To get a sense of The Greene Turtle's commitment to the neighborhood, one need only sit at the bar and look up. Dozens of mugs hang above the counter, emblazoned with the pub's logo and a unique number—each one belongs to a recurring patron. The Mug Club awards its members with draft-beer discounts and other specials, but more importantly, it allows loyal patrons to feel as though they own small slices of the venue without tattooing their names on the bartender's arm. This sense of shared familiarity is what fuels the entire franchise, which refrains from calling its locations "restaurants" in favor of friendlier terms: gathering places, communities, havens.
Many of the locations contribute more than mugs to their districts. Staff members who participate in the annual Tips for Tots program donate the entirety of one day's tips to a nearby Toys for Tots initiative, and Tuesday Funds for Friends events benefit local organizations. These efforts have been chronicled by press sources such as Food and Drink magazine, with features that liken The Greene Turtles' philanthropic generosity to the generous portions of comfort food that leave the kitchens.
From cheeseburger sliders and flatbread pizzas to handmade lump-crab cakes, the offerings on the menu embrace barroom traditions along with ingenuity. The steak and chicken entrees arrive with classic sides of green beans and yukon gold mashed potatoes, whereas the eastern shore mac ‘n’ cheese updates a comfort staple with chopped bacon, lump crab, scallions, and Old Bay seasoning. Diners can enjoy their meals by the glow of private flat-screen TVs—there's one in every booth—or beneath one of many larger televisions broadcasting sports games throughout the venue.
Park Lane Tavern mimics the feel of European taverns inside and out, from an exterior that pays homage to London taverns to interior furnishings directly imported from Europe. Like a hot dog curtseying to the queen, the menu blends American staples with traditions from across the pond, juxtaposing steaks and club sandwiches with shepherd's pie and fish 'n' chips. Behind a gleaming handcrafted bar, bartenders dole out pints of the tavern's more than 24 beers on tap and pour glasses of wine, single-malt scotches, and small-batch bourbons.
El Cactus manages to cook up a taco for any occasion. From breakfast tacos served at brunch with a fried egg tucked cozily inside a tortilla, to the fried turkey taco with cranberry sauce and stuffing, the Manassas joint finds plenty of ways to liven up the piquant culinary staple. But the most festive day of all is simply Tuesday. Weekly Taco Tuesdays see the restaurant's many house tacos?Angus, chicken, brisket, fish, fried fish, and Korean?on special, with of-the-moment tacos popping up for a delicious day at a time before fading back into the Tex-Mex ether from which they came. Burgers, fajitas, and local beers fill out the menu, with treats such as ice cream and fried tequila helping end meals on a high note.
The chefs at Desiderio Italian-American Grill hand-roll meatballs, sprinkle spices into the house marina, and fill plates with ravioli shells. They craft every dish using the family recipes of owners Rick Marrero and Victor Rodriguez, creating ricotta cheesecake and Grandma Joanie's meatballs, which blend veal, pork, and beef. What isn't crafted in-house is still handmade—the cannolis arrive fresh from Artuso Pastry, a bakery in the Little Italy neighborhood of the Bronx. The restaurant's dining space extends to an outdoor patio, which shades patrons with an awning, trees, and a cumulus cloud tethered to the roof.
Get a hometown hello without running into your old prom date (unless you went to Clifton High) with today's deal for salivary savories in a small-town atmosphere. With today's Groupon, $10 gets you $20 worth of pub grub and drinks at The Main Street Pub. Housed in a quaint green clapboard building with bright white trim, this family business in Clifton is pulled up next to the only remaining railroad crossing in Fairfax County. Camp out at a cozy table amid the hunter green walls and watch the game on TV, chat with regulars about the weather, or perch on a barstool with a drink and chat with the friendly staff about your favorite living castmembers of Veronica's Closet.
Oftentimes, there's just one choice to be made with pizza?which toppings to put on it. At Coal Fire, however, the decision process starts before that, as the restaurant offers three original sauces. Guests can choose from a classic plum-tomato version, a spicy sauce, or their signature blend with sweet and spicy notes. Cooks then ladle the chosen sauce onto aged, homemade dough that's crisped in a 900-degree oven fired with anthracite coal. This process gives the crust a crisp, charred flavor reminiscent of a Neapolitan pie or the Human Torch's steering wheel.
The pizzas are hardly the only distinctive item on the menu, though. Chicken wings are oven-baked?not fried?with seasoning and roasted onions. Flash-fried calamari is tossed with sweet and hot peppers, and baked mac 'n' cheese is studded with lump crab meat. All the while, bartenders fill glasses with wine and craft beers, which guests can enjoy at the bar or on the outdoor patio.