When creating their inventive, American-style dishes, the chefs at Ironwood Tavern work with nearby growers and livestock producers to ensure only the freshest seasonal ingredients land in the kitchen's wood-fired grill. Beyond the artfully-presented meals, Ironwood Tavern prides itself on repeat diners. Staffers continuously work to create a friendly atmosphere where families feel right at home, even offering to realistically roll their eyes when parents say something totally lame.
Local food and good old-fashioned friendliness only make up two parts of Ironwood Tavern's three-pronged equation, though—the other component is unmistakably beer. Ironwood makes their passion for the hoppy beverage, local and otherwise, immediately apparent at the bar, which features 24 taps that pour a regularly rotating selection of craft beer. The tavern's dedication to great brews doesn't just stop at the draft handles, however—an on-staff craft beer expert actually works with the executive chef to help create dishes that thoroughly complement the bar's selection. Good beer is such a priority that sometimes, the development of a dish begins with the beer selection and goes "backwards" from there.
It's early in the day when the airplanes land on Virginia soil, bearing fresh seafood from such far-off places as Maine, Hawaii, and Japan. Lumbering trucks transport the cargo to the little town of Sterling, where Hooked Seafood & Sushi Bar chefs await to fillet and prepare the catches for the night's dinner. The sushi chefs carve plump morsels of eel, tuna, and scallops in traditional Japanese style before rolling them into intricate rolls adorned with mango, caviar, and tempura. Meanwhile, other chefs tend to grills of sizzling teriyaki dishes and simmering pans of lemongrass halibut and stuffed trout. The Hooked team has been crafting these fresh sushi dishes and innovative specialties for the last six years, earning accolades from Northern Virginia Magazine and Taste of Reston in the process.
Vibrant photographs of the chef's dishes flash across the flat screen in the sleek dining room, casting a glow on the tall stools that line the sushi bar. Cushy booths surround vibrant red tables, and glimmering curtains dangle above the dining room. On the outdoor patio, a dancing fountain gushes with streams of water alongside a central fireplace roaring with flames. The staff strives to recreate an apropos oceanic atmosphere at the restaurant, lighting up seating areas in shades of turquoise and sea-green and requiring all servers to master basic seal calls.
As ceiling fans cool down the dining room at The Ice House Cafe, plates of American regional seafood arrive tableside, treating tongues to a blend of East Coast, West Coast, and southern recipes fused with French, Asian, and Italian flavors. Across the way, at the chilled oyster bar—flanked by framed vintage photographs and brass and woodworked detailing—chefs ladle out scoops of half-shell clams and oysters, each autographed by the sea captain who caught them. And on Friday and Saturday nights, diners get down and sip on the rhythms and beats generated by live jazz performances.
Kybecca Wine Bar, a slow-food restaurant set within a converted 1860s general store, freshens up palates with a gourmet menu of small plates and entrees crafted from locally grown ingredients. Parties start the gustatory revelry with a cheese platter, festooned with three or four artisan offerings such as Cherry Glen chipotle chevre and fromage d’affinois brie. Guests pass around tapas-style bites of pistachio-pesto gnocchi ($9) or four bison blue-cheese sliders ($12) made from humanely raised meat. Spend quality time with full-plate entrees, including the brace of lamb ribs ($21/full) accompanied by pesto gnocchi and roasted tomatoes or the truffle-buttered beef tenderloin ($17), which rests, like a spectacularly successful and eccentric truffle trader, on a bed of wild-mushroom risotto.
The flavors of the Southwest add a spicy touch to all the dishes at Poblanos Southwest Grill. Guests stroll up to the counter to order jalapeño poppers, chile rellenos, steak fajitas topped with peppers and onions. With the build-your-own option, they can customize tacos, burritos, and taco salads to their personal tastes using a choice of three marinated Mexican-style meats, shrimp, or vegetables. For a slightly fancier meal, guests can opt to order the pan-seared cod atop a bed of cilantro lime rice, hand cut flank steak with chimichurri, or a half peruvian chicken in a casero sauce, paired with a hot cup of coffee.