Hakan Ilhan, the seasoned restaurateur behind Alba Osteria, Ottoman Taverna, and critical darling Mirabelle, is replacing faltering French restaurant L’Hommage Bistro with a cheaper, trendier eatery designed to appeal to younger diners.
“Millennials have a different way of eating,” Ilhan told Eater, citing “small plates,” and “price conscious” as focal points of the demographic he is hoping to court in evolving Mt. Vernon Triangle. He categorized not-quite-two-year-old L’Hommage and its adjoining bakery as “not the right concept for that neighborhood.”
There are over two dozen restaurants in the immediate area, ranging from fast-casual options such as homegrown hoagie-maker Taylor Gourmet and plant-based Shouk to stay-awhile establishments including Conosci, Farmers and Distillers, and RPM Italian.
Ilhan told Eater he’d been thinking about switching things up at L’Hommage — a traditional French bistro that serves steak tartare ($17), salad Nicoise ($19), and roasted duck breast with Madeira sauce ($25 ) — for about a year now, but that he elected to let the still-evolving area settle in a bit. He noted that in a recent survey residents of the heavily under construction zone said they were lacking a good Mexican restaurant. Ilhan digested that information but decided to cast a wider net, adding Spanish food and Latin American cuisine to the mix (he mentioned tapas and ceviche, specifically).
“It needs to be fun, cheerful, and very affordable,” he said of the current marching orders. When the restaurant re-opens in January, customers should expect to find more affordable dishes and some sort of all-you-can-eat option (possibly bundling together small plates for a flat fee).
The interior will also get a top-to-bottom refresh to remove the “too Old World” feel currently in place. “It looked too high end with the tablecloths and the wine glasses on the table,” Ilhan said. During the redesign Ilhan’s changing everything from the color scheme to the entire staff. “I’m treating this as a whole new restaurant,” he said, adding, “Expectations are very high.”
Ilhan hasn’t settled on a new chef — “We’re talking to a few people,” he said — or a name for the place, yet. But he feels he’s got time to fill in those blanks.
Ilhan is also confident that bringing over Gelateria Dolce Vita (there’s one already in place along the Georgetown waterfront) to replace the bakery is the right move. “There’s no one in there doing that,” he said.
L’Hommage is scheduled to close after dinner service on Sunday, July 2. Ilhan said the “coming soon” signs for the yet-unnamed venture would be posted first thing Monday morning.