Founded three decades ago by a group of friends that simply wanted barbecue, jazz, and a place to sit, Red Hot & Blue grew from its original Arlington location to the robust chain it is today, spreading southern flavors and hospitality to the north. As hickory smoke wafts from kitchen grills, chefs slather sweet barbecue sauces and massage dry spices into ribs, pork, and brisket slow roasted for hours until melty and tender. The sound of classic blues tunes drifts from speakers, and the paraphernalia of the genre's greatest talents bedeck every inch of the walls, from instruments wielded by famous hands to the rock on which Mamie Smith stubbed her toe before emitting the world's first blues croon.:m]]
At Genghis Grill, cooks stir-fry more than 70 fresh ingredients to make healthy, flavorful bowls loaded with proteins and vegetables. Diners can mix and match ingredients to create customized feasts, or choose signature dishes such as the Thai Chicken bowl with chicken, veggies, and udon noodles in red curry peanut sauce. Nutrition-focused heart-healthy bowls, developed with the help of a dietitian, feature flavor combinations such as Sichuan-style bamboo beef or ginger-citrus shrimp.
In the kitchens of Brasas Rotisserie & Grill, El Salvador native Claudia Rivas brings culinary touches learned across Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Peru to her preparation of saffron-infused paella and chilean sea bass. The grill's slate of Latin-American dishes "couldn't be more different from the chicken fingers and burgers served at all the places around it," according to a 2012 review in the Washington Post Express_. Reviewer Kristen Page-Kirby singled out the ceviche, as well as the "wine-infused, chewy steak-and-potatoes dish called solomillo al jerez." Elsewhere on the menu, meaty combination plates recall Brazilian-style churrascaria, setting Angus steak and barbecue ribs alongside lobster tails, mussels, and andouille sausage.
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.
At Hollin Hall Pastry Shop, master saccharin sculptors craft a bevy of baked delights, from European pastries to carefully composed cakes and hand-rolled truffles, which have earned them a slew of accolades. Quell sweet teeth with layered cake slices ($3.50) such as the vanilla bavarian, layered with seasonal fruit; the german chocolate, filled with coconut and pecan filling; or the raspberry chocolate marquis, infused with pixie tears and friendship. Those seeking to mix snacks with sips can pick from an expansive selection of pastries, tarts, and truffles ($2.50+) to pair with coffees, lattes, and cappuccinos ($1.40–$4). The shop also offers an array of breakfasty treats, such as fresh muffins ($1.85) and warm, flaky croissants ($1.65–$1.95) who can never remember a birthday.
Chefs use grass-fed beef, cage-free chicken, and steroid-free pulled pork that hail from sustainable sources to craft a bounty of tortilla-wrapped treats that take their names from the likes of Caddyshack, Fletch, and Seinfeld. It's this dual mindset of serious food and irreverent attitude that tinges every one of the eatery's southwestern morsels, from the Art Vandalay burrito to the John Coctostan quesadilla. As the kitchen staff crafts their daily batch of guacamole to join the lineup of six zesty salsas, diners choose from a list of more than 20 ingredients to fill out the entree that will soon be conjured before their eyes. Because dishes are made to order, each finds easy customization for vegetarian, gluten free, and low-calorie diets, and the absence of microwaves, trans-fats, and MSG keep eats wholesome. Meanwhile, a complimentary accompaniment of chips and salsa turns portions into full meals faster than an industry-grade blow-up ray.