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Westover Taco draws families and late-night crowds to what was once Arlington’s ‘last dive bar’

For three decades, Westover was home to a dive bar called The Forest Inn that, in yesteryear, sold cigarettes and garnered a reputation for attracting a “rough crowd.”

Now, it is home to a taco and margarita spot with a kids’ menu.

The Forest Inn first opened in 1981 in a former post office space, under the name of The Black Forest Inn. In 1994, it moved a few blocks to its location on Washington Blvd where it remained until it closed in 2022. The bar had a blue-collar atmosphere — though it attracted judges and congressmen in addition to cops and teachers — and earned a reputation as one of Arlington’s last dive bars.

When it closed in 2022, however, times were changing. At the time, General Manager Ken Choudhary told ARLnow that he guessed the landlord, Van Metre Commercial, did not renew the lease because it wanted “something new… something that’s not a bar.”

Nearly a year and a half after The Forest Inn’s closure, Westover Taco opened at 5849 Washington Blvd. According to local serial entrepreneur and restaurant co-owner Scott Parker, the clientele at Westover Taco is less like a dive bar and more family-oriented — but cocktails are always available.

“There are people that come in and just have a couple margaritas but the great majority of people that come in are… having at least some food,” he said. “We’re open to people just having drinks if they want. There’s some people that come just for drinks, there’s some that come for food, and we’re happy with both.”

While the recently opened restaurant now has some regulars, Parker says he is mostly seeing an influx of new patrons trying it out.

“There are definitely some regulars from the neighborhood that have come quite a few times, some that come weekly for sure, but at the same time there are definitely folks that are just trying it out for the first time as well,” he said.

The entrepreneurs behind the taco shop also reflect the new focus. At the helm is Sarah White, a restaurant industry veteran who also runs the Cowboy Cafe on Langston Blvd, which many lovingly consider a dive bar, as well as several local Lost Dog Cafe locations. White co-owns the business with Parker and Cowboy co-owners Mike and Jim Barnes, Mike Danner and Wes Clough, who are all Yorktown High School grads.

Tacos and margaritas are the backbone of the menu but the casual eatery also serves a variety of tequila-based cocktails. The space features three roll-up doors that create an indoor-outdoor feel for spring and summer months.

Westover Taco might not hold the dive-y appeal of The Forest Inn to its former regulars, but Parker says it is finding success in its own, community-centric way.

“We had big expectations just because we love the neighborhood and know how much that neighborhood supports the local businesses, but even as much as we had hoped for I think it’s surpassed our expectations,” Parker said. “It’s just been really an amazing experience. I really love being there and it’s blown us away with how much the neighborhood has supported us.”

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