Passion Food Hospitality (PFH) is now going Mexican. Their newest restaurant will be Mexican-themed. Fuego Cocina and Tequileria is slated to open in the former Market Tavern space in Clarendon in early October. Chef Alfredo Solis, who comes from Mexico City and has worked with PFH for more than a decade, will head the kitchen. This time, their research was not done in the country of note, but in Chicago, home of great Mexican restaurant chef and restaurateur, Rick Bayless, who is renowned for his Mexican cuisine. As proof of authenticity, the tortillas will be made from corn, not flour.
Speaking of Mexican, Victor Albisu, formerly of BLT Steak, is going Mexican too. His new Mexican restaurant, Taco Bamba Tacqueria will specialize in authentic tacos at its Falls Church, VA location next to Plaza Latina, a Latin market owned by his mother. A fall 2012 opening is planned.
Bart Vandaele of Belga Caf? on Barracks Row plans to open his second restaurant, B Too, in the burgeoning 14th Street corridor at 1324 14th Street, NW. Vandaele plans to open the restaurant before the end of the year on a special date ? 12/12/12. Check out Washington Business Journal, which is chronicling this new venture from lease signing to opening day.
Latin chef, Richard Sandoval, owner of Zengo, Masa 14 and El Centro D.F. (the latter two with Kaz Okochi), has signed a lease for a fourth D.C. restaurant at 1300 Eye St. NW, to be called Toro Toro. Sandoval already has one Toro Toro open in Dubai, UAE, and another opening soon in Miami. As fusion appears to be a favorite theme, Toro Toro will combine Brazilian steakhouse items with Latin tapas. Innovative cocktails are always part of the mix.
Randy Norton of Great American Restaurants plans to open their first Maryland location in Gaithersburg. The new restaurant will be a Coastal Flats and will seat 250, about the same size as other Coastal Flat restaurants. Right now, it?s still a hole in the ground called Crown Farm, as it?s not slated to open until early spring of 2014.
Ralph Brabham will open his second Beau Thai (get it?) on Mt Pleasant St, NW in Mount Pleasant. It will be three times larger than the original, located in D.C.?s Shaw neighborhood. It will also offer a private dining room and cooking classes. A winter 2013 opening is planned, hopefully before the presidential inauguration.
Denver-based Smashburger plans to expand into the D.C. metro area at mach speed. Their first location will be in Fairfax at Blvd Marketplace. They are working on deals in Dupont Circle, Germantown and Rockville, MD; Sterling, Arlington, Bailey Crossroads, Gainesville and Reston, VA. CEO Tom Ryan will create a Capital Burger special for this region.
Brothers Mustafa and Omar Popal, owners and operators of Caf? Bonaparte and Napoleon Bistro, plan to open a third Georgetown restaurant, Malmaison (French for ?bad house?) on Water Street, NW this fall. Malmaison is also the name of Napoleon and Josephine’s chateau on the outskirts of Paris, in keeping with their French-Napoleonic theme.
Ch-CH-CH Changes: La Forchetta on New Mexico Ave, NW has been re-named Al Dente to differentiate it from La Forchette, a French restaurant in Adams Morgan that has been there for years. The Fairmont Hotel has added Juniper Xpress, a take-away weekday lunch option named for its big sister, Juniper restaurant. Morton?s (now of Houston) plans to renovate its 15-year-old downtown steakhouse location. EatWell DC plans to go back to its roots at Grillfish in D.C.?s West End with a smaller menu that will change seasonally with more sustainable seafood. Changes were to begin by Labor Day. Felipe Milanese was named as new executive chef.
Lebanese Taverna in DC?s Woodley Park is being completely gutted and renovated. There has been $1.5-million investment to re-do the 22-year-old restaurant. Additions will include a lounge, communal table and an expanded private room. They may even reserve a couple of tables just for locals, as the conventioneer crowd is heavy in that area. The Connecticut Ave. restaurant will reopen with a streamlined, smaller menu (the hummus will never change) Lebanese Taverna has 11 locations in the region, including six full-service restaurants, four cafes and a market. And speaking of renovation, John Fulchino and Ann Cashion of Johnny?s Half Shell on Capitol Hill are renovating its 1,000-square-foot patio. There are now sun-resistant ivory curtains, a 14-foot-long copper bar and 10 new cocktails. Cashion?s other restaurant, Taqueria Nacional, is moving from its Capitol Hill site to 1409 T Street, NW sometime this fall.
Quick Hits: A German fast food place called D?ner Bistro is opening in Adams Morgan this month. If it sounds familiar, it?s because you live in the far west ‘burbs, as the first D?ner Bistro is in Leesburg. Pei Wei Asian diner, a fast-casual national chain from the folks who brought you PF Chang?s, is slated to open on 18th Street, NW, in Dupont Circle. Panera Bread will open a fourth D.C. location in Chinatown at 673 H Street, NW. Matt Gray?s Amorini Panini in Penn Quarter will have a sister operation when its second location opens at 801 18th Street, NW in downtown DC in 2013. Shake Shack signed a deal to open at 9th and F Streets, NW, next to the Spy Museum, by mid-2013. The burger chain currently has locations in Dupont Circle and at Nationals Park.
*Linda Roth Conte is president of Linda Roth Associates, Inc (LRA) specializing in making creative connections through media relations, marketing initiatives, community outreach and special events for the hospitality industry. Contact Linda at (703) 417-2700 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her web site at [www.lindarothpr.com](http://www.lindarothpr.com)*