Chef Mikko Kosonen hopes to give D.C. residents a taste of his homeland of Finland on Tuesday when he opens Mikko, his eponymous cafe in Dupont. He swells with pride when talking about its 500 types of edible mushrooms, plentiful fish and seafood, game meat, forest berries, rye grain, and smoking and preserving techniques.
Patrons will be able to start their day with a cup of coffee and seven-seed bread spread with lingonberry jam or swing by later in the day for Finnish-style fish soup or a Danish-style open-faced sandwich with roast beef, potato salad, horseradish, and crispy onions. In two to three weeks, he plans to roll out two daily lunch specials priced at about $15 each, like a split sausage with gravy, pickles, and potatoes.
Nordic cuisine has its fans in D.C. “People have been coming by demanding herring,” Kosonen says. “Everyone is asking about it. We have to have it.”
Kosonen got his start in kitchens at age 13 at Cassi, his family’s restaurant in Sweden. He went to culinary school back home in Helsinki and moved to the U.S. in the mid-1990s. For 16 years, he worked as the executive chef to the Finnish ambassador and later starteda catering business that he will continue to operate through his all-day cafe.
Find Mikko at 1636 R St. NW, in a row house painted blue and white—the colors of the Finnish flag. There are a few stools at the front of the sunny cafe as well as a row of seats in the back that peer into the kitchen. The restroom is cleverly outfitted to look like a sauna. John Sage‘s design takes its inspiration from Finnish folklore. Patio seating and alcoholic offerings are planned for a few weeks down the road.
In addition to grab-and-go sweets and treats and substantial dishes that guests can sit down to enjoy, there’s a retail market that sells everything from rye crackers and loaves of bread to coffee mugs painted with Moomin characters.
While Mikko is very much a casual cafe, guests will be able to rent out the space for private dinners for six to ten guests. Should the space above the first-floor cafe become available in the next couple of years, Mikko could potentially grow into a full-service restaurant serving dinner and brunch, according to Kosonen.
The chef will strive to keep things simple and fresh. “When people talk about Finland, they talk about how it’s so clean, the fresh air, how you can drink from the lakes,” he says. “That’s what we’ll do here. There won’t be dishes with 20 ingredients. It’ll be nice, clean, and simple.” See the opening menu below.
To start, Mikko will be open Mondays through Saturdays from 7 a.m. to around 8 p.m. No cash is accepted.
Update: For the first two weeks they’ll open at 11 a.m.
Freshly Baked Cinnamon Rolls
Freshly Baked Cardamon Buns
Seven-Seed Bread with Lingonberry or Cloudberry Jam and Fruit
Afternoons & Evenings
Field Green Salad
Finnish-Style Fish Soup
Spring Green Spinach Soup
Danish-Style Open-Face Sandwiches
Shrimp Salad Skagen on Multigrain with Dill and Lemon
Roast Beef with Potato Salad, Horseradish, and Crispy Onion
Triple Cheese Sandwich on Rustic with Cucumbers and Bell Peppers
Gravlax on Rye with Mustard, Egg, and Dill
House Smoked Salmon with Vegetables and Salad
House-Made Skyr Panna Cotta
Sour Cream and Rhubarb Tart with Vanilla Sauce
Fresh Caramel Tart
Nordic Rye Crisps
Daily Baked Cookies
Imported Finnish Fazer Chocolates
Illy Drip Coffee
Illy Espresso Drinks
San Benedetto Water
Belvoir Elderflower Lemonade
Mikko, 1636 R St.NW, (202) 413-6419; chefmikko.com/cafe