Cortez opening brings light, Baja-Mexican cuisine and tequila to Shaw


The dining area is decorated with brightly colored chairs, wood tables and a large mural. (Photo courtesy of Cortez)

The rapidly expanding Shaw neighborhood is now home to a Baja-Mexican bar owned by a resident of the neighborhood.

Cortez, at 1905 9th St. NW, opened March 16 and features light Mexican fare with an alcohol selection that includes more than 30 types of tequila, 10 rums and 15 Latin-American beers.

“I’m a local resident of Shaw, so I’m very comfortable and familiar with the neighborhood,” co-owner Ryan Seelbach said. “And then also our other venue in the neighborhood, Takoda Restaurant and Beer Garden, has been very popular with our guests. So I think it was very natural for us to open up a second venture in Shaw.”

The venue focuses on serving lighter Mexican food, which Seelbach said is a missing niche in the District and pairs well with the drink selection that is available. Menu items include a variety of tacos, as well as guacamole and roasted ears of corn.

“The real inspiration was that…in D.C. there’s plenty of Tex-Mex restaurants, but there’s not really any Baja-focused Mexican restaurants,” Seelbach said. “And then in our neighborhood especially we thought that Baja-Mexican cuisine was a real hole in the neighborhood that we wanted to fill.”

The 2,800-square-foot venue includes a rooftop tequila bar, as well as a main dining area on the second floor of the former rowhouse. Seelbach said they aimed to make the interior bright, airy and colorful. The interior features exposed brick walls painted white, vibrantly colored chairs, wood tables and large murals. The rooftop bar is accented with cactuses and potted plants, and is equipped with gas heaters, allowing it to stay open year-round.

The former tenant of the building, 1905 Bistro & Bar, had Victorian-style decoration, making it dark and cluttered, Seelbach said. In redesigning the interior, they wanted to change the venue’s feel dramatically.

“To make the space look as different as possible, as well as fit in with the overall brand of Baja-Mexican cuisine and tequila, we really wanted to make the space feel uncluttered and as bright as possible,” Seelbach said.

Dinner is offered 5 to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The bar is open 5 p.m. to midnight Wednesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday. Weekend brunch is served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information about the restaurant, visit