Tony Brown, a Chevy Chase, D.C., resident of 15 years, recognized what he thought was a major void in the local dining scene: “D.C. is a conglomeration of neighborhoods, but there are not that many neighborhood restaurants.”
So in an attempt to give area residents another option, the chef this month opened Macon Bistro & Larder, which marries two regional cuisines.
Brown grew up in Macon, Ga., a medium-sized city 85 miles south of Atlanta with a rich, down-home cooking tradition. While Brown was in high school, his family hosted foreign exchange students from Mâcon, a chardonnay-producing region in the east of France. Later the army brat spent part of his youth in Europe.
These influences impact the menu at his new restaurant, meaning you’ll find classical French techniques — artful compositions, homemade stocks — coexisting alongside Southern classics like butter beans and fried green tomatoes.
“We decided to take the French as the foundation, and then to lay on top of that the Southern farm-to-table place that celebrates country elements of Southern cuisine.”
For example, the pork tenderloin sits atop a goat cheese soubise (bonjour!) and is topped with chipotle peach preserves (hey, y’all!). And the roasted chicken breast comes with a Mâconian onion confit as well as Maconian collard greens.
Much like the cuisine at Macon Bistro & Larder, Brown’s background isn’t so clear-cut. He received a chemistry degree from Cornell University before attending culinary school in New York. He worked in some notable restaurants and even opened his own small chain of burrito joints, The Burro, in Washington in the mid-’90s. He sold his share in 2001 and left cooking behind to attend Georgetown Business School (where he graduated as valedictorian).
After 12 years working in business, Brown got the itch to return to the restaurant industry. What finally drew him out of culinary retirement was finding the perfect spot: a sunlit space in a historic, Parisian-inspired shopping arcade on Connecticut Avenue NW.
“When this space became available, that was definitely an aha moment,” he says.
Perhaps the most important contribution Macon is making to the neighborhood is that warm, Southern hospitality sensibility.
“For me, cooking is more than just the food and the art,” Brown says. “It’s more about bringing people together.”
Macon Bistro & Larder, 5520 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-248-7807, maconbistro.com. (Friendship Heights)