Chris Cunningham, the opening-day bar manager at Galileo III, has left Roberto Donna’s restaurant to take a job with the forthcoming Freddy’s Lobster + Clams in Bethesda.
“I’d been interviewing, seriously, for the past month and a half, actually two months,” says Cunningham, 42. “I just need stability. I need employment and financial stability, which was my reason for seeking employment elsewhere.”
Cunningham’s departure from Galileo III is the latest in an exodus of personnel from Donna’s operation. The maitre d’, the chef de cuisine, the accountant, two pastry chefs, at least five line cooks and numerous wait staff have left since the restaurant opened in the former Butterfield 9 space in early October.
Cunningham has a long history in the Washington area as a bar manager and mixologist, lending his talents to operations as diverse as the now-defunct Les Halles to the Italian-obsessed Dino . Cunningham will be slightly stretched in this new gig. Freddy’s will be focused heavily on craft beer.
“He’s a respected voice in this little mixology community,” says Jeff Heineman, Freddy’s chef-owner who’s better known for his impressive wine list at the neighboring Grapeseed. “I think it’s a good place for both of us to grow.”
Freddy’s, named after Heineman’s maternal grandfather who used to take the young Heineman clam digging, will have 12 beers on tap and 50 beers by the bottle and can. Among the draft choices, Cunningham notes, will be Bear Republic Racer 5, Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale and Delirium Tremens.
Montgomery County, which controls the distribution of all alcohol within its borders, has frustrated more than one restaurateur with its wine deliveries and pricing. The beer system is not much better. But, Heineman notes, “I think I have the tenacity to stick with it.” He laughs. It’s the laughter of wisdom and experience. Or pain and frustration. Or something in between.
But Heineman also has good reason to stick with a craft beer program. “There is a huge market for this stuff,” he says. “Then you go to these bars ... in Bethesda, and they have Sam Adams as their microbrew.”
Freddy’s will be casual during lunchtime, when customers can order at the counter from about 25 items, including fry platters, lobster rolls and chowders. Heineman will add entrees for full-service, waitstaffed dinner, such as Portuguese steak.
Heineman is expected to open Freddy’s next Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on the final inspection and other contigencies.
So who will be minding the bar at Galileo III now? Cunningham’s second-in-command will take over mixology duties, says manager Karen Audia Shannon. “Going into the summer,” she adds, “I’m not even sure we’ll be hiring a bar manager.”
Freddy’s Lobster + Clams, 4867 Cordell Ave., Bethesda; 240-743-4257.