Ambar owner Ivan Iricanin’s Mexican restaurant in Clarendon is getting a facelift and a makeover (pictured here: TTT roof). Photograph by Rey Lopez
Ambar restaurateur Ivan Iricanin has redesigned and renamed his three-story Mexican restaurant in Clarendon several times since it opened as a chef-led restaurant in the summer of 2019. The latest fast-casual iteration, Tacos Tortas Tequila, was what he calls an “easy execution model,” driven by pandemic necessity. Now, Iricanin is looking to make a “forever move” — and that move involves all-you-can-eat tacos and guacamole.
A new and completely renovated Buena Vida, which will launch the first week of April, is essentially a Mexican version of the Balkan partner restaurant Ambar across the street, as well as a huge rooftop lounge with a view to 365 degrees. Iricanin will dedicate the first two floors to AYCE food menus priced around $25 for lunch and $40-$45 for brunch and dinner. Like at Ambar, customers can order according to their desires and stomach capacities for two hours, choosing from dips and salsas, tacos, ceviches, stewed meat dishes like carnitas or ribs, vegetables (vegans and vegetarians will have their own unlimited menus), seafood platters, and more. Drinks can’t be bottomless due to Virginia regulations, but diners can expect deeply discounted prices like Ambar’s 25-cent mimosas.
“Fast-casual has so many competitors, and it’s a very tough arena to fight — it’s like a bloodbath over who’s the cheapest,” Iricanin says. “Dining without limits, that’s what we know.”
Iricanin began using the bottomless model in 2009, when he ran the now closed Masa 14 at Logan Circle. He says the Latin-Asian clubby concept struggled to attract brunch crowds, until he introduced tapas and all-you-can-eat cocktails. The model proved so successful that he brought it to many of his other business ventures over the years, including Ambar on Capitol Hill and his restaurants in Belgrade.
Iricanin plans to close TTT’s second-floor dining room this week and will soon be closing the restaurant entirely to allow design house Core to revamp the space with a more airy, grassy aesthetic inspired by Tulum’s hip spots. The rooftop bar will likely remain a place to drink, party and snack on a la carte plates, but the rest of the 11,000 square foot space will be primed for tables, including large groups, to accommodate. linger. The new space will include more lounges for the late-night crowd, as well as a private dining room on a mezzanine designed to look like a treehouse from the outside, because the one thing millennials love more than unlimited guacamole is a treehouse.
Buena Vida Clarendon. 2900 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.