Looking out the window I can see that the snow is tapering off, draping softly over the layers of branches that make up the evergreens. The scene has me thinking about favorite snow day – and just really cold day – haunts over the past years in Arlington. When we can’t stand being inside any longer, J and I bundle up in parkas and boots (strapping on yak traks when icy streets and sidewalks challenge our balance!), trudge up to some of our favorite local restaurants and park it at the bar we get to first that’ll take us.
I’m a fan of Screwtop Wine Bar. It’s small, which I like. (But many times, for me and J, that means waiting around, albeit with a glass of wine, for a seat at the bar or a table.) It’s a wine bar that doesn’t take itself seriously – starting with the name. Then with the menu. Pick a glass from “Everything happens for a Reisling,” or “My Pinot is bigger than yours,” or start off with a selection from “My mind is a blanc” and fill up from there. Apart from smiling just reading the wine list, the fun of Screwtop is picking out one (or more, no one’s judging here) of the close to 50 rotating wines by the glass or sip (and more by the bottle) and monthly changing wine flights.
The kitchen produces more than cheese and charcuterie plates to go along with your glass of wine. The meat and cheese-centric menu extends to main course sandwiches. The appropriately caveated “gut busting” Buffaloaf and the Hot Cuban stand out (with The Whole Enchilada! not falling far behind). I’m only slightly embarrassed to say that J and I have tunneled through a piled-up plate of Fiesta Nachos with pulled pork, claiming it as our main course. We went there, yes, even after ordering one of our favorites from the “Sharing & Pairing” selections, the cheese-less but pork-full zingy Pot Belly Pig Lettuce Wraps. There’s a list of salads on the menu, and to make ourselves feel better, we’ll order the leafy green side salad to go along with our tangy Buffalo Sliders topped with chipotle aioli.
The Green Pig Bistro has a larger space than Screwtop, its neighbor of a few doors down. J and I almost always find seats at the bar or communal bar table within minutes (with minimal stalking). This makes “The Pig” extremely attractive on a Friday night when we don’t have the energy to cook and we’re starving before leaving the house. The Pig, for me, is that quintessential neighborhood hang-out. It’s comforting, its lively, it serves good food and wine. Everyone knows your name – or at least your face if you eat there as often as we do. Around Christmas they decorate by pulling out a leg lamp from that classic Christmas movie, A Christmas Story. If you get there before 7 pm, there are happy hour glasses of red and white wines (and beers on tap). They can humor me with a good ‘80s-ish playlist on occasion and show the Nationals (baseball) and Capitals (hockey) on relatively unobtrusive screens.
“The usual” for me in food is the hanger steak. It was the burger until The Pig nixed the arugula salad from the burger/ fries/salad plate. The hanger steak comes with both, so I can feel better about eating all of the fries. The hanger also comes with a chimichurri sauce, which has varied in chunkiness and flavor over many years of Friday night hangar steak. The fish changes regularly and rarely disappoints in preparation. They’ve had a pork chop that does not remind me of my mother’s (sorry Mom!) because it’s thick and juicy and not thin and dry. From chop, to shank, to schnitzel, the pork on the menu has always been good. Pig tostada, albacore tuna, and the beet salad round out my go-tos for appetizers. The brussels sprouts side satisfies us brussels lovers. “The usual” in wine changes, occasionally, when the wines by the glass change. The 7 Moons Blend is bold and flavorful at a good price point. But the stand out for me is the Virginia Claret from just down the interstate in Williamsburg, Virginia, also bold, but hinting at a spiciness that is my taste of choice. May it be on the wine list a little while longer.