Although longtime R bistro sous chef Erin Kem took over the restaurant’s kitchen in the summer of 2014, Mehallick often found herself working weekends at the restaurant in addition to launching the carry-out and specialty food market late that year at 1101 N. College Ave.
“It’s time,” Mehallick said about her decision to close R bistro Feb. 27 after 15 years at 888 Massachusetts Ave. “I don’t want to be working this much. I’m not sick or anything. But back and forth – it’s just too much.”
The award-wining chef, a five-time James Beard Award semifinalist, said she simply needs more time for herself.
“The only way I can have more time is by closing R bistro,” she said. The business is for sale, although not with the R bistro name.
Mehallick opened R bistro on the far end of Massachusetts Avenue in 2001, long before the street became a dining destination.
“I knew I was going into a location that was somewhat obscure,” she said, noting that the difference between then and now is “night and day.”
Kem, who has been at R bistro for much of its 15-year tenure, said she’s saddened by the closing, but points out “what a positive, somewhat pioneering mark we made on the city.”
Mehallick was indeed a pioneer, both for her commitment to Massachusetts Avenue as well as for her efforts to use local, seasonal ingredients. Mehallick was the recipient in 2013 of the Ross Faris Award for her support of local farmers and producers, and R bistro has won many “best of” awards over the years.
“I think it was a great run,” said Greg Hardesty, chef/owner at Recess. “Longer than most of us could ever hope for. I’m happy for her, being able to get out while still able to stand proud and enjoy her life.”
Local chef Neal Brown of Pizzology and the Libertine Liquor Bar, also had high praise for Mehallick.
“Regina is the consummate professional, and I’m honored that I’ve been able to cook with her,” Brown said. “A chef can only hope that our restaurants make people’s lives a little happier, and R bistro definitely achieved that goal.”
R bistro fans can still get Mehallick’s food for carry-out at her R2GO market. And she won’t rule out the possibility of opening another restaurant. In fact, it’s the rush of a busy dinner service that she’ll miss the most.
“I’m not going to be able to cook on the line anymore, and that’s the most fun of all,” she said. “I love doing that.”
— Jolene Ketzenberger