NEW: Ometeo opening in Tysons tomorrow with ‘elevated’ but accessible Tex-Mex food

A “stuffie tamal” appetizer from Ometeo (photo by An-Phuong Ly)

(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) After almost four years of dreaming, planning and building, the team behind Ometeo is ready to introduce its spin on Tex-Mex cuisine to Tysons.

The new restaurant will open to the public for the first time at 1640 Capital One Drive tomorrow (Wednesday), Long Shot Hospitality Partner Jeremy Carman confirmed to FFXnow.

Ometeo recently announced through Eater DC that it would open this week but hadn’t landed on an exact date yet. At least initially, it will be open at 4-10 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and 4-11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, according to a public relations representative.

Ometeo will be the first ground-level dining option to arrive at Capital One Center since the pub City Works closed in 2020. Capital One’s headquarters campus is also home to the Japanese restaurant Wren in The Watermark Hotel and Starr Hill Biergarten, which will expand with a new, street-level brewpub next year.

(Correction: This story previously said Starr Hill is relocating to the new space. The existing biergarten in The Perch will still operate after the brewpub opens.)

“With the corporate density of Tysons and how much activity and…opportunity there is there, combined with the fact that there are a lot of residents in McLean and Great Falls that can access that campus pretty easily without even kind of venturing all the way into Tysons, we thought the location was really strong,” Carman said.

Carman says the partners at Long Shot Hospitality, the D.C.-based restaurant group behind The Salt Line and Dauphine’s, wanted to create a Tex-Mex concept that combines the comforts of a chain restaurant with a more “elevated” and “chef-driven” approach.

“We thought that it might be something that the area needed, and it was definitely something that we were passionate and excited about exploring,” Carman said. “So, that was several years ago, almost three or four years ago when we started talking about that…I think that we’re all really glad that we set out to execute it, and we’re pretty excited with how it turned out.”

For the chef who could propel their vision into a reality, the partners turned to El Paso, Texas, native Gabe Erales, who became the first Mexican American winner of the cooking competition TV show “Top Chef” in 2021.

In addition to already being acquainted with Erales on a social basis, the team felt he could bring “a lot of authenticity and a lot of knowledge to the concept” as someone who has built his career on exploring regional Mexican cuisine, Carman says.

Erales’s “Top Chef” victory was overshadowed by an Austin American-Statesman story that alleged he’d been fired from an Austin restaurant for “repeated violations of the company’s ethics policy as it relates to harassment of women,” including cutting a female employee’s hours after they’d ended a sexual relationship.

In that story and a subsequent public apology, Erales said he had a “consensual” relationship with an employee who was affected by “poor decisions” he made as a manager, but he denies that his actions reached the level of sexual harassment, as labeled by news reports.

“I’ve grown from it,” Erales told FFXnow. “I’ve taken a lot of steps in the last few years to just become a better leader, a better business owner and a better chef ever since.”

Long Shot’s partners were aware of the story but didn’t have significant reservations about bringing Erales on board Ometeo, according to Carman.

“I’ve gotten to know Gabe and his family, and I know that Gabe comes from a really good place and a lot of integrity,” he said. “We were aware of everything that was going on and felt comfortable about proceeding with our own project.”

Erales expressed confidence in Long Shot as a partner as well, praising the company’s work with The Salt Line and Dauphine’s.

After opening a Yucatán-inspired restaurant in Austin this summer, he was looking to create something new more focused on the food that he grew up eating in a Texas city right on the U.S. and Mexico border. Though he hadn’t spent time in the D.C. area before, he says he “fell in love with it quickly.”

“[It’s] an opportunity to develop a fun menu that really spoke to the cuisine you experience on the border of Texas and northern Mexico and combine that with the whimsical stuff you find in central Texas Tex-Mex restaurants, the ones that are very popular, especially the things you see in chain restaurants, like Chuy’s or Uncle Julio’s,” Erales said.

Accordingly, Ometeo’s menu features familiar items like tacos and fajitas, but they’re made with an eye toward the food’s geographic roots. For example, seafood is sourced when possible from the Gulf of Mexico, and the tortillas consist of Sonoran wheat — the kind originally used for flour tortillas in northern Mexico — or heirloom corn grown by smaller Mexican communities, according to the chef.

The drink list developed by beverage director Donato Alvarez was similarly designed to evoke a traditional Tex-Mex restaurant with some twists, such as the option to swirl a margarita with frozen agua frescas. Wine, craft beer and cocktails will also be available.

Carman says it’s been “a long couple of years” since Long Shot started circling Capital One Center for a potential new restaurant just before the pandemic, and he’s eager to finally share Ometeo with the world.

“I’m just excited for that part of the process, for the doors to open and for people to hopefully come in and enjoy what we put forward,” he said.

“There’s a lot of great regional Mexican restaurants in the area, but I don’t think that anybody has ever taken a more deliberate and a thoughtful approach to creating not only food, but also a total experience,” Erales added. “I think that Jeremy and his team at Long Shot is really good at creating those type of experiences and authenticity.”

Read more on FFXnow…

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