Falls Church got a new neighborhood bar this summer with the opening of Art’s Tavern. Located where Mark’s Pub once doled out brews, the tiny storefront of the bar is hidden away in a shopping plaza behind a larger shopping plaza off of Leesburg Pike. But still locals have found the new bar, as evidenced by a sizable gathering of patrons on a recent weekday happy hour – some playing darts, some grabbing a beer at the bar, some sitting at a few dining tables and sharing a meal.
Art’s Tavern has all the hallmarks of a neighborhood bar. The smell of beer is in the air, though not in an oppressive way. A big-screen TV stands at the ready to broadcast the big game or the evening news. Quirky tchotchkes can be found around the place – framed album covers and pop culture figurines – but they don’t dominate the classic pub décor: Dark-wood tables and chairs, and stud-lined leather bar stools at a long wooden bar with rows of liquor and glasses just waiting for an order. If the name weren’t a giveaway, this is absolutely a tavern in the long tradition of such watering holes, and the menu’s eats are well-suited pub grub.
Potato skins, jalapeño poppers, sliders – no beer-side appetizer is missing from the menu, and a $2 discount during happy hour is certainly an incentive to grab such a snack. The Chicken Wings ($7.75 for eight) are big and crispy, lightly coated with Buffalo sauce that gives them a mild heat and flavor. It takes more than the usual amount of force to dip these jumbo wings into the bowl of thick homemade blue cheese dressing that, with celery sticks, joins them on the plate.
Chili, in appetizers and entrées as well as on its own, is highlighted on the menu as a source of family pride, made bean-free and with Angus beef. You can get the stuff stacked onto a hot dog, a plate of spaghetti, some fries or tater tots, or simply in a cup or bowl. The Loaded Nachos ($9.95) see the chili slathered on tortilla chips below a blanket of melted cheddar-jack cheese, the whole dish sprinkled with chopped tomatoes and onion and served with a separate plate sporting a sour cream and salsa duo.
About a half-dozen entrées are offered as the main course of the meal, including homestyle favorites like grilled pork chops and seaside treats like crab cakes. The Fish and Chips ($9.95) comes with the diner’s choice of rockfish or cod, lightly breaded for crispy effect and served simply, with a cup of sweet and tangy tartar sauce. While fries would seem the proper order – it is fish and chips, after all – each entrée comes with the choice of two side dishes, from massive sweet potato waffle fries, tater tots, a sweet and lightly dressed coleslaw, kettle chips, fries (seasoned and unseasoned) or a side salad.
There’s more variety on the sandwich menu, with more than a dozen options including the Art’s Tavern Mesquite Bacon Burger ($9.95). It’s brought to the table open-face, giving diners a peek at the thick char-grilled Angus beef patty, the melted cheddar cheese, and the strips of crispy-crumbly fried bacon. It’s a big burger served on a thin sesame-seed bun that somehow manages to hang on to the juicy patty until the last bite. And that well-seasoned patty has a powerful flavor to which even the fatty bacon takes a backseat.
Dining at the local pub is about more than the food. Such locales are focused on creating a comfortable spot where grabbing a drink and sharing some laughs with friends comes naturally. The simplicity and the familiarity of the Art’s Tavern menu definitely play into that atmosphere, and manages to do so with attention paid to good flavors.
Art’s Tavern is located at 2190 Pimmit Drive, Falls Church. For more information, call 703-356-3822 or visit artstavern.com. Restaurant hours are Monday: 4 p.m. – 1 a.m.; Tuesday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 1 a.m.; Friday – Saturday: 11 p.m. – 2 a.m.; and Sunday: Noon – midnight.