15 Amazing Bar Snacks
When you’re craving a drink and a nibble, these spots should top your go-to list.
What makes a bar snack great? Well, that may just depend on what time it is and how many drinks you’ve had. Are you still in the dainty nibbling phase, or are you ready to go all in on a giant bowl of smothered fries? No matter where you are in your evening, you’re probably not giving much thought to calorie counting, and the best snacks tend to be fried and salty. Or perhaps bready and cheesy. Or even both of the above with a dip on the side. After all, they’re bar snacks. Diet foods they are not. But you won’t regret digging into these.
1. Pig Wings at B-Side
8298 Glass Alley, Mosaic District; bsidecuts.com
These pigs may not actually fly, but head butcher and executive chef Nate Anda cuts the pork spareribs ($9) about 2 inches long to make them more a manageable finger food — like wings. He also adds flavor by braising them with onion, herbs and garlic, and tossing them in butter spiced with Valentina hot sauce — the chef’s favorite. They’re served with a blue cheese dip, and beer director Greg Engert recommends pairing them with the hoppy Paranoid AleDroid from Triple Crossing Brewing Co.
2. Taramasalata at Kapnos Taverna
4000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; Kapnostaverna.com
A trip to any Kapnos location simply isn’t complete without an order of taramasalata ($14) — no matter where you’re sitting or what you’re drinking. It’s that good. The traditional Greek spread made of whipped carp roe and caviar is accented by the addition of cauliflower here and served with a wonderful, soft flatbread made in house. If you’re skeptical about what essentially amounts to a creamy caviar dip, order it first as part of the spreads sampler. But we promise you’ll like the taramasalata best.
3. Bulgogi Fries at Bar Bao
3100 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington; barbao.com
Think of the bulgogi fries ($12) from the “snacks to share” section of the menu here as the Korean version of poutine. The bowl of fries layered with short rib bulgogi, kimchi, Sriracha mayo and melted mozzarella is totally addictive and the perfect way to start an evening of shōchū-spiked cocktails.
4. Spam Musubi at Hula Girl Bar and Grill
4044 Campbell Ave., Arlington; hulagirlbarandgrill.com
This Shirlington Village spot may be the closest thing to Hawaii that we can get here in the DMV, and everyone knows Spam is a pretty big deal on the islands. Here, you can find Spam musubi ($3), which is spam wrapped in nori with rice; or katsu Spam musubi ($6), which is the same thing, but the Spam is crusted with panko and deep fried. Wash it down with a Mai Tai or the Hula Girl Punch.
5. The Whole Dang Thang at Chasin’ Tails
2200 N. Westmoreland St., Arlington; chasintailscrawfish.com
Whether you’re a New Orleans transplant or just an adventurous eater with a powerful hunger, this basket ($26) of golden, brown, delicious goodness has all the cravings covered. The jumble of Cajun favorites includes fried alligator bites, calamari, shrimp and catfish over French fries. Obviously, a Hurricane or an Abita beer is the way to go, drinkwise.
6. Chili-lime Chicharrones at Pepita
4000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; Pepitabymic.com
Not all of us want to spend $10 or more on a bar bite. Enter the reasonably priced chili-lime chicharrones ($3) at Pepita, the perfect sidekick to one of five types of Margaritas on the menu here. The chiles and lime channel that south-of-the-border vibe, and chicharrones — made from deep-fried pork skins — are a quintessential Mexican snack. Eat them solo or dipped in an order of guacamole, salsa or queso.
7. Pan de Cristal con Tomate at Jaleo Crystal City
2250-A Crystal Dr., Arlington; jaleo.com
When it comes to bar food, the Spanish practically invented it — after all, that’s what tapas were created for. They know you need something starchy to hold you through the night, and pan con tomate ($10) is a classic for a reason. Toasted slices of bread are brushed with fresh tomato and perfect alongside plate of manchego and thinly sliced jamón ibérico — and some sangria, of course.
8. Pimiento Cheese with Crackers at Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery
1515 N. Courthouse Road, Arlington; bayoubakeryva.com
If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of sampling what’s sometimes jokingly referred to as “Carolina caviar” or “Southern pâté,” it’s time to right that wrong. This pimiento cheese dip ($6) is a souped-up version of the classic, which generally incorporates sharp cheddar, mayo and pimento peppers. It’s pictured here with Triscuits, but it now comes with a roll of Ritz crackers. It’s available all day, and we’re not too proud to munch on it with a half-price bottle of wine offered weekdays from 4-7 p.m.
9. Crab Rangoon Dip at TenPenh
7900 West Park Dr., Tysons Corner; tenpenhtysons.com
Truth be told, it’s tough to pick a favorite bar snack at this recent reincarnation of the downtown Washington old-timer. The lamb potstickers and the Nashville hot chicken steamed buns would give any snack a run for its money. But the prize goes to the wonton chips piled into a Chinese takeout container and served alongside a sizzling pan of hot crab rangoon dip ($11) capped with a pool of sweet chile sauce. Consider us obsessed.
10. Pork Belly Slider at Baba Bar
2901 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; baba.bar
This new bar below Ambar in Clarendon is all about the small plates, so just about everything can be considered a bar snack. The locally raised pork belly ($6) is cooked slowly for seven hours, marinated in a heady blend of maple, dark beer and Sriracha, then griddled till it gets a bit crispy on the outside. The bun from a local French bakery is treated to a white bean-parsnip puree and ginger-lime pickled cucumbers to accent the pork. It sells for $5 during happy hour.
11. Smoked Blue Catfish Schmear at Requin
8296 Glass Alley, Mosaic District; Requinbymic.com
This flavor-loaded spread ($10) starts with smoked and white-wine poached blue catfish — a fish that’s considered invasive in this region. (But we say that if you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em.) Luckily these guys are delicious, especially when blended with créme fraîche, lemon and herbs, then topped with smoked salmon and served with béarnaise potato chips. It’s available for $6 during happy hour, which takes place 3-9 p.m. Mondays and 3-7 p.m. Tuesday and Sunday.
12. Truffle Frites at Mussel Bar & Grille
800 N. Glebe Road, Arlington; musselbar.com
And then sometimes you just want a giant pile of fries, right? At this Belgian spot from chef Robert Wiedmaier, you know you’ll get something more special than the regular old kind. Here, the twice-fried fries ($6) are sprinkled with parmesan, drizzled with infused white truffle oil and served with a trio of aioli dips. They stand on their own for an umami-laden snack or paired with the chef’s well-known mussels. It goes without saying that there should be a Belgian beer in the mix somewhere.
13. Bison Meatballs at Wildfire Restaurant
1714-U International Drive, McLean; wildfirerestaurant.com
If you find yourself in need of a beer and a quick bite while shopping in Tysons Galleria, pop into Wildfire for a half- dozen bison meatballs ($8.95) enhanced with garlic butter, chicken jus, tomato jam and a tomato-basil sauce. They’re served atop a garlic crouton and garnished with asiago and parsley. And they’re half-price in the lounge during happy hour, which takes place weekdays from 3-6 p.m.
14. Angus Beef Sliders at Entyse Wine Bar and Lounge
1700 Tysons Blvd., McLean; ritzcarlton.com
What would a bar snacks list be without sliders? This lounge tucked inside The Ritz-Carlton at Tysons Corner obliges during happy hour with a trio of premium Angus patties ($22) topped with white cheddar, tomato, lettuce, caramelized onion and a three-mustard sauce. Each one is crowned with an olive, which makes us really crave a martini.
15. Korean Fried Cauliflower at Evening Star Cafe
2000 Mount Vernon Ave., Del Ray; eveningstarcafe.net
This Del Ray mainstay offers a slightly healthier version of KFC, this one ($10) made with cauliflower instead of chicken. Chef Keith Cabot tempura-fries the cauliflower florets, then coats them with Korean BBQ sauce and sprinkles them with sesame seeds. Available on the front porch and lounge menus only, it goes for half price during happy hour — held weekdays from 4:30-7 p.m. Cabot recommends pairing it with a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale.