May 8, 2024 - Food and Drink

Classic D.C. restaurant Marcel's shutters, may reopen in Bethesda

Jenn Castaneda-Jones, executive chef Robert Wiedmaier, maitre d' Adnane Kebaier pictured in the dining room at Marcel's

Chef Jenn Castaneda-Jones (left) and Robert Wiedmaier (center) may have a second act. Photo: Laura Chase de Formigny/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Fine dining destination Marcel's is closing on Sunday after 25 years, but chef Robert Wiedmaier tells Axios he's actively looking for a new restaurant home in Bethesda.

Why it matters: Wiedmaier is among a growing group of restaurateurs moving or expanding to the 'burbs — plus a Marcel's revival would be big for Bethesda.

Driving the news: The chef says lease negotiations with a new overseas landlord fell through and ultimately forced him to close the West End dining room.

Between the lines: Wiedmaier tells Axios that worries over crime and carjackings, paired with low office return, impacted his clientele and drove down business. "People have choices, and when they don't feel comfortable driving downtown in their nice car, or they don't have to, they'll just stay in the suburbs," Wiedmaier tells Axios.

  • He also recently closed Brasserie Beck, his Belgian brasserie, downtown after 17 years.

The big picture: A bunch of D.C. restaurateurs are tapping into lucrative suburban business and meeting many diners — plus chefs/staff — where they live. D.C. fast-casuals like Chiko, Call Your Mother and Andy's Pizza have all expanded to Bethesda, plus full-service restaurants like The Salt Line and Aventino/AP Pizza.

  • Wiedmaier has a casual Mussel Bar opening there next.

Zoom in: Wiedmaier's vision for Marcel's 2.0 is a smaller, 40-odd-seat space with a partnership stake for his current head chef, Jenn Castaneda-Jones, and her sous-chef/husband Stephen Jones.

  • The duo worked their way up the line at Wiedmaier's restaurants and brought fresh energy — and even plant-centric dishes — to Marcel's haute French/Belgian dining room.

Last call: Marcel's is largely booked through its last day, though a few reservations remain. Plus diners can drop into the bar for a final Champagne and piano tune.

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