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Wilson Tavern Closed for Expansion

by ARLnow.com February 11, 2013 at 3:10 pm 48 Comments

Wilson Tavern expansion (photo courtesy @dylanbarlett)

Wilson Tavern (2403 Wilson Blvd) is expanding. The Courthouse-area watering hole has closed temporarily as a result of the construction.

The restaurant is expanding about 35-40 feet — into an empty, adjacent space — and adding 20-25 seats as a result. The larger space will also allow Wilson Tavern to expand its food menu, according to owner Reese Gardner, who also owns The Mighty Pint and Irish Whiskey Public House in D.C.

Interior work is expected to wrap up tomorrow, and Gardner is hoping to reopen by 4:00 p.m., in time for the Clarendon/Courthouse Mardi Gras parade. Wilson Tavern is planning a Mardi Gras party tomorrow night, and a Valentine’s Day party on Thursday night.

When it first opened in 2011, replacing the former Kitty O’Shea’s, Wilson Tavern emphasized its chef-created food menu. Thanks in part to the small space and high overhead costs, the restaurant struggled to return a profit. Several months after it opened, Gardner bought Wilson Tavern from the original owner and in May 2012 relaunched it — without a chef — as a more alcohol-centric bar. Now, he says, the expansion is allowing him to invest more in food.

Wilson Tavern’s drink options will remain the same after the expansion. The bar has 10 beers on tap, including 5 Flying Dog drafts, and serves 16 ounce cocktails, which Gardner credits with helping him attract a younger, fun-loving demographic.

Photo courtesy @dylanbarlett

  • Mary-Austin

    Glad to hear! Love Wilson Tavern and IWPH…great alternatives in areas saturated with frat bars.

  • novasteve

    Can we have a dive with dive prices? there’s got to be somce place in N Arlington that doesn’t have insane amount of rent and thus the typical outrageous prices around here. in 10 years from now, if things continue the same, you’ll have $10 bud lights the going rate here. Some people like to go out to drink, not just to show off that you can afford $10 drinks.

    • Arlington, SSR

      There are plenty of divey-ish prices and environments around on the Orange Line. It just depends on the night and what your definitions include. Does divey mean dark and smoky or rather low-key and anti-fratboy?
      If you plan on going out on a Friday night, it will be harder to find a divey atmosphere and prices compared to going out on a Wednesday night. O’Sullivans can be divey, as can Clarendon Grill or Whitlows, depending on the night. Carpool is pretty divey when it’s not packed. Baileys and First Down are divey. Even Union Jacks and BWW have nights when it is economically advantageous to go, if that’s part of your dive definition. First Down has the best happy hour prices on any given weeknight except for the $1 power hours at UJ’s.
      Avoid places like A-Town, the Ballroom, Rooftop, ATR, Mad Rose, etc., and you’ll be fine. Or just go out on weeknights instead of weekends.

      • JamesE

        I would pay good money to watch a documentary on NSteve going into A-Town.

        • novasteve

          What’s A-town like? Uber snobby, extra expensive drinks?

          • RealRobby

            NovaSteve… didn’t you predict A-Town’s downfall when it opened? And you still haven’t been? To be honest, I have heard mixed reviews about the place… but it is always packed, so who knows. I have heard several reports of not being able to get in or get a table because it is so mobbed. I have also heard of weak drinks there.

          • novasteve

            What is it like? If it’ sjust elbow to elbow like every other place here, with expensive drinks, I don’t go to places like that. That’s why i want dives. They usually are not busy. People aren’t there to show off.

    • Archer

      Hunan One.

  • High Paid Attorney

    I prefer the newer bars in Arlington because they keep out the riff-raft and losers. Nothing is more pathetic than to see some 40-ish loser trying to act like a hip twenty-something. And, when they are physically disgusting, then it becomes gross. Here’s a guideline, if you are old enough to be my parents, then stay out of the nice bars.

    • dr seuss

      Pretentious much?

    • CrystalMikey

      must. not. feed. troll.

    • bemused bystander

      So where do your parents go to drink?

    • Buckwheat

      A loser is someone that does not respect other people. I must have met you in front of Whole Foods once. You cut me off, then called me an “Old F##k”.

      If your parents are 40, I could be your grandparent. I will drink wherever the F I want. Thank you!

    • Tom Smart

      The reason we “old farts” go the bars is because the young women know we are old enough, experienced enough and patient enough to know what it takes to make a good bottle of wine explode with flavor without popping the cork prematurely.

    • Hoi Polloi

      I know, those olds just don’t have the reflexes required for awesome beer-pongery, or even the occasional riff-rafting.

  • F00D

    You know the food is bad when the employees walk across the street to Five Guys for food.

    • CardiacHeart

      When it was just Joe’s bar, it was pretty good for a greasy spoon. And the prices were right. And there was a pinball machine.

  • Chris

    Isn’t that building slated to be taken down in a year or two, with the new office building being planned there?

    • Rankin

      That’s what I thought too.
      I thought Wilson Tavern was just a stop-gap by the owner until that whole side of the block was razed. I wonder why Gardner bought – maybe they know the contruction is going to be cancelled or extremely delayed.

      • Mary-Austin

        not the same block.

        • CrystalMikey

          Yeah, the block is the one with Listrani’s, etc.

          • Swag

            No, this block is slated to be torn down to build apartments.

            (or at least it was planned, might not have been approved)

          • Dirty biker

            Naw, it’s a hotel that can’t get approved because (legitimately) it projects right into the neighborhood behind it (I sat through some zoning meetings on this one).

  • alaaro

    Wait. People actually go here?

  • Clarendon Skank

    Never been. Cute bartenders?

    • i second that


    • HoeMoe

      Very hot bartenders. Also good food. Glad they’re expanding. Maybe the new space can include a dark room????

      • Swag

        For developing drunken hipster photographs?

      • B

        ?!?!?! The food there is terrible. The wings are awful and they can f*** up a salad with chicken breast.

        • Neighbor

          How does chicken breast f*** up a salad?

          • B

            It shouldn’t. It should enhance it. But at Wilson Tavern the chicken breast on the salad was terrible (it was greasy and tasted like cheap sausage – like fast food-type breakfast sausage patties). When I told them about it, the waitress’ fix was to give me one dollar off.

    • Drunk_IrishChick

      They arent as hot as Paddy,Dunnah,and those tall bouncers at OSullivans!

    • BigDrinker

      Clarendon Skank and Drunk IrishChick , meet me at OSullivans saturday night…drinks on me

    • boycott

      this place is on perm-boycott in my book. R.I.P. kitty’s

  • plethoraofpinatas

    It’s a shame it didn’t make enough money when it was chef-oriented. When Wilson Tavern opened they had excellent food and great cocktails (loved the Sazerac and Old Fashioned that bartender Matt made).

    Alas, I have no interest in any bar who’s motto is “Bench Dancing Permitted”

    • LP

      Could agree with plethoraofpinatas more.

      The “original” Wilson Tavern had great music, that small town bar vibe, a bartender that cared and made his own drinks and a chef that was pretty good and a revolving menu based on what was available.

      The new owners have bastardized the place, “Bench Dancing Permitted” and “Home of the 16oz Cocktail” is the best they have to describe this place. It’s a shame, the original WT had character and was a fresh and welcome change to North Arlington which has become a bit too cliche.

      Well done, Reese.

      • InTheMiddle

        HAHA. That offended, LP that you call the owner out by name? Do you know him that closely? Judge not les ye be judged first. Anyone can tear anything down, but what can you build up? To each his own I guess.

        A lot of people with a lot of ideas and negativity online, but very little good to say.

      • Neighbor

        Aha – I was wondering why the food was so much worse when I went a few months ago than it was when I went after it opened. I didn’t realize there were new owners. I really liked the place at first, and then was disappointed on returning. I’ll certainly give it one more try, so if the owner or employees are reading this: the original chef, menu and drinks were great! Bring it all back!

  • Mark

    Really dug this place when it opened. Great beers on draft, interesting, tasty food like lamb tacos and soft shell crab sandwiches. Then when it was sold, it just became seemingly one more generic frat bro hangout with shitty Sysco frozen food. I doubt this expansion will change that but I’ll give it at least one shOt.

    • Valerius

      I spoke to the guys and they’re trying to turn it around. I think they were buying food from grocery stores and Restaurant Depot which explains the bad quality at the time. They’re buying higher quality ingredients to make the menu more appealing.

  • Sam

    First time commenting. Yeah! Anyways, I love to meet overweight 40-ish guys whose best story is about traveling to Europe while in college (long, long ago). A bonus is if they claim to have a great job, but in fact are nothing more than file clerks. Lack adult housing is also great. Why can’t I meet more guys like this rather than the good looking, interesting, well-employed, and bright guys that are my own age?

    • JohnB2

      Clarendon Ballroom is your spot, Miss Perfect. Most of those “old” people lived in the area before you did, should they be forced to move out? I can see it now, you’ll have ArlCo open a 30+ ghetto (or “reservation” if you prefer) in that void between Clarendon and Courthouse and not allow us to set foot in Clarendon without papers…

      • Friend of Sam

        Have not been to a bar to hang out in years (decades?). Life moves on and many people grow up. Sam’s comments mock the few Peter Pans (the fat, dorky ones) who will not grow up. I am now one of the old ones, but would have no desire to meet some loser who thinks hanging out in a bar is social contact with the world (when they are not holed up in a dark small apartment barking on the internet).

        • Hoi Polloi

          Unfortunately fat dorks come in all ages. So as not to be ageist, I say we get a few bars to dedicate an hour or so on tuesday (early evening natch,) to let them get their drink on before they retreat to their hovels for the remainder of the week.

    • Buckwheat

      Sam – that’s androgynous Samantha. Like SNL. Much easier to dream success than achieve it. We do not have to be “well-employed”.

      And to Overpaid Attorney –
      Q: What do you call 25 attorneys buried up to their chins in cement?
      A: Not enough cement.

  • Drunk_IrishChick

    This place is awful, I will stick to my expanded OSullivans!

    • DCBuff

      Week ago Friday there was a long, long line out the door of O’Sullivans. That spells brown flip flop diaster to me. So much for a local place that can pour a decent pint.

  • Brian

    I miss Kitty’s. He got screwed over so the landlord’s son could open a bar there, which failed. Good. This is the first I heard it’s under new management. I still won’t go in there.


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