Westover Taco Coming to Former Forest Inn Space
The taqueria will replace the long-running dive bar with tacos, margs and an open-late bar.
It’s got a Lebanese eatery. A Thai restaurant. A bakery. An ice cream parlor. A beer garden. An Italian store.
“We’re in love with Westover,” says entrepreneur Scott Parker about the enclave of local shops a mile from the East Falls Church metro. “This is just a dream neighborhood for almost any concept.”
Parker and five fellow restaurateurs are soon to test out a new concept for the village: a taqueria. The nightspot will replace The Forest Inn, a dive bar known for its solo tap of Budweiser and collection of elephant figurines that ended a four-decade run in June. Westover Taco will be the first collaborative venture for Parker and the team at fellow dive bar (and Best of Arlington winner) Cowboy Cafe, as well as a few Lost Dog Cafe franchise locations: Jim Barnes, Mike Barnes, Wes Clough, Mike Danner and Sarah White.
“My partners and I always thought it was a cool place, and we’ve been saying to each other for over 10 years [that] if they ever go out of business and the space is available, we’re gonna take it,” Parker says. When his real estate agent reached out about a 1,000-square-foot space in Westover, they jumped on it.
The new restaurant will be “taco-centric,” Parker says, but he adds that salads, sides and starters will round out the menu. Greg Lloyd, who recently served as executive chef at Le Diplomate in D.C., will serve as consultant for the kitchen. (Lloyd was also recently named chef and managing partner at another Parker concept, Poppyseed Rye.)
“I expect the food to be really top-notch,” Parker says.
Tacos and margaritas have been the focal point of other Parker brands, such as Don Tito in Clarendon, which he co-owns with Mike and Nick Cordero. Parker also has an ownership stake in Bronson Bierhall, Bash Boxing, Nighthawk Brewery & Pizza and several other concepts.
“It’s definitely a business model that I’ve seen be successful more often than not,” Parker says. “Almost everyone … wants to eat some tacos, drink a marg or two.”
Parker’s relationship with the Cowboy Cafe co-owners dates back to 2006, when he answered a Craigslist ad for a room for rent in a house they shared. White manages Cowboy Cafe and will serve as managing partner at Westover Taco. The Falls Church resident, who made a bid for the Virginia House of Delegates last year, holds leadership roles in several area organizations, including serving as Virginia Restaurant Association president for VRTLA and vice president of the Fairfax Rotary Club.
The space—currently undergoing a “full gut job,” Parker says—will be rebuilt from top to bottom. A new bar will stand in the footprint of the old one, opposite several high-top tables. The three large windows at the back of the room will be reconstructed to let in the breeze on cool days. And brand-new booths will accommodate larger parties a bit closer to the main entrance. Though the front corridor is rather narrow, Parker says there may be space to tuck in a few arcade machines.
Aiming for a spring 2023 opening, Westover Taco will operate seven days a week and add lunch service sometime after its initial launch. The bar will stay open till 2 a.m. on weekends, says Parker, who has already heard from locals interested in a late-night replacement for its storied predecessor. But he offers reassurances to neighborhood residents who may be wary of a burning-the-midnight-oil newcomer.
“We’re not bringing in DJs; there’s no dance floor,” he says. “It will be open late, but it’s not going to be any sort of wild party scene.”
The restaurateur says he’ll be surprised if the restaurant isn’t a hit with the neighbors, who have embraced several locally grown eateries over the years.
“I don’t think that taquerias are going to go out of style anytime soon,” Parker says. “If we can make a special one here in a neighborhood that’s a very strong local market, I think that we could have a 10 or 20-year run.”
This post has been updated with additional biographical details about Sarah White.