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The calendar just recently turned, but already a new crop of restaurants has started to spring up.
Here’s a trio of upstarts vying for your dining dollars in the new year.Bidwell
Executive Chef/Founder John Mooney has led a full life since decamping from D.C. in the early ’90s. But the now-world-traveled toque said he was excited about returning to the nation’s capital specifically to become a part of the food-friendly community fostered by Union Market.
“I like the history of it,” he said of the refurbished shopping hub.
Bidwell, which opened on Jan. 9, is a “sister restaurant” to New York’s Bell Book & Candle — and the nearly copycat menu reflects just how close these siblings appear to be.
Bidwell’s opening carte looks to be a mirror image of dishes previously featured up north, save for a handful of NYC staples, such as smoked chicken wings, seared duck breast, that haven’t (yet) transferred. Meanwhile, a trio of oyster, mussel and escargot selections may be Bidwell-specific additions.
Mooney pitched lobster tacos (“Never come off the menu. A crowd pleaser”), fried deviled eggs and grilled lamb chops (drizzled with lemon and olive oil) as perennial favorites. He also wholly endorsed a signature patty melt featuring locally raised Black Angus beef covered in aged cheddar and “old-school” Thousand Island dressing cribbed from a 1920s cookbook (Mooney mines estate sales for culinary inspiration), all sandwiched between seeded New York rye.
A rooftop garden is scheduled to be planted this March. In the meantime, Mooney is weaving proteins from Harvey’s Market and dairy from Righteous Cheese into his opening line-up. A Bidwell spokeswoman said regular lunch service is expected to begin Jan. 21.
Bidwell: 1309 Fifth St. NE; 202-547-0172; unionmarketdc.com/market/artisans/bidwell. Average entrée: $21 to $30 ($$$). Open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday, and brunch Saturday and Sunday.El Rey
Brothers Ian and Eric Hilton, the hospitality duo who’ve skippered projects ranging from New American(ish) Chez Billy to the British-themed Brixton, have set their sights on warmer latitudes with El Rey.
According to Ian, Eric spent a good deal of time in the cantinas of Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and always dreamed of recreating those experiences — a fantasy that’s now come to fruition after nearly two and a half years of planning. The pair plotted a course that involved recycled shipping containers, a glass-enclosed retractable roof and, of course, tasty nibbles from south of the border.