Balkan restaurateur Ivan Iricanin, who’s diving into Mexican fare this year with the two-part Tacos, Tortas and Tequila, and Buena Vida restaurant coming soon to Silver Spring, Maryland, now plans to potentially plant a second Ambar in D.C. next year.
The bottomless brunch and happy hour destination first debuted in 2014 along Barracks Row. The Ambar in Clarendon, Virginia followed in 2016, with cozy, living room-esque sibling Baba arriving last winter.
“I think that Northwest should have one Ambar and I don’t know if we need to look at putting any more in D.C.,” he says.
He’s actually had a space in mind for his next Ambar for some time — revealing that he’s held a lease in Shaw on a property at the corner of 7th and Q streets NW for five years. But moving forward there has become complicated now that the property is tied up in foreclosure.
“The landlord needs to make a move, and if not, maybe Ambar is going to go somewhere else,” Iricanin tells Eater, adding that he’s “strategically looking for neighborhoods and locations” where his small plates-centric eatery would fit.
Meanwhile, 2018 is all about “perfecting” the tandem Maryland restaurants currently scheduled to open in April. The downstairs space will house TTT, functioning as a Mexican diner with 50 seats and a 10-seat bar serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with grab-and-go service; the second floor’s 150-seat Buena Vida will be more of a sit-down spot, serving unlimited Mexican small plates and a weekend bottomless brunch.
This year he’s also moving forward with turning Clarendon’s 14-year-old La Tasca (2900 Wilson Boulevard) — the property right across the street from Ambar and Baba — into a two-story replica of Silver Spring’s TTT and Buena Vida, adding he’s “close to a deal” that would consolidate his power base in Virginia.
The head of Street Guys Hospitality restaurant group says he got a taste for Mexican cuisine during his stint as partner at Richard Sandoval’s El Centro D.F. He’s traveled to Mexico and Southern California extensively, most recently spending two weeks in Tijuana, San Diego, and Los Angeles with his team to “learn from the best” restaurateurs in the Mexican game, he says.
For TTT and Buena Vista’s design, Iricanin doesn’t want go in the dark, Day of the Dead-like direction other local restaurateurs have recently adopted. instead, Iricanin says he wants to transport diners to Baja California via “breezy and open” vibes, while cuisine will be inspired by various parts of the country.