a moment of respite, a touch of comfort. Where better to get that than a bakery?
BYT: Why did you choose DC as a second location?
UA: We chose DC as a second location largely because of my relationship with Knead Hospitality + Design. Knowing we have trusted partners makes all the difference when you’re entering a new geography. It was also very important to us that we have local partners, with local roots and local history. Our entire team comes from the DMV area, and we’re proud to be building our second location here—with more to hopefully come!
BYT: What distinguishes Mah-Ze-Dahr from other bakeries? Anything distinctive would be fabulous to note here
UA: The root of the word mah-ze-dahr is the magic or essence that makes something special. Our wish is that, when you bite into anything we make, you are transported in that moment to a fond memory of your past, to a faraway place you’ve been, to a moment in time that connects now with then. Our pastries are elevated classics — they’re all the things you wish to eat every day, prepared with the finest ingredients, advanced techniques, and a whole lot of love. The result is a bakery that creates a moment for each guest that will bring them back again and again.
BYT: What are the can’t miss items from your menu?
UA: That’s like asking a mother to choose her favorite child! At the bakery, some of our favorites are the brioche doughnut, which is filled with luscious vanilla pastry cream (and voted best doughnut in NYC by the New York Times), the heavenly cheesecake, and all of our various croissant. We committed ourselves to creating a Parisian croissant in the U.S., and are proud to have nailed it (though our guests will be the judge).
BYT: Anything else you’d like readers to know?
UA: Our mission is to become a part of the daily fabric of the DC community. We are thrilled to be in DC, and are planning an expansion of locations throughout the DMV area. We can’t wait to be your moment of comfort, sustenance, and celebration.
Mah-Ze-Dahr is located at Gatsby, 1201 Half Street SE
Images via Mah Ze Dahr’s Instagram