William Jeffrey’s Tavern may have opened just last month, but the décor of this Columbia Pike restaurant will have diners thinking it comes from a different era altogether.
Broad murals cover walls in the spacious dining room. The paintings, crafted by artist Tom Mullany, represent an imagined Arlington from the Prohibition era of the 1920s, full of speakeasies and drinking revelers.
With spartan tables and chairs, some revealing the wood’s rough grain, and copper-tiled ceilings, the speakeasy is cleverly reimagined in the restaurant. Modern-day conveniences, like several large flat-screen televisions and an expansive 16-tap bar – with bottles and bottles of liquor in plain sight – are useful lapses in the well-executed theme.
Though its ample alcohol offerings and decor are highlights, the menu of upscale American fare – like that of its sister restaurant, Falls Church City’s Dogwood Tavern – steals the show.
Appetizers run the gamut from bar fare must-haves like nachos ($10) and chicken wings ($9.50) to seafood delicacies like oysters on the half shell ($11 for six).
The calamari ($10) appetizer is an excellent foray into the seafood-heavy entrees menu. Pieces of squid, lightly coated and fried for crunch, are served alongside a cilantro-chili aioli that balances tangy flavors and mild heat as a nice accent to the seafood pieces, which are already fresh and flavorful in their own right.
The soups, salads, wraps, and sandwiches available are lighter fare, the Doll-It-Up Grillers ($9.50 base price, more for add-ons) allowing diners to build their own burger with an assortment of toppings, and eight entrée picks offer full dinners with multiple sides for the healthier appetite.
Menu items like the Argentinian Hanger Steak ($21) and the Grilled Top Sirloin ($25) will satisfy carnivores in the crowd, but the menu features multiple seafood dishes, especially fish, in a variety of treatments.
The Creole Fried Catfish ($18) elevates the fish to its southern-cooking place of honor. In the dish, strips of catfish are served in a savory, crunchy-fried coating with a side of red pepper remoulade. Rounding out the down-home meal are fried sides of massive mixed vegetable hush puppies, grilled green tomato slices, and collard greens, each hitting the right comfort-food flavors.
The Pan-Fried Flounder ($23) goes gourmet, serving a large piece of the crumb-coated fish with a side of truffle gribiche, plated atop a bed of mashed sweet potato and alongside a helping of sauteed Swiss chard. While certain sides dishes accompany each entree, the restaurant offers some sides at $6 apiece in portions “for the table” – as such, no one need miss out on dishes like the must-have macaroni and cheese, a dish with great cheese flavors and a delightful texture of tender noodles in a crunchy crumb topping.
With a solid menu of both food and drink, diners looking for the flair of a 1920s pub experience with none of the Prohibition-era illegality may have found their new watering hole at William Jeffrey’s Tavern.
William Jeffrey’s Tavern is located at 2301 Columbia Pike, #101, Arlington. For more information, call 703-746-6333 or visit williamjeffreystavern.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Sunday: 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.