Shop Talk

Lebanese Bistro Opens

In the works for months, the Kentlands Lebanese Bistro and Art Café opened on July 16. The restaurant has been much anticipated by local residents since the closing of Main Street Café on Sept. 1, 2012.

“We are very excited and getting very close to opening in this wonderful area,” said owner Robert Jirikdjian last week.

Extensive renovations to the former Main Street Café began in early January to transform it from a small café featuring pre-prepared foods to a full-service Lebanese restaurant. The changes were finally complete in late June, and work then began on gearing up for the opening.

The bistro, which is open for lunch and dinner, features many Mediterranean and Lebanese favorites such as kabobs, baklava, chicken and beef shawarma. In addition to entrees, there is a full Mezza menu and beer and wine list, which includes offerings from Lebanon as well as Mediterranean countries. Plans are also in the works for weekend seafood specials that will change every week.

While the restaurant is now open for business, Jirikdjian is planning a grand opening for the end of August. “I want to wait until everyone is back from vacation,” he said.

The event will feature live Middle Eastern music, as well as a meet and greet with artists whose work is on display both in the bistro and in the downstairs art studio.

Jirikdjian, who is himself an artist and whose paintings are on display in the restaurant as well, said he hopes to attract more local artists. One way he plans to do this is through planned “sip and paint” programs, which have become increasingly popular in the D.C. metro area. Jirikdjian will provide all art supplies at these events and will offer discounted wine for enjoyment while customers create their own works of art. Participants will also be able to order appetizers during these times.

Jirikdjian also hopes to offer adult as well as children’s cooking classes sometime in the future.

Kentlands Lebanese Bistro is now open Tuesday – Thursday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Mondays. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are kids’ nights, which allow parents to enjoy dinner in the bistro while their children receive an art lesson in the studio below.

For more information, please visit kentlandslebanesebistro.com or call 301.977.2033.

Neal’s Bagels Under New Ownership

As of June 3, Neal’s Bagels, located at 12141 Darnestown Road, is under new management. The popular bagel bakery has been in business for 22 years, serving hand-rolled, boiled bagels made fresh on site.

“I’m not changing a thing,” said new owner Neil Bressler.

Former owners Steve and Polly Chotoo ran the shop for 13 years. But before them, the bagel spot was run by Jan Bressler — no relation to the new owner — and was named Bagels De-Lox. When the Bresslers had a son, they renamed the store Neal after him. The Chotoos kept the name intact when they bought the bakery.

Neil Bressler said he always joked with Steve Chotoo about buying the shop, where he was a regular customer since its opening. “I wrote my name and number on their brown bagel bags probably 20 times,” Bressler said. “And on the 20th time [in February], they were actually serious about selling! They called me up on vacation. After all that time and all the jokes.”

Before buying Neal’s Bagels, Bressler owned and operated a vending company, which he has now sold. He described himself as a very “local guy” who went to University of Maryland. He emphasized that he is not making changes to the menu, which still includes homemade salads and other breakfast and lunch options in addition to bagels and cream cheese.

The Chotoos still work at the shop from time to time but plan to eventually leave the business in the hands of the new Neil.

“We want customers to get comfortable with new ownership. Nothing is changing,” Bressler said. “This is a real, local bagel store. We have been making bagels the same way for 22 years — how they have been made for 50 years!”

And, he added, “We can fill special requests with advance orders. We are very friendly and willing to help.”

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