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Celebrity chef Timothy Dean to open burger restaurant in Largo

LARGO — When his deal to open a bistro at National Harbor fell through in 2010, Timothy Dean wasn’t ready to give up on having a restaurant in the county where he grew up.

The former contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef: D.C.” scoured Prince George’s for another site, even though there were loose ends at National Harbor.

“All of my money was tied up at National Harbor,” said Dean, who remains locked in a lawsuit with the Peterson Cos., owner of National Harbor, for allegedly failing to give him money for the build out. Officials at the company did not return calls for comment. “But I got together with my father … and started looking.”

Dean turned his attention to Boulevard at the Capital Centre, a 485,564-square-foot shopping complex in Largo, where at the time, there were two empty restaurant sites.

Both were stripped of all the kitchen equipment and fixtures that Dean needed. Pumping a lot of cash into a space was not an option. The chef kept looking. A few months later, officials at the Boulevard called him to say Reggiano’s Gourmet Market was vacating and leaving its equipment.

The chef jumped at the chance and signed a lease for Timothy Dean Burger, which is scheduled to open Saturday.

“Largo has great demographics,” said Dean, who poured about $120,000 into the new space. “There are a lot of chain restaurants out here doing good numbers.”

Gourmet burgers and pizza are a departure for Dean, an acolyte of French culinary legend Jean-Louis Palladin. Fast-casual fare, however, has long been on his to-do list.

“T.D. Burger had been in the pipeline for about three years, as I played around with menu ideas,” he said. “I’ve always been in fine dining, but I realized that people are just not spending that kind of money anymore.”

Burgers at the new 50-seat restaurant will start at $6.50. The menu will feature selections named after politicians, including the Obama burger: topped with melted sweet Maui onions, Swiss cheese, honey mustard and fresh watercress.

Dean has had a number professional setbacks.

His holding company, T.D. Bistro Inc., filed for bankruptcy in 2010, shortly after his restaurant in Baltimore, T.D. Lounge, shuttered. Dean reopened a steakhouse, Prime, in the same location, but sold it in the fall.

Like Dean, the Boulevard, once a celebrated symbol of development in Prince George’s, fell on hard times in recent years.

The center still deals with questions about safety after shootings that occurred in the early 2000s. And a series of corporate bankruptcies robbed it of Linens ‘n Things, Circuit City and Borders bookstore.

HHGregg, TGI Fridays and a smattering of smaller retailers have absorbed much of the vacant spaces, bringing occupancy up to 87 percent, said Kenneth Baker, general manager at Inland Western Retail Real Estate, owner of the property.

“We’re really excited about what’s happening here as the market turns around,” he said. “We’re hoping to find more innovative retailers that will add new brands to the center.”

Residents, such as Arthur Turner, say the project has fallen short of their expectations, with too many restaurants (17 in total) and not enough boutiques.

“Having Timothy Dean sign on is great,” said Turner, president of the Coalition of Central Prince George’s Community Organizations. “But the Boulevard is viewed as a place to eat, not a place to shop, and there needs to be a marriage of the two.”