WHILE LOCAL restaurateurs complain about slow business, restaurateurs elsewhere must be finding theirs even slower. Some of the hottest restaurants in the country have plans to open branches in Washington. Here's what we can expect in the next year:
Mark Miller's Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe drew much fanfare there before it even broke ground, since the Berkeley, Calif., chef was already renowned from Chez Panisse, Fourth Street Grill and Santa Fe Bar & Grill. Now Miller has plans for Washington: Two restaurants and a Southwestern market are to open in about a year at 14th and F streets NW, across the street from Garfinckel's old home. Why Washington? Because his partner owns the building.
Miller's Territorial Grill will be an elegant "turn-of-the-century rancher's restaurant," and the second restaurant will be a less expensive Southwestern establishment serving what Miller describes as "new fun stuff. It's going to be wild." He emphasizes that this is not the first step in a chain of restaurants; these will be his only ones outside of Santa Fe.
In the meantime, architect Adam Tihany, New York's restaurant-design dazzler, is applying his talent here for the first time. The first of two projects will be Primi Piatti's Fairfax Square branch in Tysons Corner, opening around the end of the year. Asked how he chose such a celebrated architect, Primi Piatti owner Savino Recine said it was the landlord's idea.
"Since he's paying for the architect, I let him choose," Recine said.
Tihany's design will mix comfortably with its neighbors -- Tiffany, Hermes, Gucci and Fendi -- said Recine, adding that Morton's of Chicago will be in the same shopping center. And the new Primi Piatti will not be as noisy as the original downtown branch -- which is not as noisy as it once was, said Recine, who sank nearly $25,000 into improving the acoustics.
Tihany is also working on a Washington branch of Bice, the fashionable Milanese restaurant that opened to great fanfare in Manhattan three years ago, in Chicago and Los Angeles last year, and is opening in Paris. The Washington branch, planned to open its doors in late fall at 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, will have 150 seats and a bar inside, plus outdoor tables. Bice is a casual restaurant featuring Milanese food -- veal, risotto -- and pastas made not only in house but by hand.
Why was Washington chosen for the next Bice? It is an "urban sophisticated concept," explained a spokesperson. Yep, that's us.
WASHINGTON'S West End neighborhood developed so quickly that it hardly had time to acquire a name before it became a restaurant and hotel center. It was once just the corridor between downtown and Georgetown; now it has at least eight hotels.
Their restaurants -- and more -- are joining to celebrate the community at the "Taste of the West End" on Wednesday from 5 to 8 in the ballroom of the Westin Hotel, 2401 M St. NW. Along with City Cafe, hotel restaurants such as Melrose, Panevino, West End Cafe and Bristol Grill will offer samplings of their specialties for $1 to $3 each, paid from a book of 10 tickets for $10, available at the door. A Dixieland band will accompany the feasting, and beverages will be sold for $1. For more information, call 785-8891.
WHEN Food & Wine Magazine announced the 10 "Best New Chefs in America" last month, seven were from the East Coast and surprisingly only one was from New York. From Washington, Robert Donna of Galileo made the list -- which is not at all surprising.
Phyllis C. Richman's restaurant reviews appear Sundays in The Washington Post Magazine.