After Hours in Arlington
We're fans of Arlington -- we spend most of our work week here -- so we were as psyched as anyone for some new happy hour options nearby. Here's our take on the after-work scene at Domaso and Spider Kelly's.
Domaso has been serving contemporary Italian meals in Rosslyn's swanky Hotel Palomar since the fall, but last month, the restaurant opened an outdoor terrace for lunch, dinner and happy hour. Tables and chairs (including a few padded seats) are set amid flower boxes on a big patio that stretches between the Palomar and a nearby office building.
The current cocktail menu consists of refreshing summer drinks made with fresh fruits and veggies, including the Breva, which finds cucumber muddled with cucumber-infused Hendrick's gin and topped with apple juice -- think of it as a vegetable-themed gin-and-juice -- and the Raspberry Crush, where crushed basil and raspberries add a savory edge to Milagro tequila.
As you might expect from a place that's primarily a restaurant, happy hour snacks -- small plates called stuzzichini -- are of higher quality than you'd find at most bars. The caprese fritta dish was a refined Mediterranean take on mozzarella sticks, with fried cheese rounds sandwiched between roma tomatoes, roasted peppers and capers. We also sampled a delicious dish of gorgonzola-and-caramelized-shallot-topped crostini. The stuzzichini are $5 from 4 to 7 on weekdays, and the entire dinner menu is available as well for those looking for more sustenance.
The Palomar's location affords it a lovely view, but you can only catch a glimpse of it on Domaso's terrace. The tables are penned in close to the dining room, so even though you can see the Georgetown skyline in the distance, you can't see the water unless you leave your table (and Domaso's portion of the patio) and walk over to the edge. Flights on their way to National Airport roar overhead on a regular basis, though for cocktails and food, we can live with the noise.
Spider Kelly's is promoting itself as the antithesis of the polo-and-khakis Clarendon scene. "come as you are," encourages its Web site. "no dress code. no cover. ever." (Or capital letters, it seems.) Under an artfully distressed logo and photos of dope graffiti, Spider Kelly's manifesto promises to be open until 2 a.m. daily.
So were surprised to discover that Spider -- tucked onto the same block as Clarendon Ballroom and Liberty Tavern -- is about as punk rock as Urban Outfitters. Slick leather booths and tall tables with leather chairs are arranged along the slate-gray walls, and the dining room is covered with a soft Bordeaux-colored carpet. The place's attempt at counterculture is to display graffiti -- in framed photographs -- above some tables.
That's not to say it doesn't have its good points -- the leather stools are comfy, the large, curved gray couch in the back is a great option for a big group, and the "seat yourself" policy means you can choose your whether you want a cozy booth or a larger table for your crew.
The menu's heavy on snacks, including burgers, salads, po' boys and sides like fries and mac and cheese. Burgers -- especially the Spider Burger, which is cooked in pork fat -- are great, though beware of the upsell: cheese and your better toppings are an additional $1 each. The pulled chicken flautas were a particular treat; the avocado/cilantro cream sauce was so good, Julia found herself sopping it up with french fries.
What we found, though, is that the place isn't set up to handle congestion well, which means a Thursday or Friday happy hour can turn chaotic. Most of bar is positioned right across from the front door, which leads to logjams as new customers enter into the pile of people trying to get their beers and cocktails. Seeing the "seat yourself" signs, customers wander back into the dining room to see if any tables are available, then head back to the thin bar area. The staff tries to help by setting up a waiting list -- look for someone with a clipboard -- but there's really not enough room for more than a few couples to wait if there aren't stools.
Prices also seem high -- $6 for a bottle of Anchor Steam, burgers over $12 once you add a few toppings -- so you may want to stop in for happy hour. Monday has half-price burgers all night, and there are drink specials Tuesday through Friday from 5 to 8, including $3.50 microbrews (Tuesday) and $2 Budweiser, Bud Light and Miller Lite (Thursday).
Have you been to these places for happy hour? Add your thoughts in the comments below.
-- Fritz & Julia
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