Restaurant Roundup: Losing that Latin Flavor

Rosa MexicanoUpscale Mexican restaurant Rosa Mexicano closed its Friendship Heights location for good at the end of March after more than three years in the neighborhood. As with most closures, the motivation seems predominantly financial. “We’ve decided to shift expansion into other more lucrative areas,” VP of Marketing Lesley Truett diplomatically told Tenleytown, D.C. 

For those missing the menu, Rosa Mexicano will keep its other D.C. location in Penn Quarter.

With the closure just a little over a week old, it’s too early to tell what might move into the vacant space at 5225 Wisconsin Avenue. Prior to Rosa Mexicano, Bambule served up Mediterranean style food and tapas, but had difficulty bringing in customers. While Spanish or Latin American food might be cursed at that location, it would be nice to have a restaurant with some international flair as a counterbalance to Chad’s, the popular American-style tavern up the street.

A little further south on Wisconsin Avenue, long-time Tenleytown restaurant Casa Fiesta is also letting go of its Latin roots, but hoping to bring Italian cuisine to a block known for international flavors.  

Casa Fiesta has struggled over the last year as the previous owners tried to restore the reputation of a local institution that had become known more for punk rock than pico de gallo. Flagging business, however, ultimately led them to sell the restaurant their family had owned for decades.

New owner Conrad Alfaro spruced up the restaurant and overhauled the menu, reopening in December with an emphasis on refined, Latin American cuisine. While we greatly enjoyed the new offerings, Casa Fiesta struggled to redefine itself and break free from its past.

With some additional renovations and a brand new Italian menu, Alfaro is hoping that locals will come back and give Casa Fiesta another try when the restaurant reopens in the next week or so. From talking with him, he seems very committed to this community and to giving residents good food – and that alone is reason enough to give Casa Fiesta another look.

However, for those looking for Mexican food, you’ll have to head to Guapo’s near the Tenleytown Metro. Guapo’s is thankfully doing what appears to be a booming business and doesn’t look to be going anywhere anytime soon. Still, maybe stop by for a margarita and some enchiladas – or whatever is your pleasure – just to be sure.

One comment

  • I recently heard that Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma are leaving Mazza Gallery and moving to Bethesda. Also I noticed two or three empty storefronts on the plaza outside Bloomingdales and at least one empty storefront at the Collection at Chevy Chase.

    The Chevy Chase/Friendship Heights shopping district is not always a pleasant shopping experience for several reasons. It seems overwhelmed with traffic. Parking is in short supply and can be expensive. It is also difficult to navigate among shops with different grade levels and building designs that don’t accommodate pedestrians very smoothly. All of this may be affecting the commercial viability of the restaurant/retail sector.