For those who thought Bethesda’s Mussel Bar just served mussels—or was just a bar, for that matter, clarity has arrived!
Robert Wiedmaier’s popular Belgian roadhouse on Woodmont Avenue has been rechristened “Mussel Bar & Grille” to alleviate any confusion, and to presumably net a larger non-mollusk-eating crowd.
Frank Shull, chief operating officer and partner in Wiedmaier’s RW Restaurant Group, said he believes many people who don’t eating mussels were shying away from the restaurant. But Shull noted that there are actually only six or seven mussel dishes out of the approximately 30 items on the menu.
Still, mussels remain the big draw—at least for some people (including me). And in that regard, the restaurant group made a major change this past fall. It now buys mussels for all its restaurants from Penn Cove Shellfish, located in Washington State.
The vast majority of the mussels we eat around here are rope-cultured blue mussels from Prince Edward Island, Canada, and those were the ones previously served at Wiedmaier’s restaurants (the Mussel Bar & Grilles in Bethesda and Atlantic City, Marcel’s and Brasserie Beck downtown, and BRABO in Alexandria).
But Polly Wiedmaier, marketing honcho for the couple’s eateries, said that the Penn Cove mussels are “larger, juicier and tastier” than the ones from PEI (and more expensive, too) and that “feed back from customers lets us know that they also notice the difference.”
I recently checked out the new mussels at Mussel Bar & Grille, and they definitely are different from the blue variety. I had tried Penn Coves a while back at Bethesda’s Food, Wine & Co., and had liked them a lot.
Big, silken and ivory-colored, they really fill out their shells, and have a subtle and delicate flavor. I charged through the packed and steaming skillet of Provencal mussels at Mussel Bar & Grille, leaving only a couple behind. In a nod to my lifetime membership in the clean plate club, even the waiter noted that I did a good job…
Mussel Bar & Grille, 7262 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda, 301- 215-7817, musselbar.com