Steve Davis plays Nintendo with Justin Featherstone, who bought Mr. Yogato for $1 in 2018. Photograph by Jessica Sidman.
As Elon Musk hunts for a new Twitter CEO, Steve Davis, the billionaire’s longtime lieutenant and head of the Boring Company, has recently been rumored as the frontrunner. In DC, however, Davis is perhaps better known for frozen yogurt. He previously owned Mr. Yogato in Dupont Circle, where you could get discounts for reenacting the entire dance from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” or reciting the battlefield speech from Braveheart in a Scottish accent.
The frozen yogurt biz was always a side hustle for Davis. He was an engineer and aerospace expert—literally a rocket scientist—for SpaceX in DC before working his way up to CEO of Elon Musk’s Boring Company, creating underground transportation tunnels. When Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion last year, Davis was by his side, helping to make sweeping cuts and reportedly even sleeping in the company’s San Francisco headquarters with his partner and newborn child. As Musk’s chaotic tweeting becomes an increasing liability, Davis could end up stepping into one of the highest profile roles in tech.
Davis also has a stupendously silly side. He opened Mr. Yogato in 2008 and built a loyal following due to the shop’s ridiculous trivia contests and games like an old-school Nintendo console. In 2013, Davis opened Thomas Foolery, one of the wackiest bars DC has ever seen and an extension of the monthly game nights Davis hosted with friends at his Shaw apartment. The crowdfunded business served Ring Pops, grilled cheeses, and beer ice-cream floats. (Though Davis’s drink of choice was Smirnoff Ice.) It was decked out in toys and games—Nerf darts, mini Skee ball, Wii Mario Kart—plus a “throne” seat where you could place an order via walkie-talkie. Mr. Yogato and Thomas Foolery were among the first eateries in DC to accept Bitcoin. Davis considered the time he spent on his side businesses to be something of a hobby. “Honestly, it’s no more than some people play golf,” he said. “I like opening fun new places.”
Thomas Foolery closed after just three years. By the time Mr. Yogato’s lease came to an end after a decade in 2018, Davis, already leading the nascent Boring Company, said he was traveling a lot and no longer had time to devote to the shop. So he sold the business for $1 to Justin Featherstone, a music producer from Baltimore whose claims to fame include the theme song for the eighth Fast and the Furious movie (he also owned a frozen treat shop in Rockville). Davis offered the steal of a deal because he wanted someone who would carry on the goofy spirit of the place. His only conditions: At least one SpaceX sign would remain, Davis would continue to host his annual birthday scavenger hunt there, and he would receive one free bubble tea per week. Mr. Yogato closed for good in the wake of the pandemic.
When I profiled Davis a decade ago, he described himself as “just a normal engineer.” He was more keen to talk about the movie Pitch Perfect, which he saw in theaters seven times, and his karaoke league than his degrees in economics, aerospace engineering, and particle physics. “I guess there’s probably a deficiency of maturity going on here,” Davis said in that interview. “I should fix that at some point. As I’m talking to you right now, I’m at SpaceX in shorts and a T-shirt. I guess I should probably get nicer clothes.”
Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.