Lydia, which serves Afro-Caribbean dishes and cocktails, debuts in December
Victor Chiizinga will use every square inch of its first upcoming restaurant and bar in H Street NE. Each floor of the old Half-time sports bar the space will have a different vibe which he hopes will be welcoming to the neighbors.
Find a relaxed bar downstairs where you can watch sports under bamboo chandeliers as well as a tropical patio where frozen drinks will flow. Upstairs is a lounge for dinner and live music as well as a VIP room where bartenders will serve premium spirits. The interior ground floor area is slated to open for the first time in December, with other components to follow in early spring 2022.
Lydia is named after Chizinga’s late mother. Even though he lost her early in his life, he kept her memory with him throughout his culinary and mixology career. “Because of who she was, I wanted to have a place to honor her,” he says. “She cooked a lot of dishes and when I was younger I had a few that were my favorites that will be on the menu. This concept keeps my mom alive.
The menu is Afro-Caribbean with a few mixed American dishes. Chizinga was born in Malawi and loves to visit the Caribbean, Jamaica being his most frequent destination. Look for entrees like jerk chicken, chicken curry, escovitch fish, and jollof rice. Downstairs you’ll find more casual bar fare like catfish fingers, jerk chicken wings, and po’boys. (Although only the ground floor is open, diners will be able to order from the full menu.)
You can expect top quality cocktails. Chiizinga has worked as a bar in the local hospitality industry for around 15 years. “I worked all over U Street,” he says. “My love of live music comes from Bohemian Caves. “He also honed his craft by working in DC’s many nightclubs and started teaching mixology in 2013. He says he has taught over 3,000 people, most of them novices, and that he will continue to offer lessons from Lydia. In fact, he has already started. Sign up and you will have a preview of the space.
Chiizinga also has a passion for cooking. His father owned bars and restaurants. “I grew up in the industry,” he says. He watched his father scramble and wasn’t sure he wanted this life for himself, but he was drawn to it. Chiizinga went to culinary school in 2012 and simultaneously launched A restoration route. His vision was to provide food for clubs and distilleries that did not have kitchens such as EDEN and One Eight Distillation. For two years this Tray 1301 was in business on U Street NW, Chizinga was behind the menu.
Erin davis, Chizinga’s fiancée, is co-owner of Lydia and will be its general manager. The duo hope to create a jazz lounge vibe in the upstairs dining room and are delighted to bring in live music ensembles Thursday through Sunday. A door will give way to what Chiizinga describes as a sort of underground bar that members can join. Non-members will be able to enter if there is room.
Chiizinga says he always wanted to own his own bar or restaurant. He can’t wait for the first customers to walk through the door.
Lydia, 1427 H St. NE; instagram.com/lydiaonhst