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Inside Honeysuckle, Downtown’s Southern-Inspired Spot With Sex Appeal

The racy replacement to Vidalia has a rock and roll edge

Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

With David Bowie and Freddie Mercury looking on, a psychedelic ceiling, and oriental carpets, Honeysuckle is a refreshing addition to D.C.’s central business district.

The new Southern-style restaurant debuts in the recently-shuttered Vidalia space today at 1990 M St. NW.

Chef Hamilton Johnson, a South Carolina native and former chef de cuisine at Vidalia, now runs the show and plans to pair Charleston-inspired fare with Nordic cooking techniques. As far as the vibe, designer Ron Saleh drew inspiration from Johnson’s tattoos and music tastes to orchestrate the redesign.

Upon entering, guests are greeted by a gold framed portrait of Johnson holding a pig. Reclaimed wood from one of South Carolina’s oldest community farms was used to create a communal table, hovering over an antique rug from a Belgian castle. Another exotic accent: pendant lights constructed out of repurposed fishing baskets from Thailand.

Each nook tells a story, like a red room featuring six-foot photos of Bowie and Lou Reed and a restored working piano from France surrounded by candelabras. There’s also an area with custom mother of pearl walls and acid-edged, copper-wrapped bar.

Other famous framed faces throughout include Freddie Mercury with a banana hat and Miles Davis.

As for food, starters include seared foie gras served over a porcini pain perdu, turnip and cocoa nib gastrique, as well as champagne poached oysters with country bacon. For the main event, think slow roasted Atlantic hake with rutabaga and Icelandic seaweed crusted pork tenderloin with cipollini.

Beverage program director Dustin Alfortish hails from New Orleans and has a booze-heavy lineup with song titles for names, such as the “Under Pressure” (moonshine with pomegranate, cherry, honeysuckle syrup, citrus, and Brut Rose) and “Whip It”—a riff on a Pisco Sour.