Before there was Red Apron Butcher or the Partisan or the B Side, there was EatBar in Arlington, the playful sidekick to the neighboring Tallula restaurant. It was the place where chef Nathan Anda first started experimenting with cured meats and whole animal butchery, and he still loves the concept like a first-born child.
Which is why he and the Neighborhood Restaurant Group are resurrecting EatBar on Thursday, in the former Kraze Burger space on Barracks Row. The rebirth comes nearly a decade after EatBar originally debuted in Arlington in 2006. (Both Tallula and EatBar closed in 2014 after lease negotiations fell apart.)
"EatBar is where Red Apron was kind of created. We did all the butchering at Tallula to be sold at EatBar," says Anda as he added the final touches to his opening menu.
EatBar in Arlington was also where Anda, the budding charcuterie maker, learned an important lesson about cold-smoking hams in a converted freezer. "You don't have to resurrect that story," the chef advises about the appliance that went up in flames. "That was a long time ago."
Yes, that was a long time ago, and Anda has come a long way in his butchering and curing skills. The new 44-seat EatBar will be the latest NRG spot to confirm Anda's status as the preeminent charcuterie maker in the District. The menu format will be similar to the previous one — heavy on snacks and cured meats — but the reimagined EatBar will showcase Anda's new chops. (See the full menu below.)
Like his rolled beef belly, which is marinated in Dijon mustard, garlic and rosemary and then allowed to dry. Anda slowly roasts the belly overnight, incorporating the resulting juices into a housemade jus. The beef is then finished on the grill and served with the jus. Anda is also serving a Red Apron-branded rookworst, a smoked sausage that he describes as the "Belgian version of Andouille."
"I created that for the guys at the Sovereign," Anda says about the Belgian restaurant that NRG recently opened in Georgetown. "And then I just kept it."
Eventually, Anda plans to add a plate of pork skin noodles with meatballs, but the technique required to produce the piggy pasta will require more kitchen training. "I'm going to go a little slower with that," Anda says.
The new EatBar will channel the spirit of the old one in many ways. Wine will continue to play an important role. NRG wine director Brent Kroll has selected 100 bottles for the menu, including sherries, lambruscos and orange wines. Thirty wines will also be available by the glass. The 18 rotating taps and 3o-plus bottle list, curated by NRG's beer director Greg Engert, will mix local brands with U.S. craft brews and international selections. There will be a full bar, too, which will focus on the bitter, amaro-based drinks that Anda likes.
The bar itself might look familiar to former EatBar dwellers. It's a section of the zinc bar that used to grace the Arlington location. The 100-disc jukebox is also back in service. Both had been mothballed until NRG could jumpstart EatBar.
Jukebox selections will be printed on the back of the menu, but unlike the meal, the music will be free. "We're going to try to get people to limit themselves to maybe three selections," says Michael Babin, founder of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group.
Yeah, good luck with that.
"I know," Babin sighs. "There are a few down-tempo things on here that I hope people don't play until it's, like, nap time."
Speaking of music — and Anda and Babin's affection for it — the revamped EatBar features a wall constructed out of old cassette tapes. There are about 7,200 cassettes on that wall, which was meticulously arranged to spell out "Eat" with white-colored boxes.
"Nate's cassette selection got sacrificed for the project," Babin jokes.
EatBar opens Thursday at 415 Eighth St. SE. Hours: 4 to 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 4 to midnight Friday and Saturday. www.eat-bar.com.