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Honeysuckle Closes, Depleting Downtown of Experimental Southern-Nordic Cooking

Chef Hamilton Johnson says business was too slow to keep going at the replacement for Vidalia

Honeysuckle DC mural
Honeysuckle’s colorful mural was inspired by chef Hamilton Johnson’s tattoos.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

Honeysuckle, downtown’s Southern-accented Nordic kitchen, closed its doors over the weekend after less than three years of business.

The subterranean restaurant (1990 M Street NW) replaced the critically acclaimed Vidalia in early 2017, gaining a promising two-star review from Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema early on. Honeysuckle also recently held a spot on D.C.’s Eater 38 list.

“Yeah it’s a sad day,” chef Hamilton Johnson told Eater via a Facebook message. “We had a wonderful following and great customers, but despite our best efforts we just couldn’t get enough people through the doors.”

Examples of Johnson’s work included Icelandic seaweed crusted pork tenderloin with cipollini and Champagne-poached oysters with country bacon. The bar also experimented with next-gen vodkas and funky spirits.

Johnson, a South Carolina native and former chef de cuisine at Vidalia, cooked Charleston-influenced fare by using Nordic techniques. His personality drove a dramatic redesign that included a psychedelic ceiling made to mirror his extensive tattoos. There were also references on the walls to his favorite rockers, Freddie Mercury and David Bowie.

On Friday, April 6, he used a social media post to announce the restaurant’s looming demise the night before its final dinner.

Johnson’s Facebook friend Moez Ben Achour commented about having his first Valentine’s Day date with this then-girlfriend at Honeysuckle, who is now his wife.

“I am so sorry for this bad news,” he wrote. “We had amazing meals there.”

Johnson’s plans don’t include opening or working at another restaurant for now.

“I have no plans at the moment. Just waiting for the right opportunity,” he tells Eater.

Other chefs that have graced the subterranean space during its 20-year run as Vidalia have gone on to make big names for themselves across D.C. (Brad Deboy, to Blue Duck Tavern and Elle, and John Melfi to Oval Room).

Eater reached out to landlord Summit Commercial Real Estate about whether the secluded space will be marketed to another restaurant group.

Honeysuckle

1990 M Street Northwest, , DC 20036 (202) 659-1990 Visit Website

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