“It’s not so difficult coming up with new menu items,” says chef Brian Wilson. “It’s difficult applying them to where you are.”
After spending time at some of the D.C.-area’s top restaurants, where Wilson is now is Mad Fox Brewing Company. As the new executive chef, Wilson took over the kitchen of the Falls Church brew pub this past March and has since been revamping its menu using his 11+ years of restaurant experience.
An Annandale-native, Wilson was most recently the Chef de Cuisine at Montmartre on Capitol Hill and has quite the resume. Prior to Montmartre, he led the kitchen at Arlington’s Tallula Restaurant, worked under James Beard award-winning chef Frank Ruta at Palena in Cleveland Park and was sous chef at Falls Church fine dining favorite, 2941. But Mad Fox is an altogether different challenge for Wilson.
“You have to approach a brew pub differently,” he says. “The focus is different. The service is different.” Wilson says he enjoys being able to use Mad Fox’s beers in his recipes but since the supply is limited, once a batch of beer is done, the special goes along with it. Plus, when the beer list is made up entirely of in-house brews, it’s up to the chef to figure out what foods pair well with them.
One of those beer-and-food pairing changes was the addition of pâté as an appetizer. “Charcuterie belongs on a pub menu,” says Wilson, whose rustic pork pâté combines pork and chicken liver and is served with house grain mustard, pickled vegetables and toasted bread.
Not only is the new cuisine and format a challenge, but when joining a popular restaurant with an established following, Wilson says it’s important that changes don’t alienate customers. As such, the pizzas remain, though with minor tweaks to the dough and sauce to better accommodate the kitchen’s ovens. He also got rid of some menu items he said didn’t make sense. “They just didn’t belong,” he says, referring to a culmination of dishes from previous Mad Fox chefs.
In keeping with the warmer weather, Wilson has added a selection of seasonal plates including a lineup of new salads, a cucumber-melon gazpacho and a carrot linguine entree. “Spring is here,” he says. “I wanted to freshen things up.”
Other new items reflect Wilson’s excitement to work more with fish. A sautéed swordfish dish with a tomato-shellfish vinaigrette is now on the dinner menu and a crispy skate sandwich topped with pancetta and a caper tartar sauce is available all day. More seafood added by the chef include calamari fritto misto and a shrimp salad with goat cheese and a sherry vinegar dressing.
Helping with the Mad Fox changeover is Wilson’s new sous chef Treeven Dove who he brought with him to Falls Church after the two previously worked together at The Oval Room in D.C. He says their familiarity with one another and use of the same terms in the kitchen have helped make the transition easier.
Along with the new menu items, Wilson also creates a lineup of weekly food specials which debut every Tuesday to coincide with Mad Fox’s regular Tuesday beer tappings. This week’s specials include coconut curry mussels, crispy soft shell crab and a ribeye.
Mad Fox Brewing Company is located at 444 W. Broad St. in Falls Church.