Lydia owner, chef, and mixologist Victor Chizinga Credit: Elm Diaz

Victor Chizinga will use every square inch of his first restaurant and bar coming to H Street NE. Each floor of the former Halftime Sports Bar space will have a different vibe that he hopes will be welcoming to neighbors.

Find a casual bar downstairs where you can watch sports under bamboo chandeliers along with a tropical patio where the frozen drinks will flow. Upstairs holds a lounge for dinner and live music as well as a VIP room where bartenders will pour high-end spirits. The indoor downstairs area is scheduled to open first in December, with the other components to follow in early Spring 2022.  

Lydia is named after Chizinga’s late mother. Even though he lost her early in life, he’s carried her memory with him throughout his culinary and mixology career. “Because of who she was, I wanted to have a place that was an homage to her,” he says. “She used to cook 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 is keeping my mother alive.”

The menu is Afro-Caribbean with some American staples mixed in. Chizinga was born in Malawi and relishes visiting the Caribbean, with Jamaica being his most frequent destination. Look for entrées like jerk chicken, curry chicken, escovitch fish, and jollof rice. Downstairs will have more casual bar fare like catfish fingers, jerk chicken wings, and po’boys. (While only the downstairs is open, diners will be able to order from the full menu.)

You can expect top quality cocktails. Chizinga bartended in the local hospitality industry for about 15 years. “I worked pretty much everywhere on U Street,” he says. “My love of live music comes from Bohemian Caverns.” He also honed his craft while working at D.C.’s many night clubs and began teaching mixology classes in 2013. He says he’s taught more than 3,000 people, most of them novices, and he’ll continue offering classes out of Lydia. In fact, he’s already started. Sign up and you’ll get a preview of the space.

Chizinga also has a passion for cooking. His father owned bars and restaurants. “I grew up in the industry,” he says. He watched his dad hustle and wasn’t sure he wanted that life for himself, but he’s drawn to it. Chizinga went to culinary school in 2012 and simultaneously launched One Route Catering. His vision was to provide food for clubs and distilleries that didn’t have kitchens such as EDEN and One Eight Distilling. For the last two years that Bin 1301 was in business on U Street NW, Chizinga was behind the menu. 

Erin Davis, Chizinga’s fiancée, is a co-owner of Lydia and will serve as the general manager. The pair is hoping to create a jazz lounge feel in the upstairs dining room and are excited to bring in live music ensembles Thursdays through Sundays. A door will give way to what Chizinga describes as a speakeasy of sorts that members can join. Non-members will be able to enter if there’s space.

Chizinga says he’s always wanted to own his own bar or restaurant. He can’t wait for the first patrons to walk through the door.

Lydia, 1427 H St. NE; instagram.com/lydiaonhst

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