Liberty Tavern

3195 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA  22201
Liberty Tavern on Urbanspoon

I remember reading something about President Obama visiting the Liberty Tavern sometime last year and I made a mental note to go and try the place since the sitting U.S. President went to visit.  I thought this would be an easy proposition since it's on the way home from work and I could just stop by for a quick dinner.  However, the place is always busy around inner time and the one time I tried to meet up with a buddy for dinner, it was packed and we had to eat somewhere else.   I tried a different tact and went there for a late lunch when you figure that it may not be as busy for those hours.

As it turned out, it wasn't as busy as I usually see when I drive by but there was still a good amount of people in the place both inside and on the sidewalk outside seating.  Luckily, a table by the window on the first floor opened up so there was hardly any wait to sit down.  I didn't get a chance to see the second floor but the first floor was your typical wood paneled bar set up with high tables at the windows and a pretty extensive bar.  I walked in intending on ordering food on the lighter side but that went out the window when I saw a foie gras burger on the menu which, of course, I had to order.  For drinks I ordered a Great Lakes lager which was a nice clean crisp lager that wasn't too heavy and perfect for the weather.

Before the burger, I started with their Crispy Shrimp/Ipswitch Clams.  I'm not sure what I expected but I was surprised that this came out breaded and deep fried.  I guess that's what the crispy means.  As far as I could tell, this was a take on fried clams that you'd typically find in a diner but "elevated" or whatever culinary term is being used these days when they talk about sprucing up comfort food.  I liked the smoked paprika-lemon aioli (the dipping sauce!) best with its tangy spiciness that really added some flavor to the fried seafood.  The clams and fresh tasted fresh but the batter was a bit too soggy for my taste and I didn't feel the crisp that they promised.

For my entree I ordered the Foie Gras "Butter" Burger".  Yeah, it sounds like everything bad that should go into a burger.  To be specific, I ordered a medium rare burger that was placed on a toasted bun and topped with slices of camembert, slices of cured foie gras, pickled chard (though I thought it was fennel), and frisee. I ordered it with a potato salad just to have a bit of a change of pace from fries which turned out to be a great choice since the potato salad was very good.  I know, it was just potato salad but it was just creamy and seasoned enough so it didn't overshadow the potatoes.  The burger was as decadent as you would imagine.  I would have liked more seasoning on the patty and the flavor of the camembert was a little lost in the whole thing.  Nonetheless, the cured foie gras blended well with the burger and I liked the crunch from the chard.  You had the option to add a fried egg on top and I did but the waitress seemed to have forgotten. It would have been another rich element but it would've been nice to have the egg to tie everything together.

To finish it off, I ordered some coffee and a Milk Chocolate Creme Brulee.  To my surprise, an Americano came out instead of a regular coffee and I again I think the waitress missed that one.  The Creme Brulee came with something called a Chocolate May Cake which was a heavy-as-a-brick chocolate cake that was thick and chewy like a power bar and had tons of chocolate.  I liked the change of pace that a milk chocolate creme brulee offered and this one was creamy, rich and eating it with the dense cake made a soft and chewy combination.  The menu said it is served with fresh raspberries which I did not see but rather there was a chocolate reduction and some star shaped shortbread cookies.  The raspberries would've been nice but the cookies added an element of texture that was needed.

Subconsciously, I think I ordered an "elevated" fried clams, burger & fries; and a brownie with chocolate pudding.  I liked the meal but I couldn't help thinking that the Liberty Tavern may be trying a bit too hard with the food.  It's evident that the restaurant is extremely popular and that they want to provide an alternative to run-of-the mill bar food while still maintaining a bit of a bar-like atmosphere.  I think you can do that by just making good simple, food without having to introduce ingredients that may over-complicate the dishes.  Regardless, it looks like the atmosphere and the food have a great appeal to the locals in Clarendon and I would definitely come back if I was looking for a filling meal and a pint.


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