Rendering of Tacos,Tortas and Tequila, credit HapstakDemetriou+
The two new restaurants going into 8407 Ramsey Ave. have been granted a liquor license and are on track to open in April, according to owner Ivan Iricanin.
Iricanin, CEO of Street Guys Hospitality and founder of Ambar Capitol Hill and Ambar Clarendon, plans to bring two concepts to the former location of 8407 Kitchen Bar: Tacos, Tortas and Tequila, which will be located on the ground level, and Buena Vida (“good life”) on the second floor.
TTT, he said, “is authentic Mexican, where we going to produce authentic tacos and make our tortillas from scratch.”
Iricanin likes to point out that his restaurants use fresh ingredients, sourced locally, that are organic and non-GMO; many come from partnerships with Pennsylvania farms.
He describes TTT as “fast casual with a bar component,” as the restaurant will feature a variety of cocktails and margaritas made with 100 percent agave tequila.
TTT will also be open for breakfast at 7 a.m., offering something different from the typical coffee shops in the area. The grab-and-go style menu will include Mexican breakfast menu offerings from $3-$9 including entradas, tacos, tortas, quesadillas, and breakfast cazuelas (bowls), carne asada con huevo y aguacate tacos (steak and egg with avocado), huevos rancheros tacos, choripan con huevo (house-made chorizo with egg), and potato and cheese taquitos.
Other menu items will include tacos, tortas, quesadillas, and tostadas priced at $3-$ each, such as al pastor pork, spit-roasted with pineapple and salsa verde; slow-roasted barbacoa beef; crispy local skate wing and chicharrón (a dish typically made with fried pork belly or fried pork rinds).
Iricanin said he came to Silver Spring because he likes to explore new areas for potential growth opportunities. For example, he was a partner and operator of Masa 14 on 14th Street in D.C. with Chef Richard Sandoval, one of the first restaurants on that now-popular stretch. Clarendon is another example, he said, of an area that was ripe for change and growth.
He got an offer to operate in new construction in Silver Spring and started to look around.
“I love that downtown is full of people, a lot of foot traffic, there’s a Metro, there’s a lot of people around there, but the true components of hospitality is not on the level that I would expect to see with that amount of people,” Iricanin said.
He was already working on a Mexican concept (as opposed to Ambar, which is Balkan cuisine from the native Serbian) after having owned and operated El Centro D.F. in the past. There, he worked with Chef Graham Bartlett (who also worked with Sandoval for a number of years, including opening Zengo in D.C.), who will be the Silver Spring restaurants’ chef de cuisine. Another Sandoval veteran, Robert Day, joined Iricanin as the operating partner for the restaurants.
Buena Vida will offer contemporary Mexican cuisine in a full-service restaurant with a separate menu from TTT, Iricanin said. He’s also bringing to the experience a concept that has proved to be successful at Ambar.
“We are very popular because we offer high quality for affordable [prices], meaning we have a $35 deal,” he said. “For $35, you [can] have unlimited small plates, but everything is made to order.
“The menu is going to have 60-70 items,” he continued. Signature dishes will include mescal-cured organic salmon tostada, sweet corn empanadas, handmade with organic corn masa, guajillo garlic and salsa verde, chilorio-braised Marcho Farms pork sopes, and Roseda Farms steak alambre with house-cured bacon, poblano, and Oaxaca cheese.
An extensive menu provides guests not only with many choices, Iricanin said, but also the chance to have repeated dining experiences without ordering the same items at each visit. The unlimited small plates concept, he said, is one reason why Ambar is the number restaurant on TripAdvisor “and we’ve been number one for 27 months.”
Patrons of 8407 Kitchen Bar will recognize the interior layout, which will not change, Iricanin said. Any changes will be primary cosmetic. That minimizes the needs for permits and will allow the restaurant to open quickly.
There will be outdoor seating added, and at some point, he wants to build a rooftop deck. First, though, there are some subdivision zoning issues to work through before Iricanin can design the deck, go through that permitting process and build it.
Rendering of Buena Vida, credit HapstakDemetriou+