In April 2013, Chef and Owner Bart Vandaele will open B Too, an approachable and playful contemporary Belgian restaurant in the Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington D.C. From cuisine to design and beverage, the bi-level restaurant is Chef Bart’s interpretation of what is happening now in the Belgian food scene—a mixture of nostalgic heritage, multicultural influence, unexpected flavor combinations, and eye-catching design.
“B Too is my love letter to Belgium showcasing my favorite things from across the country,” says Bart, who introduced Belgian cuisine to Washingtonians in 2004 with his first restaurant, Belga Café. Knighted by both the Order of Leopold II and by the Museum of Belgian Brewers and the Brewers Guild of Belgium, Bart is a recognized leader in Belgian cuisine and beers. “Belgium was invaded, occupied, and ruled by many other countries including France, Germany, Spain, and Austria. This has left its mark on our culinary history and is what makes our food so unique. With centuries of foreign conquerors, we’ve been exposed to new ingredients and cooking techniques. Modern Belgian cuisine is the result of this culinary journey, and what inspired me to create my menu at B Too.”
B Too spans two floors with seating for 175 guests in the main dining room, Kitchen Bar, Chef’s Table, two bars, a Waffle and Frites Bar, and a private dining area called the Board Room. A Spanish-designed Josper oven, the only one of its kind in the city and one of a handful in the country, is a focal point in the open kitchen. Used for charcoal grilling, the Josper oven can reach up to 900 degrees and circulates heat evenly, making for perfectly roasted lobster, Belgian steak, and entrecote found in the “From Our Josper” section of the menu.
Bart is working with Goose Island Brewing Co. to create a recipe for B Too’s house beer, which will top-off the vast selection of more than 150 bottled options, with at least 12 beers on draft rotating seasonally, and a beer-based cocktail on-tap. In addition to a vast beer selection, Bart curated a list of more than 100 wines, including Belgian labels. A list of cocktails pays homage to Belgium’s favorite spirits including gin, vodka, and genever.
Bart’s vision for B Too as a vanguard for Belgian cuisine and culture is evident in the design and décor. Architect Ziad Elias Demian and D.C.-based Belgian Interior Designer Natascha Folens chose salvaged wood to construct the flooring, table tops, shelving, and bars on both levels of the restaurant. To create a casual and inviting environment, whimsical and elegant touches were added throughout the space including one-of-a-kind artwork, cowhides, animal statues, and chandeliers. For the serving ware, Bart enlisted Belgian ceramicist Tinne Debruijne who crafted an exclusive collection of handmade porcelain dishes, featuring unique textile imprints such as lace and leather.
Bart has been a fixture in the Washington D.C. food scene for 17 years, and helped found Belgian Restaurant Week. He presently serves as brand ambassador for Belgian beer Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, and Leffe. Bart was a contestant on Bravo’s current season of “Top Chef” in Seattle.