Arlington, VA

(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) Arlington’s newest stop for tacos is holding a soft opening tonight (Friday) in Clarendon.

Tacos, Tortas, and Tequila (TTT) is the colorful creation of serial restauranteur Ivan Iricanin, who also owns Ambar and Baba across the street. Iricanin modeled the menu after Mexico City’s street food.

Starting Friday and continuing through Sunday, Iricanin says TTT will test out a limited version of its new menu with a dozen types of tacos available to order in groups of three. TTT will serve patrons from 4 p.m. until 1 a.m. tonight, he said.

The new restaurant’s soft opening continues this weekend, with TTT serving up taco combos Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

“The goal is to be a neighborhood gathering spot,” Iricanin told ARLnow Friday morning, gesturing to the downstairs bar where he hopes people will order drinks, food, and bring books or laptops to hang out.

Eventually, he plans to open TTT for brunch seven days a week, keeping the taco eatery open from 7 a.m.

TTT occupies the ground floor of the giant, three-story homage to Mexican cuisine that Iricanin opened in what used to be La Tasca at 2900 Wilson Blvd. A mural of traditional Mexican motifs adorns the new eatery’s open kitchen in the style of Diego Rivera, and murals along the wall help guide patrons to the right floor.

The concept is similar to the Iricanin’s Silver Spring TTT, but he says the new spot will be unique because of a a collaboration struck with famed Mexican chef Gerardo Vázquez Lugo of the award-winning Nicos restaurant in Mexico City. With Chef Lugo’s help, the theme of the Clarendon building’s three restaurants — TTT, Buena Vida, and Buena Vida Social Club — is traditional Mexican food not altered for American palates.

“What I learned from Ambar is if you stay true to the roots and present the culture you can’t go wrong,” said Iricanin.

Upstairs from TTT is Buena Vida, a sit-down restaurant that opened Monday with a focus on what Iricanin called “indigenous recipes” of traditional family-style cooking in Mexico. Waiters prepare caesar salads and guacamole fresh at patron’s tables using  rolling side carts that line the edges of the spacious room overlooking Wilson Blvd and N. Fillmore Street.

Buena Vida’s menu features cold starters like tropical ceviche with tuna, cucumber and pineapple and classic starters like queso fundido served with herbs and tortillas made in-house. Entrees are a mix of meat and seafood dishes, like a Yucatan recipe for duck cooked in a pumpkin seed sauce.

The rooftop floor will host a third restaurant and bar space newly named “Buena Vida Social Club” and is still under construction. Iricanin says he hopes to open it in late April.

“It’s a challenge opening one restaurant. We’re opening three,” Iricanin admits.

He plans to also seat patrons on patios outside Buena Vida and TTT come early summer, pending better weather and sidewalk seating permits. With the patios, the three-story establishment will be able to seat a combined 345 people.

Despite the “tequila” in the name, Iricanin says he’s focusing on growing the restaurant’s wine selection. At the moment he says he’s importing craft wines from Mexico’s Baja region to pair with the menu, and hired a sommelier from Mexico City to help make the selection for Clarendon.

“Their wine culture is growing, there are amazing wines there,” said Iricanin. “My goal is by the end of the year to have 50 to 80 wines.”

Other future plans include using the 190 inch projection screen installed in front of TTT’s mural for game nights during the World Cup, or black and white movies on Fridays.

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