When Bill Irvin was growing up in Baltimore, some of the best restaurants were in upscale department stores. Designed for ladies who lunch, these posh spots had chopped salads so the women wouldn’t spill greens on their garments.
“It was the best Cobb salads and Dover sole—luxury dining,” he recalled.
The well-traveled Irvin, who now lives in Greenville, Delaware, has recently dined in urban eateries that have resurrected the classic approach—but with contemporary twists. Now, the seasoned restaurateur is bringing the concept to 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue, the new live-work-play development near the Highlands and Little Italy. The new restaurant will have 40 seats, including those at an L-shaped bar, and additional outdoor seating. Like Irvin’s other restaurant, Snuff Mill Restaurant, Butchery and Wine Bar, The Brandywine Restaurant is named for a local landmark—namely the Brandywine Valley—not the Hotel du Pont’s shuttered dining room. If there is a link to the stately hotel space, it’s the dedication to elegance and excellence, Irvin noted.
The “New American Classic Cuisine” dinner menu is divided into sections: fruit de mer (raw and cooked seafood), hors d’ oeuvres (pre-dinner appetizers), salads and soups, entrees and a la carte side dishes. But don’t expect the same old standards. Consider oysters Rockefeller with Vietnamese fish sauce, thinly sliced scallion and minced Thai chili or Parker House rolls with everything bagel seasoning. Consider roast chicken, saumon en croute, steak Diane and flounder with crab imperial bound with mousseline. Items for two will include beef Wellington and grilled whole branzino. Few contemporary restaurants open without a signature burger. The Brandywine Restaurant’s version, Royale with cheese (if you know, you know), will have Cooper sharp cheese house-made pickles, lettuce, finely minced onion and a special sauce.
Irvin’s Snuff Mill partner, Robert Lhulier, designed the 1,700-square-foot floor plan and kitchen. Stephen Mottola helped design the interior décor. “Many people know Stephen for his real estate skills, but he’s also an extremely talented designer,” Irvin says. The Brandywine Restaurant is scheduled to open Tuesday, Nov. 14.
- Custom wallpaper featuring cranes on a salmon-colored background
- A barrel-vaulted ceiling painted in a steel blue hue that shines like silk
- Rich chocolate-colored crown molding with recessed up lighting
- Mid-century modern pendant lights
- Cozy banquettes
- An underlit white Corian bar resembling quartz
- A wall of antique mirrors
- Custom linens and tablecloths
Andrew Cini is the chef de cuisine, Glennon Travis is the general manager, and Chris Unruh is the restaurant’s beverage director. “This is a dream team,” said Irvin.Cini has worked in some of the finest restaurants in the area, including the Columbus Inn and Domaine Hudson. He also served as sous chef at highly acclaimed Philadelphia restaurants Stock and Res Ipsa Café before making waves by cooking at the prestigious James Beard House in New York. His culinary expertise led him to open Mezze by Del Fresco, a popular spot in Kennett Square's Market at Liberty Place. Cini also gained valuable banquet experience at the trendsetting Terrain eatery in Glen Mills.
Travis has spent 20 years in the restaurant industry in the United States and abroad. The Midwesterner’s French mother taught him the art of hospitality at the family’s legendary dinner parties. While studying management at Tulane University, Travis worked in some of New Orleans’ leading restaurants. In 2017, Travis played a key role in the development of a luxury hotel and restaurant in the Catskill Mountains, followed by leadership positions in hospitality at Soho House New York, overseeing house openings in the US and Europe; and, most recently, contributing to the launch of Christian’s by Wölffer Estate Vineyard, an upscale eatery in the Hamptons. Unruh is a familiar face on Delaware’s dining scene. The Kennett Square native, whose parents were in the hospitality business, has more than 35 years of experience, including positions at George Perrier’s Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia and the renowned Park Avenue Café in New York.
Unruh played a pivotal role in launching The Farmers Daughter in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, and 1906, Logwood Garden’s full-service restaurant. The versatile veteran was also a sous chef at Half Moon Saloon in Kennett Square. Unruh also contributed to the success of Bardea Food & Drink in Wilmington, which has received multiple James Beard nominations. The graduate of The Wine School of Philadelphia holds beginner and intermediate sommelier certifications.
For more info on what will surely be Wilmington’s newest dining hotspot, go to thebrandywinebar.com. For updates, visit facebook.com/profile.php?id=61550308960774 or follow @thebrandywinede on Instagram. To make reservations, log onto eatapp.co/reserve/the-brandywine-2000-pennsylvania-avenue.