At last, Maketto opens today with a sleek, multi-layered space where you can get Cambodian food, cocktails, coffee, croissants, and even a pair of Puma sneakers. The collaboration between Toki Underground chef Erik Bruner-Yang and Durkl men’s streetwear owner Will Sharp is more than three years in the making.
The H Street NE building that houses Maketto is owned by Fundrise, which raised money for the property through one of the city’s first equity crowdfunding campaigns. Sharp won the bid for the lease but quickly realized there was far too much space to sell clothing alone. Fundrise suggested he get in touch with Bruner-Yang. At that point in time, the chef wasn’t looking to do any more restaurants, but he and Sharp hit it off. “In a three week period, we decided to do business together,” Bruner-Yang says.
Chris Vigilante of Vigilante Coffee was brought in to supply the coffee, while Frenchie’s Artisan Pastries and Desserts chef Erica Skolnik will provide daytime sweets and baked goods. Rather than acting as separate entities, each concept flows into the next under the banner of Maketto; You can buy a t-shirt with your coffee or grab a cocktail with your morning pastry.
“We wanted a space that you could have a different experience in each time you came—not really dictating what we want you to do,” Sharp says. “It’s not sectioned with signage and arrows. You can really do what you want.”
While the project took some inspiration for Asian street markets, it’s not the busy, overflowing place you might imagine. Rather, Maketto is spacious and modern with clean lines and minimalist decor. “This is classic Japanese modern architecture,” Bruner-Yang says. “It’s easy to get a bunch of hawker stands, throw some bamboo up, and make it look like a night market, and that’s just not authentic. We can’t replicate that here. It’d be cheesy.”
When you walk in, the first thing you see in the former dollar store are the clothes. Durkl carries some of its own men’s shirts, hats, and jackets plus a number of other brands.
Behind that is a bar where Beverage Director Colin Sugalski (who came over from Toki Underground) is serving a range of spicy and boldly flavored Asian-influenced cocktails—some of which will be available all day. The Pink Kao, the house cocktail, is made with a Taiwanese sorghum-based spirit called Kaoliang as well as ginger, Aperol, honey, lemon, and Angostura bitters. A play on the pina colada called the mala colada uses a numbing Sichuan peppercorn, Thai basil, coconut cream, and rum. Housemade vinegars in flavors like beet, hibiscus, and pumpkin can be ordered with sodas ($5), cocktails ($10), or by themselves ($2).
During the day, the bar will also supply Frenchie’s rotating selection of baked goods, including sticky buns, croissants, kouign-amann, cookies, cakes, pies, galettes, and tarts. (The pastry maker will also offer deliveries.)
Venture beyond the bar to an outdoor courtyard with a long picnic table for communal seating. A colorful tuk-tuk sits in the corner. Even further back from the street resides the kitchen in its own diner-like building, where guests can also pull up a seat with an open view of the cooking operations or grab their food and sit in another part of the venue.
Bruner-Yang’s 15-item menu (see at the bottom of the page) is made up of larger dishes that can be shared among two to four people—a whole fried fish, wok fried noodles, an American wagyu bao platter—and smaller plates like oyster pancakes, a red snapper crudo, and pan-fried leek buns. Bruner-Yang says about 80 percent of the menu is Cambodian and 20 percent is Taiwanese on the opening menu. Prices range from $8 to $30.
The roof of the kitchen building will be used for additional outdoor seating, but every once in a while, it will also host yoga or crafting classes. The roof connects to the second floor of the main building via an outdoor walkway. At the end you’ll find a small patio and a custom-designed vending machine that sells robot toys, condoms, chargers, Advil, rice crackers, and more. The indoor upstairs portion of Maketto hosts Vigilante Coffee’s home base and cafe seating. A lighter cafe menu upstairs includes Cambodian pork noodle salad, a Cambodian sandwich (with bread from Frenchie’s), and soy milk with Chinese doughnuts. Maketto hopes to further “activate” its space with art shows, product release parties, or guest chefs.
Ultimately, Bruner-Yang and Sharp see this hybrid of food and retail as the future of the industry. Other retailers like Anthropologie and Shinola are already adding cafes. “The ultimate goal is: How can we keep people in the store longer? They’re shopping, they need a break, they’ll take the break there instead of leaving, and maybe they’ll buy one or two more things on the way out,” Bruner-Yang says. “It’s kind of the IKEA model. You went all the way out there. You might as well be there for three hours instead of 30 minutes.”
Sharp also sees the model as a new direction for the retail industry, which has been moving more and more online. “What’s 2.0 or what’s 3.0? I think this is,” Sharp says. “You give people a reason to come.”
Take a virtual tour of Maketto in the photos below:
Maketto opens 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday and closes at 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 p.m. Thursday, and 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday. It’s closed on Sunday.
Maketto, 1351 H St. NE; maketto1351.com
Photos by Jessica Sidman