Historical photo of Mrs. K's Toll House Credit: Courtesy of Charlie Demma

When Mrs. K’s Toll House in Silver Spring closed last March after 90 years in business, it marked the end of one of the region’s most enduring restaurants. Now Takoma Beverage Co. owner Chris Brown has signed a 20-year lease for the stucco-walled, Tudor-inspired house built at the turn of the 20th century and will transform it into an all-day business. 

Throughout the day, patrons will find the property used as a beer and wine garden, café, tavern, and fine dining restaurant. Zinnia will blossom in stages over the coming months to smooth out the opening process and allow the team to adapt to changing pandemic dining restrictions. 

The beer and wine garden will debut first this summer. Brown is obtaining a wood-paneled “Wiesn in a Box” trailer from the Goethe-Institut Washington to serve as a beer truck, which will be parked in the back corner of the property. Between the trailer and an outdoor bar, there will be 13 taps dispensing local beers, rosé, white wine, bubbles, a couple of frozen cocktails, and hard cider. “The idea is to create a super-efficient beer garden,” Brown says. “No matter where you’re sitting, you’re never waiting long for a beer.” 

Outside food options will include classic beer garden fare, such as pretzels and barbecue. There will eventually be an oyster bar, and Brown aims to start offering brick oven pizza next year. 

Brad Feickert, who helms the kitchen at Takoma Beverage Co., and is an alum of Bryan Voltaggio’s Volt and the now-shuttered Oz Restaurant & Bar in Arlington, will develop Zinnia’s various food menus, though the plan is to hire a chef de cuisine to oversee the fine dining operation once it opens. Takoma Beverage Co.’s general manager, Justin Kaplan-Markley, will take on the same role at Zinnia, while Brown’s cousin, Seth Cook, will select the wines as he does at the Takoma Park coffee shop. 

Evoking a “lawn party,” Zinnia’s grounds will be scattered with a variety of dining areas for both full sit-down experiences and more casual meals. Expect a hodgepodge of seating options, including vintage lawn furniture, love seats, low slung tables, Adirondack chairs, throw pillows, and ottomans. The longstanding gazebo and fishpond will stay, and groundskeeper Marvin Barrera will continue to care for the flowers and foliage. He’s been at it for nearly a quarter century.

Next, Brown will open the all-day café in early fall. Depending on the state of the pandemic, he may start with carryout only. As well as Counter Culture Coffee, the café will serve sandwiches, pastries from Trinidadian Barracks Row shop Souk, and some house-made baked goods like doughnuts and bagels. The tavern will follow with a menu focusing on classic pub food: dips, shareable appetizers, burgers, and wings. 

The fine dining restaurant comes last. Menu development is still in the early stages, but Brown says to expect some twists on some favorites from Mrs. K.’s. 

Brown is giving the interior a facelift by bidding adieu to the restaurant’s sizable antique collection, slapping on fresh coats of paint, and installing new furniture and décor. Expect a few nods to the restaurant’s past, perhaps in the form of framed articles or photographs like the one above. 

According to Brown, it’s his responsibility to live up to the legacy of the Montgomery County dining destination. “People are going to come in with certain expectations,” he says. “The idea is to create a modern restaurant that people can enjoy now. The name Mrs. K.’s isn’t going to be there, but I want the history to stick around.” 

In addition to Zinnia, Brown and Feickert are also behind a forthcoming butcher shop in Takoma Park. Soko should open by July at 7306 Carroll Ave.

Zinnia, 950 Dale Drive, Silver Spring; instagram.com/Eatzinnia

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