Washington is becoming saturated with bars that boast about their deep selections of whiskey and craft beer. But Takoda, which opens tonight at 5 p.m. near the corner of Florida Avenue and Eighth Street NW, separates itself from the pack with something special: a rooftop "beer garden" with sweeping 270-degree views of Shaw, U Street and Le Droit Park.
Takoda comes from Ryan Seelbach and Eric Lund, owners of the downtown lounge the Huxley. Seelbach, a resident of LeDroit Park, says he's always wanted to run a restaurant and bar with "an American whiskey focus. It's in my blood." He's not exaggerating: His family are the Seelbachs who gave their name to Louisville's famous Seelbach Hotel, which inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" and was the birthplace of the classic Seelbach cocktail, which includes bourbon and champagne.
That explains the 35 bourbons, 18 ryes and around a dozen other American whiskeys on Takoda's menu, which can be paired with 24 American draft beers. Three lines are dedicated to the District's Atlas, 3 Stars and DC Brau breweries, while there's also a strong focus on rotating Mid-Atlantic craft beers. Most drafts are around $7; the cheap options are domestic "Basic Beers," such as PBR and Natty Boh, for $5 a pint.
The building itself dates from 1922, but the rooftop was built from scratch. The walls consist of French doors that can be opened or removed, depending on the weather, to allow cross ventilation. (Heaters are also installed in case of a spring cold snap.) While most of the seats are at tables, the most desirable spots will be at the teak barstools surrounding a horseshoe-shaped bar. Planters hang overhead next to a skylight, and the rear wall -- the only one not made of glass -- will be covered with ivy and vines. "We want it to look lush and green," Seelbach says.
Downstairs, the main dining room and bar is the antithesis of most dark, clubby whiskey joints; it's full of natural light and bright colors: deep blue curtains, blue-and-green floor tiles, and white ceilings. This isn't a cave-like speakeasy; the windows swing open to let the breeze in.
The kitchen is helmed by Damian Brown, previously of Stanton and Greene; the short menu has strong Southern touches: shrimp and grits, chicken and sweet potato waffles, and brisket flatbread. Food will be served until 11 p.m. every night; a late-night menu will be offered from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Brunch, Seelbach says, starts "a month or so after we're open."
The 10 cocktails, prepared by General Manager Sean MacDonald, have a bourbon focus: The Seelbach makes an appearance, of course, along with a Brown Derby and an Old Fashioned, made with a house beer syrup. The star seasonal drink is the Cold Toddy, made with Redemption's sweet and fruity White Rye Whiskey, iced tea, honey and lemon, and garnished with a cinnamon stick. "It's the opposite of the hot toddy, to cool you down in the summer," MacDonald says.
Happy hour will run from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and Seelbach says the "aggressive" specials will include nightly half-price deals, including "Cider and Salads" on Tuesdays, "Whiskey and Wings" on Wednesday and "Basic Beer and Burgers" on Thursdays.
Takoda, 715 Florida Ave. NW. 202-525-1252. takodadc.com. Open daily at 5 p.m.