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The dining room at restaurateur Ivan Iricanin’s Baja-themed upstairs eatery, Buena Vida.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

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Look Inside Silver Spring’s Newest Mexican Restaurants

Tacos, Tortas and Tequila (TTT) and Buena Vida arrive on Friday, May 4

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

The sibling Mexican eateries opening Friday, May 4 in Silver Spring, Maryland share more than just a few walls: they’re connected by bright colors, small plates, and loads of tequila.

The two-story enterprise (8407 Ramsey Avenue), dubbed Tacos, Tortas and Tequila (TTT), and Buena Vida, comes from Balkan restaurateur and Ambar/Baba founder Ivan Iricanin. TTT, a fast-casual taqueria, will operate all day with Mexican cocktails delivered by servers dressed in branded turquoise soccer shirt jerseys. The upstairs Buena Vida space will be a little more refined, featuring small plates, a $35 all-you-can-eat option, and food inspired by different regions of Mexico.

Lots of little details separate both spaces. Iricanin says TTT’s white and blue-rimmed plate and glassware, inspired by some recent Southern California meals, are “simple and fun,” while the flatware for Buena Vida is a little more upscale and sourced from the same designer who did plating for Michelin-starred Pineapple and Pearls. Likewise, Buena’s smaller servings are meant to encourage lots of taste testing.

“It’s an opportunity to taste different items instead of having one big enchiladas [order] and be full,” he says.

At Buena Vida he’s going for three atmospheres in one via textures and colors, creating a rustic “farm feel” in one corner with a display designed to hold 720 bottles of tequila and wine. One of the priciest pours his partner Rob Day sourced is the time-intensive Gran Patrón Burdeos, distilled and aged in American and French oak barrels in Mexico, then distilled and racked again in vintage Bordeaux barrels.

More design changes from the restaurant’s former life as 8407 Kitchen Bar are on the horizon, like adding floor tiles downstairs and more windows on both floors. “It’s going to take two to three months before I’m comfortable with everything,” says Iricanin. Bathrooms, covered in a white-and-black mosaic print, will get pops of color via paintings by a local artist. A side patio with seating for 20 features a mural from prolific Brooklyn-based graffiti artist and Mexican native Marka27, who raced to finish the colorful display in two days. The patio will soon be adorned with string lights. Other alterations include adding outdoor signage for Buena Vida as well as an awning.

While there’s no special Cinco de Mayo party planned, per se (it’ll be its second day of service, after all), Iricanin is building in some initial deals. For the first 10 days of service, there’s $1 tacos and $5 margaritas with Sauza Blue tequila at TTT (from Friday, May 4, to Monday, May 14). Meanwhile, Buena Vida will slash its $35 dinner special to $20, and its $20 lunch price will drop to $12 while the kitchen works out initial kinks.

Lunch and dinner are projected to start immediately on both levels. Breakfast is scheduled to debut on Monday, May 7 at TTT. Brunch at Buena Vida is scheduled to begin on Saturday, May 12.

The growing restaurant group is already getting started on TTT/Buena Vida’s second location, which will take over the now-defunct La Tasca in Clarendon (2900 Wilson Boulevard) across from Baba and Ambar later this fall. Iricanin tells Eater he just got permit approvals and plans to start construction in 10 days.

Status: Projected to open May 4. 8407 Ramsey Avenue; website.

Scroll down to peek inside the two-story establishment:

TTT and Buena Vida owner Ivan Iricanin demonstrating an Instagram-able moment on the staircase separating the two restaurants: a parrot on the shoulder.
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC

Sun-drenched Buena Vida wants to transport diners to Baja California via lots of light wood accents and potted cacti at each table.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

While his former restaurant El Centro sports a dark and industrial Day of the Dead theme, Buena Vida is going for a coastal vibe. “We want you to come here to feel relaxed,” says Ivan Iricanin, who spent two months this winter piecing together taco intel in San Diego.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

A peek inside the bar area at Buena Vida.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Muralist Marka27 added a tropical palm design in the back of Buena Vida. “We think there’s a good mix of traffic and people watching.” says Ivan Iricanin, of its street-facing windows.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

An interior change being made at Buena Vida is completely covering these green walls at each booth with a white and gold wallpaper pattern.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Blue and white tiles en route from Indonesia will cover the entire downstairs floor at TTT, with windows that open up to a front-facing patio.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

TTT’s bar features a front-row seat of the tortilla-making action, made with non-GMO flour. Bread for the tortas is coming from a Mexican bakery.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

A private dining area at TTT, which seats 20, will soon get more light: Part of the brick wall on the right will be carved out to add a window. Directly upstairs at Buena Vida, another window will be cut out.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

The welcome signage at TTT, also illustrated by in-demand artist Marka27.
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC
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