For the first time in eight years, Bread & Chocolate is ready to open a new cafe — and perhaps begin to recapture some of the restaurant presence the small Alexandria-based chain had during its heyday in the 1980s.
The forthcoming Takoma Bistro in downtown Takoma Park will be something different for Bread & Chocolate: The menu will expand upon the omelets, French toast, panini, sandwiches, soups, entree salads and line of pfannkucken, or thin German-style pancakes, found at B & C’s other three cafes.
As the name of the new spot suggests, Takoma Bistro will offer a meaty menu of grilled items, such as burgers, steaks, chicken, salmon and, for the many vegheads who call Takoma Park home, a stuffed portobello mushroom. Employees have already been teasing locals with a taste of the bistro by passing out samples at the Takoma Park Farmers Market on Sundays, says Andy Cook, chief operating officer for Bread & Chocolate.
If owners Ted and Rema Manousakis can secure all the final permits, they hope to open Takoma Bistro on Monday, April 16. Or at least sometime that week, says Cook.
So why Takoma Park, the sleepy little suburb known for its nuclear free declaration and its post-apocalyptic dearth of good, sit-down restaurants?
“We sat back and thought, ‘What really works for Bread & Chocolate,’ ” Cook says. “What works for us is a neighborhood. . . . We think we’ve become real integrated with the neighborhoods where we do business.”
Takoma Bistro takes over the space previously occupied by Everyday Gourmet, which tried to transform its casual daytime eatery into a trendy little gastropub. It failed in short order.
Bread & Chocolate will retain about two or three taps from the many that were installed at Everyday Gourmet, Cook says. They’re not sure yet what beers they’ll pour, but B & C is “auditioning” local breweries, the COO notes. The bistro will also have five different white and red wines available by the glass, including, more than likely, the wine that Ted Manousakis produces back at his own vineyard in Greece.
Bread & Chocolate’s growth on the wholesale side has helped fuel the company’s recent restaurant expansion, Cook says. B & C’s wholesale operation in Alexandria produces cakes, breads and lots of prepared foods for various customers, including Whole Foods. A good 60 percent of Bread & Chocolate’s business now comes from the wholesale operation, Cook says.
“We‘re seeing good growth,” Cook says. “I think we can begin to expand.”
With the opening up of Takoma Bistro, Bread & Chocolate will have four restaurants, Cook notes, which is still about half or less of what the company had in the 1980s, when it operated between eight and 10 cafes. Many have closed over the years, like the cafe on Capitol Hill, whose shuttering didn’t exactly mist over eyes in the neighborhood.
But the way Cook talks, Bread & Chocolate has learned how to cater to the neighborhoods where they have cafes. In Takoma Park, he says, the team plans to shop at the farmers market every Sunday and prepare a meal based on the meats and produce bought there.