The forces behind Roof Bethesda have a lofty goal. The restaurant, tentatively slated to open December 28, is being positioned as both a great restaurant and a great bar.
In other words, a dining and drinking destination under one roof—or in this case, a roof and the sky, as the place actually takes up two floors.
But owner Alan Pohoryles says he has assembled a talented staff, and that the place will function more like two entities. Upscale, casual dining will be the focus of the second floor, and on the third or top floor, a sizeable rooftop space will offer light fare (and maybe even on-the-spot sushi) but mostly serve as an open-air bar.
Pohoryles, who also runs Tommy Joe’s in Bethesda, knows what people might think. So he’s quick to point out that Roof will “not be a sports bar by any stretch of the imagination. We’re not having a huge happy hour. We don’t want to be a late-night college bar.”
That’s why he hired Jed Fox, a L’Academie de Cuisine-educated chef with an impressive resume, including stints at the Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, and Bistro Bis and Ris downtown.
Fox said he plans to elevate the familiar dishes on his modern American menu with simple twists. “I’ll try to do my best to surprise people,” he says.
The dinner menu, with entrees priced between $18 and $28, includes trout amandine, braised lamb shoulder, shrimp and grits and tagliatelle with clams. Fox will be making his own chorizo, pancetta and fresh pasta.
New Zealand-born Josiah Alexander, who interestingly will serve as both the head mixologist and pastry chef, has come up with an appealing roster of house cocktails (Medicine Man, Turn Up the Beet) as well as homemade desserts (i.e. sticky toffee pudding, banana cream parfait).
A California-heavy wine list includes 50 bottles (13 choices by the glass), and there are eight draft beers and 13 bottles, ranging from Bud Lite to local craft brews.
As far as the second floor décor goes, it’s comfortable and rustic, but won’t win any interior design awards. The walls are barn wood and brick, the tables and chairs are beige and black, and the bar (which has outlets for computers and phone re-charging) is a grayish-green Corian. The best part about the space is the wall-to-wall windows on two sides, which offer a terrific view of the corner of Norfolk and Cordell Avenues.
When complete, the roof space above it will have a total of six televisions, including two behind the bar, dining tables along the railings, and high top tables in the middle. It can accommodate 150 people seated, but about 250 if they’re standing. As for the rooftop music, Pohoryles said he’s trying to do everything possible to limit the noise. For one thing, all the roof’s speakers face Old Georgetown Road, not Norfolk or Cordell.
Pohoryles says he’ll be installing 10 to 15 propane heaters; there are already four built-in heaters at the bar. He’s hoping people will be able to enjoy the rooftop view nine months out of the year.
Roof Bethesda is tentatively scheduled to open December 28, but check the restaurant’s website or Facebook page for confirmation as the day approaches. 7940 Norfolk Ave., Bethesda. 240-245-7663. www.roofbethesda.com