Somehow Mark and I keep finding ourselves in northern Virginia. We've even established a kind of Saturday tradition - set up shop at Northside Social for a few hours to do some work, then head to a nearby restaurant for dinner with friends. Last weekend, we met up with friends Adam, Stephanie, and Sara at EatBar, adjacent to Tallulah in Arlington. From word of mouth, the self-proclaimed "American Gastropub" is a favorite among neighborhood residents for its whimsical and fun atmosphere - for example, the restaurant hosts a movie night every Sunday night at 8, as well as a cartoon brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.
Walking into the dark interior, our first impression was that the restaurant was so cold, Mark was shivering throughout the entire meal. Nevertheless, I liked the vibe - laid-back (you seat yourself), relaxed - it has a very "neighborhood watering hole" feel that I appreciated.
Once we were all snuggled into a booth, we began navigating the sort of confusing menu, which is broken down into categories like "snacks," "fritters," "red apron," "veggies," and "bigs." Since we weren't exactly sure how big portions were in the various categories, we just decided to start ordering and go from there. We started with an excellent assortment of cheeses (below); unfortunately, I couldn't even begin to tell you what they all were - we left it up to our friendly and accomodating server to make a selection for us. The cheeses were accompanied by slices of crusty bread and a nice assortment of veggies.
From the "snacks" section, I ordered the onion rings (below), a fairly substantial offering for just $3, and top-notch, too. The rings were not too oily, crunchy, and light, and were the perfect medium for transporting the yummy herby aioli into my mouth.
All being fans of the fried, our party ordered at least one of each of the fritter offerings: the bacalao (salt cod with lemon aioli), the falafel (chickpea with tzatziki), the dirty risotto (jalapeño and scallions), and the Chesapeake crab. Each fritter was nestled on a little bed of complementary aioli. The dirty risotto fritter was the big winner, but all of them were very rich - more than a couple and you risk filling too quickly.
We continued on our ordering death march, getting (clockwise from the bottom) the smoked lardo, the cherry tomato salad (with mozzarella and basil), the beet and feta salad, a couple more of the diry risotto fritters and a Sloppy Joey Slider, slathered with BBQ Pork Shoulder and house pickle. Of these, I only had the smoked lardo, which was gloriously fatty and nicely seasoned. But again, everyone seemed to enjoy their dishes.
For my entree, I got the mussels, with chilis, white wine, herbs, and fries (below). While it was not the most original dish of mussels I've ever had, it was very nice, although I wish the chilis would have imparted a little more heat. Nevertheless, the fries were excellent (the ideal amount of crispy), and I got a surprisingly big portion of everything for $12.
Mark and Adam split an order of the chicken & waffles, served with braised collards, gravy and syrup. The chicken could've used a little more gravy, but the boys both made due. When it was all said and done, a few leftover crumbs were the only remaining evidence that they enjoyed the dish.
All said, we had a very good time at EatBar. We loved the playful menu, relaxed atmosphere, and reasonable prices, and all of the food was solid, if not outstanding. While I don't think I'd travel to NoVa solely for EatBar, it's definitely going to be on my short-list of options for dinner next time Mark and I make a Northside Social trip.