The Mosaic District in Merrifield got its first full-service restaurant last month when the beloved D.C.-area pizza chain Matchbox opened its first Virginia outpost there, and it’s a debut that has been eagerly awaited.
The new restaurant first opened its doors on April 12, initially only offering dinner service, but a look at the crowd there last Saturday hardly suggests that the restaurant had just opened. The front patio was full of diners enjoying a beautiful spring day beneath the massive outdoor screen of the Angelika Film Center next door. There was scarcely an empty table in the expansive 220-seat restaurant. It’s a large space made cozy by the use of rough-hewn planks lining the walls, with exposed brick and stone accents throughout. Even the booths and tables have that same rustic feel, adorned with a piece of classic Matchbox décor: quirky matchboxes set into the tables.
The menu is manageable, with just a few selections in a handful of categories to choose from. The 3.6.9 Mini Burgers, often praised as a top D.C.-area slider, are offered as an appetizer. The dish draws its name from its adjustable portion size, allowing tables to order 3, 6, or 9 (at $9, $16, or $20) of the tiny Angus beef burgers, cooked to order. The juicy little burger patties are stacked in perfect proportion to a puffy brioche bun with just a single pickle slice for some crunch. For a few bucks more, the little burgers get a bit of the diner’s choice of gouda, mozzarella, or gorgonzola cheese. And if the burgers weren’t enough, this appetizer comes with its own side: The sliders are nearly concealed by a mountain of crispy, herb-seasoned onion straws.
For a more gourmet way to start the meal, the Tuna Tartare ($12) serves an elegantly plated portion of fresh minced tuna with a stack of thin and crispy yucca chips and drizzles of honey-garlic and wasabi sauces.
It’s that blend of high and low cuisine, both treated with gourmet care, that’s found throughout the Matchbox menu. One can order seared sea scallop or rib-eye steak platters for an entrée, or get a sandwich or salad and find that they too include high-end ingredients and treatments.
The balance Matchbox strikes is most evident on the pizza menu, which divides selections into “the originals” for more familiar pizzas, and “chef’s picks” for pies with unique topping combinations.
Among the originals, Matchbox latches on to that undeniable pizza-building impulse to toss a bunch of delicious meats onto a pie with its Matchbox Meat ($14 for a 10-inch, $22 for a 14-inch). Quality pepperoni, Italian sausage, and crispy bacon provide big savory flavors and just a hint of sweet and spicy tastes, with some tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese as the backdrop.
The Prosciutto and Black Mission Fig ($14 for a 10-inch, $22 for a 14-inch) tops the chef’s picks menu section. The pieces of sweet purple figs are velvety smooth against the crisp pizza base, the focus of a pie that combines thin slices of prosciutto and a mix of mozzarella and gorgonzola cheese under a layer of arugula.
Whatever the pizza, it comes with the Matchbox signature crust – formed with fresh dough and tossed into a blazing-hot wood-fired masonry oven for a pizza that’s a little chewy beneath a blackened, crispy shell with a hint of smokiness to its flavor.
Matchbox may be known for its pizzas and sliders, but its desserts should not be overlooked. The Trio Dessert ($12) is a sampler of a few of the house favorites, with a portion of the Mo’s Magic Brownie (a fudgy brownie topped in ice cream), three scoops of fruity sorbet, and the Coffee and Doughnuts (a few sweet dough fritters tossed in cinnamon and served with an espresso kahlua crème dipping sauce).
Diners are already making their way to Matchbox now that it has crossed into Virginia, and the restaurant is set to become a favorite Mosaic District spot.
Matchbox is located at 2911 District Ave., Merrifield. For more information, call 571-395-4869 or visit matchboxmerrifield.com.