Wilson Tavern Now Open in Courthouse

by ARLnow.com December 12, 2011 at 9:00 am 9,551 103 Comments

Wilson Tavern (2403 Wilson Blvd) is now open in the old Kitty O’Shea’s space in Courthouse.

The restaurant, which describes its offerings as “updated American classics,” is currently only open for dinner, but plans to start serving lunch on Tuesday. A weekend brunch service is expected to begin later this month, perhaps on Christmas weekend.

Wilson Tavern retains the small footprint of Kitty O’Shea’s, as well as the prominent bar, but renovations have resulted in an updated look that got rid of the old drop ceiling and exposed some of the building’s rugged brickwork. Black woodwork, an eclectic collection of new and antique furniture including repurposed 19th century church pews, and bare, hanging light bulbs give the tavern a unique, vaguely old-fashioned feel.

The food menu includes updated takes on comfort food, like a burger with beef sourced from The Plains, Va., saffron PEI mussels with steak frites, and stuffed mac ‘n’ cheese with artichoke, pork belly and a brioche crumb. Some may not find the prices as comforting, though: the fish ‘n’ chips is $17 (compared to $13 at Ireland’s Four Courts, down the street), a roasted chicken with collard greens and gravy is $17, and the Plains-sourced burger — with aged cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion and a brioche bun — is $12.

The menu will be changed seasonally and daily specials will be available. There is also a condensed menu available for late night diners.

The draft beer list, which will also change regularly, currently includes eight curated selections from brewers like New Belgium, Legend, Bell’s and Port City. Drafts range from $5 to $8, while bottled macrobrews like Miller Lite and Budweiser clock in at $4. A short California-centric wine list prices glasses from $6 to $10 and bottles from $22 to $38.

Wilson Tavern will serve classic cocktails made with freshly-squeezed juices. The menu includes a dark and stormy, sazerac, old fashioned, gin and juice, screwdriver, pickled Martini and a Negroni, with prices from $7 to $10.

Wilson Tavern’s chef, Chris Kenworthy, hails from Hook, Equinox and Watershed restaurants in the District. Bar manager Matt Culbertson is a former bartender at PS 7’s in D.C. and Cowboy Cafe in Arlington.

Owner Sandy Lewis, a friend of landlord and fellow Lyon Village resident Ray Schupp, says she hopes Wilson Tavern becomes more of a neighborhood dining destination than Kitty O’Shea’s, which was forced out after a contentious legal battle. Despite a very quiet opening last Tuesday, Lewis says she’s been happy with the number of diners who have been showing up for dinner.

“We’re putting out a little bit higher quality food than the average bar,” she said, pointing to locally-sourced meats, freshly-prepared sauces and other house-made ingredients.

Lewis, a local restaurant veteran, was a former co-owner of CommonWealth Gastropub in D.C. and Hank’s Oyster Bar in Alexandria. She also held management positions at several of Jose Andres-owned eateries. Wilson Tavern, however, is something of a homecoming for her.

“I always wanted to do something in Arlington,” said Lewis. “This is a dream because I can walk to work.”

If all goes well, Lewis says she’s considering expanding Wilson Tavern to an adjacent, empty retail space — a move that would add 20-25 seats to the restaurant. Should Wilson Tavern find success, however, it won’t be long before it’s forced to move. Schupp is seeking county approval to redevelop the single-story retail building in which Wilson Tavern is located into something taller — perhaps a hotel.

Should that happen, Lewis said she would move Wilson Tavern to a nearby, temporary space, then move back into the ground level of the new building.

  • Callie

    When I walked by last week and saw it was open, it was hard for me not to stop in a grab a bite. I would slightly agree to some items being at a higher price but from what I could tell this is only due to a higher quality. Granted, I only had the fish n chips, but found them to be of a quality unmatched in the area. I have yet to try other items..

  • Jim Webster

    Somehow I don’t think it will have the ambience of the real Wilson Tavern, a few blocks further out the boulevard, that we used to enjoy 40 or more years ago.

  • ArlingtonChick

    It’s hard to stomach paying 17$ for fish and chips when you can go to Alexandria and have high quality, authentic fish and chips for 11$. 17$ is quite steep, which is odd, since the burger is reasonably priced.

    That being said, yes, of course I will go and try this place out. I just hope the prices level out a bit (doubtful).

    • LVGuy

      esY ti si uiteq .annoying..

    • What’s authentic about Alexandria? Other than the PITA that it is to get around there?

      • Sam

        He’s talking about Eammons in Old Town, not Old Town itself.

      • What’s authentic about Alexandria? It’s been there since before the Declaration of Independence was written. Sorry you have a hard time driving your car through it really fast.

        • I against I

          Thank you,I was thinking the same thing. Then again, most a$$holes on here, would think Alexandria, is TOO OLD. They would like to see it OLD TOWN knocked down, for new condos.

        • ArlingtonChick

          Sorry, I stupidly figured everyone knew about Eammons, since it’s also coming to the Pike soon. The food is great. It’s an authentic fish and chip place. It’s more expensive than, say, fast food, but the fish and food is very fresh. I’d say go now and try it out, but since you Alexandria haters are scared of Old Town, wait and come to South Arlington (if you dare cross route 50). Or go to this new place! Whatevs. 🙂

          • Jennifer

            Never heard of it, but I’ll give it a try (esp if it’s coming to Arlington). Thanks!

    • Ed

      Quit complaining about the prices!! They’ve got to pay their Draft Beer Curator, for crying out loud!

    • Jim

      Or, you can try O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub on Washington Blvd (at Wilson Blvd intersection) for $10 fish and chips. Pretty good.

  • novasteve

    Are you allowed to take drinks outside like you could at Kitties?

  • Arlington

    Yawn! Doesn’t the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor already have an overabundance of “updated American classics”? With the prices and oversaturation of the market I can’t see many people frequenting here. I think they should decide if they are a bar or a restaurant and if they are a restaurant try to come up with something new.

    • novasteve

      A stinky smoking section would be a fresh of breath air just for the fact it would be different. it may smell horrific, but at this point, these places are all cookie cutter.

    • Diner

      Agreed. They need to add cupcakes and froyo to the menu.

      • R. Griffon

        Clarendon needs a good bagel place. PLEASE.

        • clizzledizzle

          Brooklyn Bagle. You’re welcome.

          • dizzleclizzle

            S/he said ‘good’.

  • novasteve

    You can tell they are trying to lure in douchebags with Stella Artois. Don’t the hipster idiots here realize that Stella is the crap beer of Belgium? Second to only Jupiler? You aren’t “sophisticated” by drinking it. You are stupid for drinking it.

    • CW

      Yep, their dirty little secret. Brilliant marketing though; the HBR case study on it is interesting. But if you close your eyes, it tastes just like Old Milwaukee!!

    • Max

      You’re absolutely correct, and don’t get me started on the fake Stella glasses that it’s served in. Still, crap beer of Belgium > mediocre American microbrew.

      • novasteve

        Anything Sam Adams is 100x better than Stella. And how much they charge for Stella here is insane. It’s literally Belgium’s Budweiser. Jupiler is their Miller. I’m shocked Jupiler hasn’t been brought here, more hipster douches could pretend like they like it like they do with Stella and PBR.

    • OX4

      I don’t think anyone thinks Stella is a fine imported beer. It’s much better than this stupid PBR craze resurfacing.

      • CW

        PBR is fine when it is what it is. If it’s served by a bar at a cost of NO MORE than $2 for a 16-ounce can, it cannot be beaten.

        • ThirstyVA

          It won a blue ribbon. It has too be good.

          • novasteve

            Yeah, Miller Lite says it won some awards too, but I don’t think they advertise the names of awards like “most pisslike tasting beer”. They also claim to “triple hop” miller lite, but more likely it’s some guy who held hops once before urinating into the wort three times.

          • beersnobs

            Wow, who knew Arlington was the Beer Snob Capital? We can add that to the mantle to compliment the Douche Bag Capital award.

          • drax

            Beersnobbery is a subset of douchebaggery, so that shouldn’t surprise you.

            But Miller Lite does suck ass.

          • OX4

            I’m not a beer snob, but I know bad beer. And PBR is bad beer. Which makes it all the more strange to see all the 20-somethings drinking cans of PBR. Why is this suddenly cool?

          • cheapo

            I’m guessing 20somethings drink PBR because it’s cheap and they could care less about the taste, they just want to get hammered so they can spread their STDs throughout the region. It’s Darwinian.

          • Busy_Bodies_Abound

            When I go to a bar I care about what beer I am drinking. I am not concerned with what others choose. Why such concern and hatred towards the choices of others? If PBR or Stella is not your cup of tea and there are no other suitable choices just go to another bar. No need to name call and make subjective invectives. Chill – that is what the beer is for anyway…

    • ArlingtonChick

      Hah! I took my mom to the Clarendon TJs and they told her to buy Stella bcz the kid loved it. All the while I was bashing hipsters. Is it just me, or is that the whitest TJs ever? The music choice is a dead giveaway.

      • er . . .

        Not entirely sure why this matters to you, but upon reflection, I have never been to TJ’s that was not “white.” Discuss.

  • Arlingtron

    There’s a need to balance the supply of high-end, starched white tablecloth restaurants serving “pretty food” with more down-to-earth establishments. Many lament the vanishing “dive bar” replaced by stuffy hipster cafes. (not as dumpy as the old “Keyhole” or “Royal Lee Deli”) Not sure that $17 fish n chips qualifies this place for this role. I would be more likely to patronize this new pub if it just served good hot sandwiches under $10 and craft beers close to $5.

    • beersnobs

      Sounds like you have the equation all figured out. Now go take out a loan and open an establishment like this and stop complaining.

    • jean

      the bar you’re looking for ($10 sandwiches and $5 craft beers) is the galaxy hut on wilson.

  • Re-purposed church pews are a cute idea, until you consider that they’re deliberately crafted to be uncomfortable so that people don’t fall asleep while getting preached at. These ones don’t look any more promising.

    That said, I like the decor overall. But now there is NO decent jukebox in the neighborhood and that’s just SAD.

    • manuforti

      That is a shame that the jukebox is gone.

  • clarendon

    Kitty O’Shea’s had the best Bloody Mary’s. Where can one get a good one or three now ?

    • Bloody Mary

      Logan Tavern on P St.

    • follow the mary

      the bartender who made the mary mix at kitty’s will be working at the new “william jeffrey’s tavern” on columbia pike when it opens.

      • clarendon

        Good tip ! Lucky Pikesters!

  • Joe

    Lyon Village helping out Lyon Village, extracting the non-Lyon Villager to make it happen. And so it goes…

  • Becca

    “Wilson Tavern will serve classic cocktails made with freshly-squeezed juices”

    How does this work with out of season fruits?

    • Swag

      Everything is in season somewhere.

    • duh

      well get get a orange or grapefruit and put it on a juicer

  • CW2

    There will be an Eammon’s on the Pike soon, so no one will have to venture to Alexandria for their fish and chip fix.

    (That Eammon’s in Old Town must sit about 15 people total. I don’t understand the design of the place. Maybe they get more carryout orders than eat-in, but it just seems strange to me.)

    • ArlingtonChick

      When I lived in Old Town we would just carry out. So yeah, I think that’s what others did too.

    • Josh S

      Or walk down the street to PJ’s.

  • I’m Kitty’s Till I Die

    F*** this place.

  • Karen N.

    i am so glad kitty oshea’s is gone. i used to walk in there and feel so unwelcome. I walked in to WT this week and was immediately greeted with friendly bartenders and solid cocktails.

    • novasteve

      I’ll admit Kitties wasn’t friendly, but no place in this area is. And the “friendliness” you experiences is fake. They want your money. In addition to unfriendly bartenders in this area, the patrons are too, as DC area, where the transients congregate, are a nasty, nasty bunch of people. But you have to be a native to see it.

      • Justin Russo

        I’m not sure what being a native has got to do with it, but I agree that the DC area is probably one of the least friendly places in the country.

        • novasteve

          You can see it more if you are from here. Many of the people who are attracted to this area have personality disorders, and are attracted to money, power, status, which make sthem nasty. People with personality orders cannot tell they have one, so they are unable to see it on others as well.

          • CW

            I think it’s even more glaring to me as a non-native. I’ve lived in lots of places and that makes it stand out more how mean people in D.C. are. Even in Boston or NYC, places known for having somewhat abrasive residents, your average person on the street is much nicer than anyone around here.

            What’s REALLY weird is sometimes now, when I go to small towns (business travel, family visits, etc), and people on the street, in stores, etc. stop and just shoot the breeze. It initially comes across as strange, and I have to stop and remind myself that this is actually how most places are, and that living in a city dominated by self-entitled egotists is the exception, not the rule.

          • novasteve

            Yeah. I noticed that in Kansas City. It mad me uneasy because I wasn’t used to it. But I’d go into a bar, and people would just start talking to you, not asking you about where you went to grad school, what do you do. I just sat down and some guy told me about his new son, and bought be a beer and gave me a cigar. In DC it would have been someone trying to gauge up my status level to determine if it was worth their time to speak to me.

          • Hattie McDaniel

            It initially comes across as strange, and I have to stop and remind myself that this is actually how most places are, and that living in a city dominated by self-entitled egotists is the exception

            Quite true.

          • novasteve

            Unfortunately I’ve lived most of my life here outside of college and law school. So this is all I know. It takes a toll on how you view the world and your fellow man.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            Hey CW,

            I know what you mean. When I go to small towns on vacation, business, etc. (and some large cities like San Diego), I’ve noticed people are much friendlier, more relaxed, say “good morning” to strangers, stop to shoot the breeze, etc. It strikes me as weird until I realize that is how most places are. After a day or two of “decompression” from the “Potomac Poison”, I find myself far more relaxed and enjoying the politeness.

          • novasteve

            I’ve even lived in Germany, and Germans are notorious for being cold/unfriendly and they were friendlier than people are here. How long does it take you to lose the high of having left DC after you return? I return to “normal” within 2 days. But I’m in really high spirits from having left this toxic dump, and it lasts for almost 2 days after I return, though I dread getting back on the plane to come back here.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            I usually “lose the high” as you termed it within a couple of hours of returning. All it takes are the crazy and rude drivers in this area. I call it the “Berlin Wall” – going west on Rt. 7, the divider is in the middle of Leesburg (in the western part of Leesburg – the old town). Going west on Rt. 66, the divider is at Haymarket just west of Gainesville. South on Rt. 29, the divider is after getting past Warrenton. South on I-95/Rt. 1, the divider is after Fredericksburg.

          • drax

            Wow, steve, you just need to make some friends.

          • kitties

            Steve has three cats. No need for other “friends.”

          • General Zod

            I agree with this & have been here (Arlington/Funfax) since 1985, I just returned from NZ/OZ & WOW the people in those places are amazingly nice & accommodating. I read a survey in the paper in NZ that 87% or so of the population who makes less than 35K a year are extremely happy with their income & lives. Says a lot.

          • novasteve

            Other than one negative experience with some british couple that hated Americans, I thought Australia was really nice with nice people. I even ate at some restaurant in Sydney in the rocks that had communal tables, was some kind of Thai restaurant, and the people were very friendly. I cannot imagine what a nightmare that would have been like had it been in DC area

          • christiann

            Seriously, I’m a Northern Virginia native and people often ask me where I’m from, saying I don’t seem like I’m from here since I’m cheerful and laid back. I’m not terribly laid back really, but longterm friends and family are important to me, which is why I live near mine. That isn’t something you can say of the transient population around here.

          • drax

            “People with personality orders cannot tell they have one”

            You should print that out and frame it, Steve.

          • novasteve

            You have no idea what a personality disorder is drax. Merely not sharing your liberal views doesn’t make me have a “personality disorder”. I bet however you are one of those transients in this area that think a lot of people are beneath you, and you were too good for where you were from, Right?

      • Mick Swagger

        Have you even gone into Wilson Tavern? Your rants sound generalized and generic and have no specific or detailed complaints about the place. You just say to hate it and it sucks because you apparently hate the area, the name, and the look.

  • asdf

    Typo — assuming Dazerac is supposed to read Sazerac.

  • Maddyb

    Dined at Wilson Tavern last night and had a wonderful experience. Tried the stuffed mac ‘n’ cheese which had an excellent combination of flavors as well as the chicken salad sandwich which was awesome! Also, the pickled martini was incredible and the root beer float I tried for desert was also great. The atmosphere was very nice with a great setting as well as service staff, I enjoyed myself and will definitely go back to this establishment and would love to try some of the other items on the menu. Great addition to the area.

  • novasteve

    I see Bells has become a hipster douche beer too. I actually used to live in Michigan

    • Quoth the Raven

      I like Bells. I didn’t know I was a hipster douche.

      • CW

        Don’t worry, these days the craft beer cycle runs its course from “unknown mom-and-pop” to “hipster chic” to “on tap at every pizza joint” to “on the shelves at 7-eleven” in about 6 months, so just hang on a bit and in a few months people will just accuse you of being “sooooo yesterday”.

      • Daniel

        +1 Bell’s is just good. I guess the brewery is now big enough to be considered a craft brewery, but it’s as good as it was when I lived in MI….and I guess if it weren’t for the HD’s, it wouldn’t be available in as many bars as it currently is in this region.

        • drax

          The Oberon Ale is pretty good.

    • drax

      Not drinking a beer because it is popular is just as dumb as drinking a beer because it is popular.

      • Bluemontsince1961

        I agree, and the same thing can also apply to wine. I drink what I happen to like, regardless it is “popular” or “the latest thing” or not. IMO, people would be happier to eat and drink what they like instead of what is “popular” or “not popular”.

      • novasteve

        Not just as dumb. It shows some independent thought. I wouldn’t try something new because everyone else is doing it. I’ve had Bells before, before anyone here had ever even heard of it. I’ve still never had a “Mojito” before because I instantly saw it was just a stupid trend, which I believe is now over. The last time I had PBR was back in 1994 or 1995, before the stupid trend started. Why? Because I was at Massanutten, with friends for a ski trip, and a 12 pack of it was $2.50.

        • Trisexual

          I wouldn’t try something new because everyone else is doing it

          Heaven forbid you try something new! I mean, what if you actually liked it?

        • drax

          No, steve, it’s no independent thought to base your opinion of a beer on who is drinking it. Not drinking a trendy beer because it’s trendy is just as dumb as drinking one because it’s trendy.

        • Quoth the Raven

          Sometimes there is a reason why everyone is doing it, though – for example, “everyone” is drinking Bells because it’s good beer. “Everyone” is (or was) drinking mojitos b/c they are tasty. I’m not saying that fads can make something lousy more popular than it should be. I’m instead pointing out that sometimes things are popular because they are, in fact, pretty damn good.

        • Oh Dear God

          You can still get mojitos at bars, and they are still tasty. It is/was not a trend. It is not over. It is a damn good cocktail End of story. How do you spell provincial? N-O-V-A-S . . . well, you get the point.

  • Swag

    Remember when bars served bar food? Was kinda hoping we could get away from “updated” american food for once.

  • novasteve

    I wish Virginia would allow stand alone bars. I don’t want food at these places. Just be dive bars. They wouldn’t be subject to the smoking ban either, though there would be plenty of options for nonsmokers.

    • Cooch McBooble

      Gotta love the Dillon Rule. God forbid localities making their own decisions.

  • Newish Arlingtonian

    Wow, did I go to the same restaurant? I was there Friday evening, and was pretty disappointed with the food. Part of it may have been that the entree that arrived really wasn’t what I was expecting based on the menu description. Wine was pretty bad, but that’s my own fault for ordering wine at a place with “Tavern” in the name. Anyway, folks seemed nice and I would definitely come back for a beer and some fries, just wouldn’t return for dinner.

    • ArlingtonCoutyTaxpayer

      most of our restaurants wouldn’t survive in cities with populations over 100,000 yet somehow they make it here. god only knows why.

      • Econ 101

        Too much money chasing too few goods.

  • mickey644

    Prices too high…..WAY too high for both drinks and food. AVOID

  • LVNeighbor

    Welcome to the neighborhood Wilson Tavern! Really enjoyed the PEI Mussels and Crabcake Sliders! It was great that we could bring the kids and that there was a variety of food they could eat. We will spread the word!

    • No Rug Rats

      could bring the kids

      I’ll put it on my list of places to avoid.

      • LVNeighbor

        What if we brought our well behaved children before 6 p.m.? Would that help?

      • drax


    • novasteve

      This is why VA needs to allow standalone bars. Children have no business being around people consuming alcohol.

      • Quoth the Raven

        “Children have no business being around people consuming alcohol.”

        So I can’t have a beer if my wife and I take the kids out to dinner? Is that what you mean?

        Or, are you saying that I shouldn’t take my kids to a dive bar so they can watch me as I do some drinkin’?

  • crw

    Arlington, especially Clarendon, needs some pubs serving good, plain food and decent beer. Enough of the hipster vibe places with fou fou food and overpriced drinks. Clarendon also needs a Dunkin Donuts – a great cup of Joe and doughnuts without the hype.

  • MC

    “Macrobrew” – seriously? BTW, real pubs don’t need TVs showing cable football broadcasts to draw people in. The food, drink and ambiance should be enough.

    • Rory

      Even in Ireland there aren’t too many pubs left that don’t have TVs showing sports

  • C Paret

    Whoa Whoa whoa. Chris Kenworthy didn not come up with the decor or the core menu. This is another Kitty O’S*** rape job.

    • chef chris

      first of all, if you are going to use my name, get your facts straight. i and/or anybody else never claimed that i designed the interior. secondly, i did actually create the menu. the first stencil handed to me read more like a typical dive bar menu, i gutted it and added what i felt would make this place approachable yet higher end. thirdly, i would kindly invite anybody who thinks that this is just another snobby/typical clarendon trendy to come in and be proven wrong by our quality food, drink and service. fourthly, to those that claim our prices are “sky high”, i use fresh and often locally sourced items that due to their higher quality command a higher menu price. trust you and me, that these prices are extremely fair as i have served the same quality food at other restaurants in the area at a much higher mark up. again, words are words, come see what we’re about.
      ps. this place has absolutely nothing to do with kitty osheas, this restaurant was opened to bring good food and drink to the neighborhood, not alienate old regulars.


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