Photo of Matt Baker by Farrah Skeiky
Photo of Matt Baker by Farrah Skeiky

When you climb the stairs to The Conservatory later this spring, you’ll pop out onto an Ivy City rooftop where you’ll first snake through a trellis then meander through a fully functioning garden before taking a seat inside a massive greenhouse that encompasses a 1,500-square-foot bar with about 30 seats. If you’d rather feel the breeze, there will be a handful of tables overlooking some of the vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers that might appear on your plate. 

The Conservatory is the cocktail-focused companion to Chef Matt Baker‘s restaurant, Gravitas, located on the first floor of the same building. The fine dining establishment opened inside the former tomato cannery at 1401 Okie St. NE in July. Baker compares the relationship between Gravitas and The Conservatory to that of The Dabney and The Dabney Cellar

“We wanted to have an outlet to serve guests that are waiting for their tables or who don’t want a whole tasting-menu experience,” Baker says. “It’s another way to take care of our guests who want a more relaxed experience with finger foods and lovely cocktails.” 

Food choices span from cheese and charcuterie and raw bar selections like oysters and crudos to open-faced tartines. Where Baker can, he’ll source products from his Ivy City neighbors including Ivy City Smokehouse and Profish. Bar manager Julien-Pierre Bourgon is drawing up a drink menu that leans heavily on gin and absinthe. The full wine list from Gravitas will also be available, should you want Champagne with your oysters. Bourgon will also mix a selection of seasonal mocktails. 

Baker and his kitchen team will determine which seeds they plant in the garden, but local urban agriculture company, Up Top Acres, will use its green thumbs to maintain it. “They think it’s going to have tons of potential from a production standpoint,” Baker says. “Like 20 to 50 pounds of produce on a weekly basis.” Once the garden is verdant, Baker says, he’ll add a new section to his Gravitas tasting menu featuring dishes made exclusively from ingredients found on the rooftop.

Restaurant designer Natalie Park of Natalie Park Design Studio is helping to bring Baker’s vision of a Parisian garden to life. The greenhouse will be the piece that makes the atmosphere memorable. It’s currently being custom-built in Alabama.

When The Conservatory debuts later this spring, it will be open Thursday through Sunday evenings, plus some daytime hours over the weekend when patrons can drink Vigilante Coffee and Teaism teas. 

The Conservatory, 1401 Okie St. NE