Photo: A.G. Kitchen is located on Ellsworth Drive in Downtown Silver Spring. Credit: Andrew Metcalf
The idea for Silver Spring’s new A.G. Kitchen came about when New York chef Alex Garcia and his business partner, Jeremy Wladis, decided they wanted to open a restaurant in the Washington, D.C., area.
They looked in D.C., but then decided Silver Spring would be a better location for the restaurant they were planning.
“We feel the concept is a little more relaxed and family-friendly, but also designed for people who take food seriously,” Garcia said Friday.
On Monday, the restaurant officially opens in the former location of Macaroni Grill on Ellsworth Avenue for lunch and dinner. Garcia said he’s confident the restaurant will compete well with restaurants such as Red Lobster, Austin Grill and Lebanese Taverna that currently operate in the Downtown Silver Spring development.
Over eight months, the partners built out the restaurant to look similar to the concept’s original location near Central Park in New York City. As a result, it has a Cuban flair with a tin ceiling, glazed orange and green walls and bright stained glass windows.
Garcia is known for his Cuban cuisine. His high-end Upper West Side restaurant Calle Ocho in New York City serves poached lobster, red snapper, Cuban skirt steak and grilled sea bass in a fine dining atmosphere. But to make his food more accessible, Garcia opened A.G. Kitchen near Central Park in 2012 to combine his favorite Latin dishes with Wladis’ American favorites, such as hamburgers.
The result is a moderately priced menu with specialties such as tacos, Latin salads and grilled mahi mahi offered along with a variety of hamburgers with Latin flare like the “Gaucho”—a ribeye burger with crispy onions and guava barbecue sauce.
“It’s a place you can have a little bit of everything,” Garcia said.
The menu in Silver Spring also includes “NYC’s Best Cubano”—a Cuban sandwich that Garcia says is the New York City location’s best seller.
The new restaurant measures about 8,000 square feet and can seat 160 people in the dining room, 40 people at the wrap-around bar and another 40 on the outdoor patio overlooking the popular fountain in downtown Silver Spring.
The restaurant also offers a quick-serve taqueria modeled off of roadside eateries in Latin America. Geared toward attracting local workers, the taqueria will serve items including rice and beans with plantains, beef or chicken priced no more than $10.
The bar offers infused liquors such as peanut bourbon, cilantro vodka and prickly pear gin as well as house-made sangrias.
The restaurant’s chef is Charles Wynn of Baltimore, who previously ran the kitchen at an area P.F. Chang’s. Garcia said he admires Wynn’s speed and that he’s been skilled at making Garcia’s recipes.
On Friday afternoon, the restaurant was open as part of a slow opening designed to give staff time to get acclimated to the day-to-day operations. As Garcia and Wladis roamed around the restaurant, a cover of Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” played over the speakers.
The restaurant plans to launch a new tapas menu and start brunch service in the next month or so, according to Garcia.
Chef Garcia speaks with cooks (left) and a staff member makes guacamole (right)
The wrap-around bar seats 40.
The main dining room (left) and a private dining area (right)
The outdoor patio seats 40. All photos by Andrew Metcalf.
A.G. Kitchen dinner menu via the restaurant’s website.