We’ve been spending a lot of time eating and sipping in Clarendon lately and with good reason. This yuppie playground is becoming a pleasant destination for quality food in a relaxed setting. Lyon Hall is upping the ante with their new French-infused gastropub on Washington Boulevard, in the old Dan Kain trophy shop space.

I suspect the name Lyon Hall is supposed to hark to the French city and its regional influences to be found on the menu. Unfortunately, it makes me think of dudes my grandpa’s age hanging out in funny hats and planning the big summer BBQ fundraiser. Luckily, this is not at all the crowd you’ll find inside the restaurant.  The bar is consistently full of revelers taking in the seasonal cocktails. For my dinner visit and recent drive-bys, the crowd has been decidedly Clarendonian, maybe swinging a few years older than the average eatery in the neighborhood.

While the menu has French overtones, it actually struck me as more Alsatian to me, which is a good thing when done right. And in this case, it is a very very good thing. Imagine an entire section dedicated to housemade charcuterie. The fantastic Hungarian lamb sausage entree I sampled on my first visit earlier this spring was a fun surprise in both flavor and execution, with the paprika seasoning finished just so to give the tender meat an earthy spice. The sausage was served in a shareable plate style, with the charcuterie cut into three smaller pieces, delicately piled on toast points with a warm fingerling potato salad.[Apologies for the lack of photo – my light was terrible and all the pics are too fuzzy for posting.]


santa-stachowskiDear strangers: Apparently I learned nothing about just how dangerous you and your shady vehicles can be while I was growing up.  How else do I explain my recent habit of jumping at the chance whenever I hear the foodie equivalent of “Hey kid – want some candy?”

Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to end anytime soon.  My previous experience with Pipe Dreams chevre and my trip to a parking lot just off of Route 50 to buy charcuterie from Chef Jamie Stachowski in December have been unqualified wins.  With food this good coming out of vans and beat up old Isuzu Troopers, who needs Harris Teeter?

On the Sunday morning before Christmas, I was randomly checking out Don Rockwell when I came across a topic labeled “Stachowski Charcuterie.”  Intrigued, I opened up the thread and found a message from Chef Stachowski giving a time, place and password for people to meet up with him and purchase some of his amazing cured and uncured meats.

stachowski-salami“Would you mind if I took a quick run out to Arlington to buy meat from the back of a truck?” I asked Elizabeth.


In most households, this one word response would be delivered with a tone that said, “What could possibly make you think this is a good idea, regardless of who the chef is?”  Thankfully, Elizabeth was just as taken with the concept as I was, so the real subtext was more along the lines of “Why would you even waste the time to ask me about such an obviously good idea?” 

With an eager smile (mine) and a bemused smirk (hers) I headed out.  What awaited me was about as surreal as you might expect. (more…)

thirsty-bernie-exterior<<EDIT, 12/8 @ 3:30 PM:  On Friday, several sources reported that Chef Jamie Stachowski’s with Thirsty Bernie was not renewed when it expired on November 30th.  Even more disturbing, Washingtonian’s Best Bites blog quotes Stachowski as saying that owner Steve Sadeghian is planning to focus on “convenience cooking” and will be buying much of his food pre-made. 

Sounds like the things that made Thirsty Bernie stand out among sports bars is now gone, so please do not consider this review reflective of the current restaurant when deciding whether or not to visit.>>

Sports bar.  Strip mall.  Northern Virginia.  Sounds awesome, right?  Generally speaking, this is not a combination that screams “destination dining.”  But if you haven’t heard by now, Thirsty Bernie is no run-of-the-mill sports bar.  It’s a showcase for a chef who made a name for himself downtown and who now has carte blanche to indulge his creativity in an unlikely venue.

I never did make it to Restaurant Kolumbia, so I can’t wax rhapsodic about the way Chef Jamie Stachowski used to impress upscale diners with his charcuterie and his novel takes on classics.  Having experienced Thirsty Bernie with my father recently, however, I can definitely see what everyone is talking about. 

This is a place that takes meat, beer and sports seriously.  And since there are very few places that simultaneously do all three well, it warrants a visit from even the most NoVAphobic Washingtonian.

So what the heck is a ‘weck?  Find out after the jump. (more…)