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New Chef to Bring New Menu to Mad Rose Tavern

by ARLnow.com April 12, 2011 at 10:00 am 5,881 60 Comments

“The menu was kind of all over the place,” acknowledged Dennis Holland, the new general manager of Mad Rose Tavern (3100 Clarendon Blvd).

Holland was echoing the thoughts of many who had tried out the new Clarendon eatery and wondered what exactly it was trying to be. It seemed to be a mash-up of several restaurant concepts — a perception that was probably close to reality, given the differing visions of its initial management team and its owner.

The Clarendon eatery has gone through some messy management changes over the past month, including the recent departure of executive chef Johnny Nielson, and the new team is now trying to turn over a new leaf. To that end, Holland has hired a new chef — a fellow veteran of the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in the District — and has embarked upon a complete revamp of Mad Rose’s menu.

With the exception of the pigs in a blanket, don’t expect much to stay the same, food-wise. Among the expected additions to the menu are:

  • Calamari — Fried and tossed with a Thai BBQ sauce, served over rice noodles
  • Roast Pork Rib — Slow-roasted pork, sweet potato hash, and truffle demi-glaze
  • Chicken Zydeco — Chicken sauteed with roasted peppers, scallion, andouille, garlic, crimini mushrooms tossed with penne and Cajun cream sauce
  • Shrimp and Grits — Jumbo Shrimp sauteed with crawfish tails and served over gouda grits and a Creole cream sauce
  • Blackened Sea Bass — Pan roasted and served over rice with sweet chili champagne sauce
  • Seared Scallops — Pan seared and served over mango salsa and micro greens with a citrus sauce

Although the eatery’s lounge business is going well — and they’re happy with the existing beer selection — Holland acknowledged that Mad Rose’s food business needs work. In addition to ramping up the restaurant business with the deployment of a new dinner menu, Holland says he’s hoping to attract lunch customers with $5 burger and chicken sandwich options and weekend customers with a Saturday and Sunday brunch menu.

The restaurant should be given a lift later next month, when Holland expects the county to approve Mad Rose’s plan for sidewalk seating. Once the additional outdoor seating is in place (there’s already an outdoor patio on the lounge side of the business) Holland says Mad Rose will host a grand opening party.

To further entice new customers, Mad Rose will be implementing daily happy hour specials, including deals like $2 Bud and Miller Lite or $4 mojitos and margaritas, depending on which day of the week it is. But don’t expect the restaurant to try to become another Spider Kelly’s. Holland and another new manager, Damon Stuermann, said that Mad Rose is comfortable attracting a more mature clientele and doesn’t have any plans to include dancing to its entertainment line-up. It does, however, plan on eventually applying for a live entertainment permit. And expect special events like scotch tastings and cigar nights.

Holland says that talk of the management changes has belied the fact that much of the wait staff and kitchen staff has remained the same. Mad Rose has excelled at providing friendly service, he says, and now it’s time for it to serve food “that [we] can be proud of.”

“You’re only as good as you last meal,” he says.

  • FedUp

    They need a new owner.

  • charlie

    great news. sounds like the attitude got renovated too.

  • meh..

    too little, too late.
    those additions still don’t sound too enticing.
    management should shut down and FINISH the remodeling job too.
    Hope they work on the price too.
    Oh yeah, and add some seasoning to the fried macaroni and cheese please.

  • Jon

    It’s still not a tavern…

  • MC 703

    I had a crabcake sandwich on the patio a few weeks ago. The thin crab cake was OK but it was on a bun that made the sandwich as thick as a phone book.

  • Southeast Ben

    This place is laughable. I wasn’t impressed. If it continues this way, there will be one place in Arlington in which you never have to wait for a seat.

    • Rebecca

      Not true, there will always be Velocity 5

  • JohnB

    I’m skeptical that all this place needs is a menu revamp.

  • mehoo

    Does this mean the brunch is on now, or will be in the future?

  • ARLChow entry

  • Elizabeth

    $2 Bud and Miller Lite or $4 mojitos and margaritas does not a mature clientele entice. I know who does get attracted to those deals and it’s a patron about half my age. So for now I’ll continue to take a pass.

    • Bard

      I’m a 34 yr old slightly mature adult who would be easily enticed by $4.00 mojitos.

      • mehoo

        Hear hear. The Bud, no.

      • Matt

        Psh, you guys are so immature with your affordable drinks. I only patronize bars where drinks are $10+ to avoid such riff raff.

        • mehoo

          $10? That’s it? I don’t associate with your sort.

          • HeyoAtown

            Yes, we shall only frequent bars with entry lists. That is what Arlington needs!

      • Maria

        $3 mojitos at Spider Kelly’s on Thursdays.

    • KalashniKEV

      Maybe if I load up on cheap drinks I can convince myself to sample some of that really expensive whisky? I love cheap drinks and hold mature clientele in disdain, so maybe this is my place? I’d like to see this place do well and I’d laugh if they out-Cajuned Bayou Bakery with their new menu.

  • Tim

    Calamari tossed with sauce is a bad idea. It gets soggy quickly. I bet a lot of customers will start asking for the sauce on the side.

    • CW

      Ugh agreed. If they’re going to do it thai style they should leave the breading off, pan-fry it quickly in a wok with some thai chilies and garlic, and then finish it with the noodles and sauce.

    • Tabby

      Agree. They lost me at cream sauce. I mean, really.

      • Tabby

        I mean with the chicken dish.

        • KalashniKEV

          It’s more than likely a remoulade sauce, based on the other offerings.

          • mehoo

            Is that like a sauce those smelly foreigners eat, Kev?

          • Lou

            It says it’s a Cajun sauce. They are not foreigners last time I checked.

          • mehoo

            Put some of that sauce on some Freedom Fries and I’ll be happy.

          • KalashniKEV

            It’s like spicy Cajun mayonnaise… thus MORE American than Pizza and Chinese Food (which are both American cuisine!).

  • Lou

    Jumbo shrimp…sauteed with crawfish tails? Make up your mind dude.

    • mehoo

      “Jumbo shrimp” is an oxymoron even without throwing in crawfish.

      • Matt

        Lobster, stuffed with tacos.

      • CW

        Yeah, “jumbo shrimp” has been the butt of too many jokes to use the term anymore. Everybody says “prawns” nowadays, even if what they’re talking about is not technically a prawn.

        • mehoo

          Not me. I proudly say jumbo shrimp. I’m old skool.

  • CW

    I am amazed at how poorly this place appears to be doing just from the sight test. I walk by daily, at times when every other place is slammed out the door, and it’s like people don’t want to touch this place with a ten-foot stick. The waiters just mill about aimlessly, polishing glasses that will never be used. Frankly I don’t even understand how they’ve managed to do so poorly. Yeah, there were the management changes and internal struggles, but how much of the public (aside from ARLnow readers) was really privy to, or cared about, that? In the past years, I’d really grown to believe that you could open just about ANYTHING in Clarendon (especially anything resembling a bar) and it would be successful. I guess they’ve managed to prove this to not be the case.

    Anyhow, their new menu does look somewhat confused. Looks like they’re going for creole/cajun meets southeast asia? At a place called “Mad Rose Tavern” (which, I don’t care what anybody says, still elicits an Irish image to me – look up the symbolism of the rose and also the definition of “public house”, which includes the word “tavern”).

    Anyhow, the owner must have some serious cash to blow to have kept this place afloat through this period and with the staff changes and all. I don’t have it out for the place, I’m all about new dining options, but it seems as though it’s been on a really, really weird trajectory since day one.

    • Southeast Jerome

      well thats exactly their problem, they are trying to be a hybrid between eventide and spider kellys. that wont work at the price points they currently have. Kind of like putting a $3000 sound system in a Kia.

    • V Dizzle

      Haven’t been inside yet, but I walked by Saturday at about 11pm and it was completely packed. I’m assuming they just aren’t meeting their required receipts level on kitchen sales. Looked like they were selling a good amount of booze.

    • Olmstead

      Maybe, if they hang in there long enough, they will get the spillover from SoBe ?

  • Mkt Common

    Well, with Tavern in the name, that makes it a drinking place, not an eating place. But that food listed. It’s all sauces and glazes and lots of competing flavors, a great way to cover up mediocre food. Either be a bar with bar food, or be a restaurant that serves a good beer/wine selection. Hmm, I’m clearly grumpy today. Must have skipped my morning cupcake.

  • Menu Mahem

    If they’re trying to come up with a central concept, what exactly do calamari tossed with Thai BBQ sauce and cajun chicken pasta have to do with eachother?

    • CW

      “Tossing”, duh.

  • borf

    It’s weird how people complain about chains and how all the food is the same in Arlington, then when someone does something different or something that doesn’t fit into a neat category, they complain about that too.

    • V Dizzle

      Agreed. But again, it looked like business was booming Saturday night..might just not be selling enough food for compliance with VA laws.

  • Abe Froman

    I wish they would publish their scotch list so I know if I need to rush in there to try something uncommon before they go under.

  • Someone in the know

    This place is a joke, the reason the menu was all over the place was because the former GM and owner differed on what should be on it. The concept was suppose to be an Irish pub but the owner won out and took the name from the former GM’s concept but not the menu. I have friends who work there and most of them are trying to find new jobs. I know a few people who quit and never got paid their full paychecks. I was told that the servers had to sweep and mop every night because the owner was too cheap to hire a cleaning crew. Also the owner is being sued by both his former partners in two other restaurants. What kind of owner is this, a shady one if you ask me.

  • NOVApologist

    Cajun pasta? Blackened fish? Mango Salsa?

    1988 called, they want their menu back.

    • borf

      So now food is fashion? Great.

      I’m just going to eat what tastes good. And I liked 1988.

      • the real borg

        Get your own clever name.

  • M.

    I find the whole design to be a bit awkward. It feels backwards, like the bar and restaurant should be switched. I don’t know what it is, it just has a weird vibe.

    The first time I walked into Lyon Hall and the new Spider Kelly’s it felt right. Mad Rose can do better and I wish them the best.

  • AAA

    Why not replicate the madly successful Mad Fox Brewing Company here? As many have pointed out, a brew pub is the one thing we don’t have in Clarendon. This should have been a no brainer! Bud and Miller Lite?!? For shame!

  • arlingtonian

    Let’s be honest. What we need in Clarendon is a Korean joint! I wouldn’t mind seeing this place go under for a Korean place. Although, I have yet to try out the place but pass by everyday and see no activity. I’m not sure they are open during the day. It’s so dead. I feel bad but after reading people’s reviews. I’m not enthusiastic about trying the place out. Maybe if they had a lunch special and advertised it then I might be interested or a good brunch special.

  • Maitreya

    Holland is wrong. The kitchen, wait, and bar staff has suffered an almost complete turnover since opening. Paychecks have bounced, according to former employees. And of course, front of house manager, General Manager, Bar Manager, and Executive Chef all fired. In other words, the entire management team who built the restaurant out has been replaced.

    And considering that it was ownership who put the incoherent, disjointed crap on the menu to begin with, any new changes are doomed from the start.

    And for the commenter that laughs at cajun pasta, mango salsa, and blackened fish…you’re right. And to the commenter that asked if food is fashion…yes. It is. Restaurants with stagnant menus die. Food tastes change every 10-20 years, and unless you own Peter Lugers or RAO, you’d better evolve with them.

  • MRT

    Holland is misleading with his comments on staff.
    And didn’t deny that there was a walk out by the vast majority of bar staff when the management were let go.
    So your staff would rather quit than have to deal directly with the owner? Welcome to the mad rose tavern.

    The older menu had been hijacked by the owners early on who jumped all over the place, wanting good, original food ideas to screaming for buffalo wings and chips (which judging from his previous efforts, is the extent of Naeem Mohd’s culinary knowledge).
    Regardless of how talented a chef is, he can only do do much when dealing with unqualified, napoleonic ownership.

    Mr. Holland really can’t take credit for the alcohol inventory as that was put in place by the previous bar manager.

    He also fails to appreciate that a lot of people are put off by owners that behave with such contempt for their staff and paying customers.

    He should also learn from previous happenings and get everything in writing.

  • Meat

    This place is a JOKE $37 for 2 rail redbull-vodkas & 2 Sam Adams!! The service is Horrible and you would never know the back lounge was there. Also this is not a Tavern, It is trying to be a DC Lounge

    • dynaroo

      Who the hell drinks Red Bull?

  • Tony

    After reading all the negativity being tossed around we decided to give this place a second shot and we were pleasantly surprised with the place. Had gone on a Friday night with some friends and honestly loved the ambience at Mad Rose, they had a good selection of beers (was told that the previous manager had selected these beers and must say he did a good job at it) extensive choice of single malts and a good atmosphere overall which drew a fairly matured crowd. I guess the name was a bit misleading i.e Tavern but then they have tried to separate the front area and the lounge in the back which we thought was a good mix. Their patio was the highlight as the weather was great and it made up for a great chilled out evening. Did try some appetizers and we really liked them overall although one of the dishes was missing some flavor. Also we kinda poked one of the employees and learnt that the previous managers were let go since the owners weren’t happy with them (during our first visit here when it opened we kinda wondered who hired them in the first place) and they have been bad mouthing about this place since the time they were let go (if thats the case then I personally think they need to grow up). Overall I think this place was great and would do well.

  • G20

    I recently tried Mad Rose with a group from my office. Overall, it was a bad experience and I doubt any of us will go back.
    We went for lunch, the restaurant was empty. Menu selection was poor, service was very bad. It took a very long time to receive our food, mine was mediocre at best.
    Overall, I was very disappointed and won’t be giving this place a second chance.

  • dynaroo

    Ah, that’s the kind of person who drinks Red Bull.


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