When Mythology Modern Chop House/Lore Lounge opens on H Street NE next year, owner Todd Luongo hopes it will be the start of a wave of more upscale eateries and bars along a strip that has catered more to a PBR-and-tater-tots crowd in recent years.
He envisions the 6,500-square-foot restaurant and lounge at 816 H St. NE as something “sophisticated and sexy,” akin to high-end hotel lounges in San Francisco and Miami.
“I think where things are going with H Street, it’s going to transition away from that hipster scene to more of a mainstream, cosmopolitan, urban scene,” Luongo said. He declined to disclose his investment in the restaurant, although he did say it’s partially self-financed and partially financed by a loan from the Small Business Administration.
The “chop house” restaurant will occupy the first floor, with three levels of lounge above, including an indoor-outdoor space on the third floor and a fourth floor space that can shift concepts. Luongo envisions a beer-tasting room or a whiskey bar, depending on the season and the trends of the moment.
In honor of the neighborhood’s Atlas moniker, the restaurant’s decor will employ a mythological theme, although exactly what that will look like is still under discussion. Maggie O’Neill, who designed other hot spots around town — including Sax, Capitale, Lincoln — is the designer.
“We want to tell a little bit of a story for the customer, but you could easily kind of cross over and make it a little too Disney,” he said. “We don’t want that. We’re going for a classy, understated vibe.”
The restaurant, which won’t open until the first half of 2015, has yet to name a chef. Luongo has brought on Mark Medley, formerly of the Atlas Room and Mark and Orlando’s, as a general manager.
Luongo, who is an enterprise tech salesman by day, is new to the restaurant business, although he’s been thinking about opening a restaurant and bar for some time. He worked his way through college at restaurants and lounges and his father owned a luncheonette in Massachusetts, where he grew up.
“I never forgot my roots and that passion, so in the last few years, I started trying to make this materialize,” Luongo said in a phone interview.
Luongo is a man to pursue his passions, as meandering as they may be. A few years ago he left a job in sales to launch his own tech startup, but the project never gained traction. He took a year off in 2011 to pursue stand-up comedy full time, performing two-to-three shows per week at D.C. area clubs.
“It was one of those things to check off the bucket list,” he said of his stand-up stint. “I like to have these experiences, and I’m not one of these people for whom it’s a 10-second thing. I want to dive into the subculture.”
His passion for hospitality goes beyond any of his previous experiments, he said.
“For this one, I hope it’s not just dipping my foot in for a year or two,” he said. “This is something I want to be part of my life going forward.”