Made in Vienna: 'Alegria' Coming To Church Street
Patrick and Julie Bazin's new Mexican eatery opens April 4 next to flagship restaurant
Patrick Bazin is best known in Vienna for Bazin's on Church, a contemporary American restaurant he owns with his wife Julie.
But when he goes out to eat with his 10-year-old daughter Grace, the award-winning chef goes straight to the cuisine he learned to love two decades ago.
“I like spicy flavors. I have a deep passion for Mexican food and I understand it,” Patrick Bazin said.
On April 4, Bazin will get to share that passion with Vienna residents as he opens a taqueria and tequila bar, Alegria, next to the award-winning flagship restaurant he opened in 2006.
“This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time and I am excited about bringing this food here and opening up the flavor for my customers," Bazin said.
Bazin has been one of the area's premiere chefs for more than 20 years. He opened up the Red Sage with Mark Miller, the "Godfather of chiles," in D.C. in 1992.
“That year 'Esquire' named us ‘Restaurant of the Year' and we were known for our chili bar,” Bazin said. “That was first time I was introduced to the flavors of chili and my first hand at using them.”
More inspiration came when he helped out for a few weeks at Charlie Trotters in Chicago and discovered the Frontera Grill nearby.
“It’s owned by who I consider the No. 1 Mexican chef in the country, Rick Bayless, and when I first went there, I was totally blown away,” Bazin said. “We were doing Southwestern food at Red Sage, but it was different, and I wanted to move to Chicago just so I could eat there.”
That's exactly what the Bazins did, with Patrick working as a corporate chef in the area. The couple said the family could often be found at Frontera as they developed a love affair with guacamole and salsa.
Eventually, they moved back to the D.C. area when Patrick was offered a job at the Occidental Grill, and though he always had the desire to go back to Mexican, his career led him elsewhere.
“Although I never did [go back], I would always incorporate the flavors in my menus,” Bazin said. “My style is normally seasonal America, which opens me up to just about anything.”
Last year, the Bazins decided to utilize the space next to their existing restaurants, vacated by Church Street Cellars, to open up a second restaurant.
The main floor will seat approximately 44, with room for another 12 to 14 along the bar. Another dozen diners will be able to sit outside when weather permits.
"What I wanted to do was create a small plate restaurant, because I think that’s the best way to incorporate the flavors and let customers be exposed to many different dishes. Here, a party of two may get anywhere from four to six dishes," Bazin said.
The menu will consist of authentic Mexican tacos, ceviches, vegetarian dishes, shellfish, meat dishes, as well as daily specials, all ranging from $3 to $18. There will also be homemade corn flower tortillas, made in-house by the restaurant's own tortilla press.
"I have 20 chilies and my staff will be educated about each,” Bazin said. “Corn tortillas are going to be a vehicle for most of these dishes. We are setting everything up in categories so people will have plenty of options.”
Since the bar at Bazin's is dominated by wine, Bazin said his approach to alcohol at Algeria will be totally different. There will be a tequila bar offering 40 to 50 varieties; the restaurant will also offer margaritas, red and white sangria and a variety of mojitos.
Unlike Bazin's, Alegria will be available for private parties and it will also do some catering -- so if a company wants 100 tacos, they can easily put that together, Bazin said.
Bazin said he will balance his time between the two restaurants, but will spend a majority of it at his new place in the beginning, making all of the recipes.
"We love the Vienna community and we feel like its the perfect environment for a fun, vibrant restaurant with fun food, outdoor seating [and a] lively atmosphere," Julie Bazin said.
"What we are trying to do is bring a modern, authentic Mexican food to Vienna," Patrick Bazin said.
Editor's note: The opening date has been changed from the goal opening date to the actual opening date.