Chef Robert Wiedmaier's new Wildwood Kitchen had its soft opening last Friday night. The restaurant, located at 10223 Old Georgetown Road, is the chef's most casual restaurant to date, and his most consciously health-oriented, given the restaurant's focus on olive oil over butter. Eater chatted with Wiedmaier and sat down with architects Peter Hapstak and Natalie Park to hear more about the thought behind the restaurant's design.
1) Hapstak, from the firm HapstakDemetriou+, has collaborated with Wiedmaier on several other projects, including the recent Mussel Bar locations (he's working on the one headed to Arlington, too). The firm also worked on the recent Nando's Peri-Peri in Alexandria and is currently designing Fiola Mare in Georgetown.
2) Green is the dominant accent color at Wildwood Kitchen, which is an unusual, even risky choice for a restaurant, as studies on color theory have shown that it doesn't associate well with food. But the firm went with a dark, almost black green for the main shade and has worked in other greens so that the effect isn't too "matchy-matchy", as Hapstak said.
3) "Casual" was one of the first main themes that Wiedmaier presented to HapstakDemetriou in their initial conversations. "I didn't want it to be a special occasion restaurant; we have Marcel's and Brabo for that," he said. As a result, that theme is reflected in the restaurant's comfortable seating, warm wood tones and even in the staff uniforms, which feature jeans and plaid shirts. Hapstak said he still wanted the design to be "transporting", so that customers forget they just parked their cars in a strip mall after they enter the restaurant.
4) Wine is the main beverage focus at Wildwood Kitchen, somewhat of a departure for Wiedmaier, who has been stressing beer at such places as Brasserie Beck and Mussel Bar. There are 60 wines available under $60 per bottle, and a main design focal point is the wine storage unit at the back of the restaurant. There, the wine is hidden rather than displayed prominently, to ensure proper temperature control.
5) HapstakDemetrioiu+ collaborated with local and regional artists for some of the design pieces in the restaurant. Shelter Studios was responsible for the woodsy mural, while CP Lighting did the branch-accented lighting fixtures.
6) Wildwood Kitchen is the smallest of Wiedmaier's restaurants, at 2000 square feet and 55 seats. That means Wiedmaier plans to be strict when it comes to seating customers — all members of a party must be present. "Otherwise, with a 55-seat restaurant, you could end up with an 88 cover night," he said.
7) The olive oil bottles on each table are meant to invoke the restaurant's emphasis on that style of cooking. Wiedmaier is infusing oils with everything from chiles to basil to aid in his preparations.
8) HapstakDemetriou+ toured restaurants in such cities as New York and San Francisco to get ideas for Wildwood Kitchen. Many design elements may remind customers of Danny Meyer restaurants — Hapstak cites the restaurateur as an inspiration.
9) The architects tried to shy away from some of the trendiest fixtures seen today in restaurant design. That means no Edison light bulbs, and no antiqued mirrors decorating the restaurant.
10) One semi-exception to the trend rule: acoustic tiles, which were needed for sound control, according to Park. The restaurant is trying to strike a balance between buzzy and just plain loud, and the tiles on the ceiling help muffle the noise.
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