Mussel Bar by Robert Wiedmaier

If you’re wishing to hop on a plane to Europe but simply don’t have the time or money, hop on the red line to Bethesda instead.

Here you will find Robert Wiedmaier’s new venture, Mussel Bar by Robert Wiedmaier. Stepping inside, you’ll feel as if you’re transported to a loud and friendly German or Belgian pub.

Mussel Bar doesn’t take reservations, so be prepared to wait a bit for a table if you arrive at peak times. Don’t worry about boredom setting in while you wait, though. The friendly wait staff is ready to help you with all your beer-related needs.

At first, Mussel Bar’s gigantic beer menu might seem menacing, but once you figure out what kind you’re interested in, (blond ale, wheat ale, etc.) you’ll be ready to sip traditional Belgian beers.

Once you’re seated, the restaurant’s menu is very simple. You have your choice of salads, soups, wood fired tarts (Belgian pizzas), entrees and, of course, mussels. Start your meal with a Belgian endive salad with caramelized walnuts, Anjou pears and Stilton cheese. Follow up with the Chimay mussels with shallots, garlic, bacon and a traditional Maryland twist: Old Bay seasoning. The Old Bay adds something different to the other flavors of the dish.

The classic mussels served in Mussel Bar’s sister restaurant Brasserie Beck are also served. They’re the perfect choice if you’re new to dining on mollusks. Other options include a Thai-themed mussels dish with green curry or mussels served with tikka masala with chicken, bell peppers and Indian spices.

Every bowl of mussels is served with Wiedmaier’s classic Belgian frites with three different dipping sauces. The mayo dipping sauce is so tasty you might consider yourself asking for more frites to finish it.

If mussels aren’t exactly your favorite food, Mussel Bar has a hidden gem: its Maine lobster roll. For $16, the same price as a bowl of mussels, a roll bursting with fresh tasty lobster meat is placed in front of you. The sandwich is served with a heaping portion of some of the best sweet potato fries in town.

A favorite pairing with Wiedmaier’s traditional Belgian fare is the Hoegaarden, a wheat ale. Light and pale, it’s an excellent accompaniment to a lobster roll and fries. For those interested in a strong, dark ale, try the Rochefort. With a 9.2 percent alcohol by volume, it will certainly pack a punch.

If you still have room after your main course, try the vanilla crème brulee with crystallized ginger. Cool and creamy with a hint of ginger, it’s the perfect ending to your European meal.

Mussel Bar is perfect to grab a bite before or after a movie at one of Bethesda’s theaters. Also, breakfast is served for early risers. Crepes, various types of egg dishes and a wood fired tart with ham, eggs, caramelized onion, béchamel sauce and Gruyere cheese dot the menu. Paired with fresh-squeezed mimosas or house-made Bloody Mary’s and you’re ready for a day of shopping around Bethesda.