Restaurateur Ivan Iricanin knew he wanted to open a Mexican restaurant, but he didn’t know where.
The former partner in El Centro and the owner of Ambar, both in Washington, D.C., was looking for possible locations when he came across 8407 Ramsey Ave., the site of the recently closed 8407 Kitchen Bar in downtown Silver Spring.
“I like to explore and find new up and coming neighborhoods and kind of pioneer it in some sort,” Iricanin said in his restaurant Wednesday. “Then we found this location and it had two levels and it was perfect for what we were trying to do.”
The location crystalized Iricanin’s plan for twinned concepts that would be related but distinct.
Tacos, Tortas & Tequila—or TTT—occupies the first floor as what he calls a “next generation fast casual,” with limited service and a full bar, serving drinks and small items with a street-food flare. Iricanin imagined the quick food, available about a block away from the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit Center and Metro station, would appeal to commuters.
Buena Vida, meanwhile, takes up the second floor in a “cozy” space for brunches, lunches and dinners, Iricanin said. The full-service restaurant serves contemporary Mexican food made with local ingredients.
TTT opened Wednesday for lunch and dinner and will open for breakfast starting Monday. Buena Vida has a soft open Wednesday and Thursday before it opens for lunch and dinner Friday.
Buena Vida has a more quiet atmosphere and more upscale offerings.
Until May 14, both restaurants are offering special deals as a way to introduce themselves to the neighborhood, Iricanin said. TTT is serving $1 tacos and $5 margaritas, and Buena Vida will serve unlimited small plates for $12 per person for lunch and $20 per person for dinner.
After that, the unlimited small plates meal will be $20 per person for lunch and $35 per person for dinner. Tacos go for $3 to $5 at TTT, and tortas and quesadillas are $7 to $12. Both restaurants also serve beer, wine and cocktails with a variety of tequilas and mezcals.
TTT has about 60 seats, including an outdoor patio and a bar. Buena Vida seats about 150.
On ground-level, TTT has quick service for tacos and other menu items in a casual bar setting.
Iricanin is the CEO of Street Guys Hospitality, which operates a number of regional restaurants as well as Latin and burrito concepts in Serbia, where he’s from. He’s already planning to open another TTT replacing a closed La Tasca in Arlington. If the Silver Spring restaurant goes well, he said he might consider expanding in the area.
Iricanin said he wants TTT and Buena Vida to be central part of what he considers Silver Spring’s growing dining scene.
“I wouldn’t invest my time and money in the area if I didn’t believe that,” he said. “There’s a lot of young hip people here, and I think it needs more options for dining.”