Clarendon’s Buena Vida reopens as an all-you-can-eat upscale Mexican restaurant

A complicated COVID-19 journey for a restaurant in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood is taking a new turn, this time with a bottomless tasting menu with authentic Mexican food and a chef who knows his way around regional Mexican cuisine.

Buena Vida Restaurant & Lounge, at 2900 Wilson Boulevard — which pivoted to a more take-out friendly, one-level fast-casual grab-and-go restaurant Tacos, Tortas & Tequila when the pandemic began — is closing for a top to bottom remodel and will reopen in April as a new Buena Vida with tasting menus priced at $25 for lunch, $40 to $45 for brunch and dinner.

Restaurateur Ivan Iricanin — whose Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand Balkan restaurant Ambar, with a location on Capitol Hill and one across the street from Buena Vida in Clarendon — has brought on Jamie Garcia Pelayo Bribiesca.

Bribiesca has worked as a chef in Mexico City, Barcelona, New York and in D.C. at Jose Andres’ Oyamel restaurant, and will incorporate recipes at Buena Vida handed down through generations of his family. Some of the sauces take hours or even days to develop their flavors.

It will be a fast turnaround for the remodel, with CORE Architecture tasked with the renovation in time to reopen sometime next month, though no firm date has been set. Per a preview statement, it will lean heavily on botanicals for a jungle-like feel.

Buena Vida Restaurant & Lounge will reopen in April as a new Buena Vida with tasting menus priced at $25 for lunch, $40 to $45 for brunch and dinner. (Courtesy Google Street View)

The first floor dining room will have a bar and outdoor patio seating. The second level dining room will have another bar, and private dining room on a mezzanine that is being designed to look like a tree house.

The large rooftop lounge, with 124 seats, has 365-degree views.

The second floor and rooftop will also serve the late-night crowd with lounge areas throughout.

“We are optimistic that spring is going to be a season of revival for the dining scene, and now is the time to bring Buena Vida back to life,” Iricanin said.

No menu is yet available. It will focus on cuisines from dishes from the North Pacific coast and central Mexico, the west-central region and the Mexican Plateau.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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