- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 3, 2006

A local restaurant group has turned up the heat on expansion, with plans to open its third restaurant in 12 months by the beginning of next year.

Neighborhood Restaurant Group owns Evening Star Cafe and Vermilion in Alexandria, and Tallula in Arlington. But it also opened Rustico in March and Buzz Bakery & Coffee Lounge last month, both in Alexandria. It plans to open EatBar in Arlington next month.

“Yeah, it’s a lot of work,” said the busy Michael Babin, managing member of Neighborhood Restaurant Group.

The trifecta of openings wasn’t planned that way. It was a coincidence of delays and extraordinary opportunities.

Rustico, an American cuisine restaurant, opened a few years later than the company planned because of lease delays, and EatBar was always scheduled to be part of Tallula restaurant, but also was delayed. The idea for the bakery Buzz rose when the owners came across open space and heard that pastry chef Lisa Scruggs was free. Mr. Babin said the company couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Buzz, located around the corner from Rustico, is scheduled to be humming from 6 a.m. to midnight — a long day for the cafe, which will offer breakfast pastries, lunch sandwiches, and dessert wines and themed martinis for the after-dinner crowd.

“It has been difficult. We had to think about staffing in a different sort of way,” Mr. Babin said of the 18-hour workday. “We were lucky enough to pull through … and our manager moved here for the job and got the staffing right.”

Finally, EatBar, scheduled to open next month, will take over the bar space in Tallula and sell homemade pub food. The menu will change often because it will use locally grown products.

“Everything from the hot dog to the mustard on the hot dog is going to be made in house,” Mr. Babin said. “Our hot dogs are going to be more expensive than the Oscar Mayer variety, but it will be moderately priced. You’ll be able to afford to eat there on a regular basis.”

Neighborhood Restaurant Group has yet to nail down its next project.

Are you hungry?

• CakeLove plans to bring its gourmet cupcakes to Northern Virginians next spring. The bakery, which has locations in the District and Silver Spring, plans to open a 1,200-square-foot shop in the Shirlington neighborhood of Arlington. It will be a full bakery with limited seating.

• Fractured Prune, the made-to-order doughnut shop with locations on the Eastern Shore, opened its first D.C. location Saturday at 2153 P St. NW near Dupont Circle. Among its hand-dipped specialty doughnuts is the Black Forest (with raspberry glaze, chocolate chips and coconut), the Pebble Beach (with glaze, cinnamon, sugar and chocolate chips) and the Morning Buzz (with mocha and Oreo).

• D’Acqua seafood restaurant is scheduled to open late this month at 801 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Francesco Ricchi, of IRicchi restaurant in the District and Cesco in Bethesda, and Enzo Febbraro, of Georgetown’s Filomena restaurant and Cafe Milano, will be open Monday to Friday for lunch and every night for dinner.

Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Contact Jen Haberkorn at jhaberkorn@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-4836.

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