An Early Look at Redwood

The ritzy Bethesda Lane—a brand-new pedestrian street lined with boutiques (and an outpost of the gelato shop Dolcezza) in the Bethesda Row complex—may become a dining destination with the upcoming opening of Redwood on July 21.

Owners Eli Hengst and Jared Rager, the team behind Mendocino Grille in Georgetown and Sonoma on Capitol Hill, have tapped a seasoned West Coast chef to run the Bethesda kitchen. Andrew Kitko is no big-name celebrity, but he’s cooked his way through some impressive San Francisco kitchens: Jeremiah Tower’s Stars, Gary Danko’s eponymous foodie temple, and the two-Michelin-star Aqua, where he served as sous chef. Kitko also spent two years in New York at Daniel Boulud’s Café Boulud.

Kitko, a Connecticut native, was looking to come back east after nine years in San Francisco. “Andrew just responded to our Craigslist ad and wanted a little more info,” Hengst says. “We’d already been interviewing people locally for the executive-chef job, but Andrew was a perfect fit. People on the West Coast are so well versed on what we’re going for—local and sustainable food.”

Kitko’s menu for Redwood is inspired by the California-rooted farm-to-table movement that’s all the rage everywhere these days, but his emphasizes “Mid-Atlantic flavors and traditions.” Look for soft-shell crabs, beef from Maryland’s Roseda Farms, and bison bone marrow from Virginia. You can also expect to see lots of dishes from the wood-burning grill and oven plus roasted Amish chicken, cooked on the restaurant’s rotisserie.

Redwood is a much bigger venture than Hengst and Rager’s other spots—the sprawling 7,500-square-foot restaurant has 18-foot-high ceilings, 120 seats in the dining room, 75 in the bar and lounge, and a patio with room for 100. The Redwood motif extends throughout the space, designed by GrizForm, the architects behind the similarly rustic-chic Sonoma. At Redwood, reclaimed wood is accented with natural stone, slate, and raw steel. The private dining room—with 30 seats—has a working fireplace and its own patio.

Bethesdans don’t have many places to drink well, thanks to Montgomery County’s restrictive wine laws. Known for their wine programs at Sonoma and Mendocino Grille, Redwood's owners installed a temperature- and humidity-controlled Winekeeper system at Redwood, put together a list of 125 wines (16 by the glass), and recruited Brian Cook, formerly of the Source by Wolfgang Puck, to manage the wine program.

The neighborhood is known for family-friendliness—witness the stroller traffic near Barnes & Noble on weekends—but with the owners’ wine focus, Redwood sounds like a very grown-up addition to the suburban scene. Still, kids will likely fill some of the restaurant’s dozens of seats, eating baked macaroni-and-cheese gratin and hand-cut fries while their parents swill wine and nibble on local beet salads and chicken-liver mousse.

Click here to view Redwood's menu.