Food

Ambar Restaurateur Is Bringing Limitless Mexican Dining to Arlington

Buena Vida Clarendon will reopen in April with all-you-can-eat menus for lunch, brunch, and dinner.

Ambar owner Ivan Iricanin's Mexican restaurant in Clarendon is getting a new look and concept (pictured here: TTT rooftop). Photograph by Rey Lopez

Ambar restaurateur Ivan Iricanin has re-envisioned and renamed his three-story Mexican restaurant in Clarendon several times since opening it as a chef-driven spot in summer 2019. The latest fast-casual iteration, Tacos Tortas Tequila, was what he calls an “easy execution” model, driven by pandemic necessity. Now, Iricanin is looking to make a “forever move”—and that move involves all-you-can-eat tacos and guacamole. 

A new and completely remodeled Buena Vida, which will launch the first week of April, is basically a Mexican version of Balkan sister restaurant Ambar across the street—plus a massive rooftop lounge with 365-degree views. Iricanin will devote the first two floors to AYCE food menus priced around $25 for lunch and $40 to $45 for brunch and dinner. Like at Ambar, guests can order to their heart’s desire and stomach’s ability for two hours, picking from dips and salsas, tacos, ceviches, slow-cooked meat dishes like carnitas or ribs, vegetables (vegans and vegetarians will have their own limitless menus), seafood plates, and more. Drinks can’t be bottomless due to Virginia regulations, but diners can expect heavily discounted pours like Ambar’s 25-cent mimosas. 

“Fast-casual has so many competitors, and it’s a very tough arena to fight in—it’s like a bloodbath of who’s cheaper,” Iricanin says. “Dining without limits is what we know.”

Iricanin started using the bottomless model back in 2009, when he was running the now-closed Masa 14 in Logan Circle. He says the clubby Latin-Asian concept was struggling to draw brunch crowds—until he introduced free-flowing tapas and cocktails. The model proved so successful he brought it to many of his other business ventures over the years, including Ambar on Capitol Hill and his restaurants in Belgrade. 

Iricanin plans to close the second-floor dining room of TTT this week, and will soon shutter the restaurant entirely to allow design house Core to revamp the space with an airier, more plant-filled aesthetic inspired by trendy spots in Tulum. The rooftop bar will likely remain a place to drink, party, and snack on a la carte plates, but the rest of the 11,000 square-foot space will be primed for tables—including large groups—to linger. The new space will include more lounge areas for the late-night crowd, plus a private dining room on a mezzanine designed to look from the exterior like a tree house—because the only thing millennials love more than unlimited guacamole is a tree house. 

Buena Vida Clarendon. 2900 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. 

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

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