Gringos & Mariachis, the Mexican restaurant from the group that runs the popular Olazzo nearby, had its soft opening Wednesday night.
Co-owner Roberto Pietrobono said the spot, in the former Bangkok One space at 4928 Cordell Ave., has been about a year in the making. It shows.
There’s a custom mural depicting a sombrero-wearing woman with the message “Make Tacos, Not War,” near the bar and another of a Mexican Day of the Dead skull, both on carefully designed brick walls that give the place an Olazzo-like feel.
Pietrobono said he knows Olazzo’s reputation (there’s also one in Silver Spring) will get folks in the door.
“It’s a matter of getting them to come back,” he said. “So that’s a huge benefit. We’ve been here with Olazzo for 12 years now. But this is straight Mexican, something really unusual for the area.”
There will be plenty of tacos, enchiladas and carne asada, plus a few things Pietrobono said makes the menu really different. It could also serve as an upscale bar spot. Gringos will have an extensive beer and liquor selection.
It’s one of a new wave of restaurants and bars on Cordell Avenue giving a new feel to Woodmont Triangle. Pietrobono said it’s no coincidence a number of new high-rise apartment buildings are coming in too.
“Bethesda’s always been good for us, whether there’s building or not. But we got in right at the right time. I follow development a lot. We saw the same thing when we opened in Silver Spring,” he said. “It’s just a matter of if you have the density and more restaurants in the area, obviously it’s going to bring more people.”
The Silver Spring native — he graduated from Kennedy High School on Randolph Road — now lives in D.C., which he said only heightens his understanding of perceptions about Bethesda’s nightlife.
“I get it. People always ask me, ‘Where can I go other than Olazzo.’ So I get it when people criticize but I think a lot of the criticism is unjust. There are a lot of places around here,” Pietrobono said.