The motto at JV’s, a Falls Church restaurant celebrating its 65th anniversary this month, is “ageless charm without yuppie bastardization.” And charming, it is.
One might think a honky-tonk that first opened its doors in the 1940s would be a relic in this day and age, but the way this tiny restaurant comes alive suggests otherwise.
On a weekday night around dinnertime, the bar is nearly full. Budweiser bottles line the bar, nearly one for every hand. Customers greet the bartender by name and say hello to friends. The conversation at the bar is good-natured and lively, and fills the space with sound. All is illuminated in a cool shade of blue by small overhead lamps and ceiling-strung Christmas lights. Little light streams in at dusk through the windows, which are covered in neon signs as well as posters for the next show or fundraiser.
Some patrons take their places at well-loved booths that run the length of the restaurant. Stuffing peeks out of cracks in the seats; it’s a dive bar, but one that’s come by the distinction naturally. Little disembodied hot rod bumpers adorn each booth, jutting out of walls that tell the history of the restaurant.
Nearly every square inch of the walls are covered in a poster or a picture. The celebrity decorations in the bunch stand out. Some have signatures and little messages scrawled over their image. Some are from the big names who have found their way to JV’s for home-style cooking and some bluegrass or blues; others are from the musicians who have performed at the restaurant. Big names, up-and-comers, and local favorites have all taken the JV’s stage, a tiny corner platform with barely enough space for a five-piece act. Every night of the week, JV’s offers musical slices of Americana, from weekly blues nights and open mics, to shows by acts that on any other night of the week might be found performing at a nightclub or theater.
The menu seems as time-tested and unrefined as the space itself. Unashamed in the face of the healthy food trends – local, organic, grass-fed, hormone-free, etc. etc. – prevalent in other D.C.-area restaurants, the menu keeps the deep fryer and grill busy.
The JV’s Basket Case ($12.95) might be an oversized novelty on any other menu, but when listed among this restaurant’s many deep-fried and cheese-covered starters it fits right in. The basket has a little bit of everything, all crispy and served hot from the fryer. Onion rings, steak fries, chicken wings, jalapeno poppers, fried pickles, and fried mushrooms: It’s a collection which, of course, deserves a big cup of ranch for dipping.
Sandwiches on the menu are a bargain at between $4.25 and $8.75, with an assortment of burgers. The D.C.-area has its fair share of gourmet burgers. These are not among them. A fried egg burger and a ham-topped cheeseburger are about as inventive as the burgers here get. The burgers, made with fresh ground beef and served with a handful of crinkle-cut potato chips, are simple, but satisfying.
The “Home Cooked Dinner Specials” selection offers the type of soul-stirring cooking that one’s mother might serve with a stern warning to clean the plate. Platters of pork chops, fried chicken, country-fried steak and the like are served up, and few cost more than $10. With an order of the JV’s Catfish Platter Dinner ($10.50) comes a basket of two crispy fried catfish fillets atop a mound of steak fries, flanked by a cup of coleslaw and a cup of tartar sauce equal in size.
It’s nice to know that in a changing world, some things stay the same. Listening to live music and having some beers with friends will always make for a good time. Down-home cooking will always taste great. And JV’s, plain and simple, keeps bringing it all together.
JV’s Restaurant is located at 6666 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church. For more information, call 703-241-9504 or visit jvsrestaurant.com. Restaurant hours are Monday: 4 p.m. – 2 a.m; Tuesday – Friday: 12:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.; Saturday: 1:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.; and Sunday: Noon – 1:30 a.m.