The site of the former Mrs. K’s Tollhouse Restaurant in Silver Spring, which closed last year after 90 years in business, has been leased to a Takoma Park restaurateur, who plans to transform the property into a beer garden starting this summer.
After that, the restaurateur plans to add an all-day café, a tavern and a fine dining restaurant at the site. Together, the new businesses will be called Zinnia.
Mrs. K’s Tollhouse closed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and temporarily offered takeout. But the property’s leasing agent put it on the market in December, with the hope that someone would take it over.
Chris Brown, who owns the cafe Takoma Beverage Company with his cousin Seth Cook, said in an interview with Bethesda Beat on Wednesday that he signed the lease in January.
Brown said that before he and Cook opened Takoma Beverage Company, he taught at Montgomery Blair High School for eight years and lived down the street from Mrs. K’s.
“While I was teaching, I would drive by it every day. I lived right near it,” he said.
Brown said the building and the grounds are “amazing,” and he was drawn to the property.
“When I saw the for lease sign … I thought, I might as well give the owner a call and see what the lease terms are. And then I did a walkthrough and I was just blown away by the space,” he said.
Brown said the initial plan is to open the beer garden this summer, featuring a beer truck. Customers can order draft beer for $5 to $7 and a glass of wine for $8 to $12, he said.
Food options will include barbecue, oysters and other typical beer garden foods. There will be a mix of lawn seating and tables.
“You can have the picnic experience as well as the full-service dining experience,” he said.
Brown said he plans to apply for a liquor license this week, and hopes to open the beer garden this summer.
Despite the pandemic, he is optimistic that customers will flock to an outdoor beer garden in the warm weather because people can easily socially distance themselves.
“If there’s anything people want now, it’s space. … So now that I have all this space, I’m really excited that we can utilize an area where people can be socially distant, but hang out and feel like you’re going out to a restaurant or a bar without putting yourself at risk for catching coronavirus,” he said.
On Wednesday, Washington City Paper first reported on Brown’s plans for opening Zinnia.
Brown told Bethesda Beat that the timing for the indoor restaurants is uncertain, but in the fall he plans to open the all-day café, initially as a carryout operation. That might change when the spread of COVID-19 slows more and a greater percentage of the population is vaccinated, he said.
“Hopefully, when the weather turns again and people can’t be outside, then we’ll open up indoor dining,” he said.
The tavern and the fine dining restaurant will come later, depending on progress in combatting the virus and how quickly restrictions are lifted, he said.
The fine dining establishment will serve entrees for $24 to $35, similar to the range at many upscale downtown D.C. establishments, he said.
Dan Schere can be reached at email@example.com