Beer lovers across the nation can recognize the fish, swimming right to left across the label of beloved Dogfish Head craft brews. Maybe it’s one of the Delaware-based microbrewery’s ubiquitous IPAs – the 60- and 90-minute varieties – that have made that fish a familiar sight in the beer-aficionado’s fridge. Maybe it’s the sweet mahogany ale Raison D’Etre – brewed with beet sugar and raisins and once named the American Beer of the Year – that makes that fish stand out on bottles and packs amongst rows of craft brews. It could be the seasonal beers, like the soon-to-be-released Punkin Ale, or the bevy of curiously concocted ales of varying inspiration and ingredient. Whatever the beer, and whatever the reason, that logo is a harbinger of good things to come. Passing through Seven Corners, diners will see that fish swimming across a restaurant and, if they’ve stopped for a bite, know that it means more than just good beer.
Falls Church’s Dogfish Head Alehouse, one of three in the Washington, D.C. area, serves an American-fare menu that, as should be expected, takes plenty of inspiration from Dogfish Head brews. Of course many of the brewery’s beers are available in-house, whether they’re on-tap or bottled and ready to head home with a doggie bag. But those distinct flavors that Dogfish Head beers are known for also find their way into a few dishes. The IBA Alehouse Chili, for example, made with the Indian Brown Ale, adds hops and malt tastes to the meat-and-beans chili. With an order of the Alehouse Chili Nachos ($9.5), a smattering of the stuff over tortilla chips, melted cheese, and pico de gallo imparts a huge flavor to the classic pub appetizer.
Dogfish Head brings together ingredients in uncommon combinations within the familiar beer framework (who would think to add maple syrup to an IPA blend and carbonate it?), and that same innovation can be found on the restaurant’s menu. The Andouille Cajun Egg Rolls ($9) appetizer take an Asian fare concept to the Bayou by filling the fried egg rolls with blackened chicken and chewy andouille sausage pieces, melted pepperjack cheese, peppers, and onions in a mildly spicy sauce that puts a tingle in the mouth after a few bites. The egg rolls are served alongside a slightly sweet Cajun dipping sauce for a flavorful cool-down.
The restaurant’s “Main Fare” entrees, about a dozen in all, also foster that beer-and-eats relationship. Each is listed with a recommended beer pairing. The suggested partner to the Mahi Mahi Tacos ($15) is the 60-Minute IPA, but non-beer-drinkers don’t need the libation to enjoy this platter, one of a surprising number of seafood dishes on the menu. Here, three soft tortilla tacos of blackened mahi mahi are drizzled in a chipotle mayo that amps up the smoky flavors of the dish, which contrast the bright cilantro and cool and crunchy slaw that are added to the mix.
Also offered for entrees are wood-grilled pizzas, salads, and sandwiches, including a few burgers that also get the wood-grilled treatment. On the Portobello Gorgonzola Burger ($10.50), the well-seasoned sirloin patty edges precariously out of a thin focaccia roll that can just barely hold on to the hefty half-pound of meat. Stacked on top of the patty are savory grilled portobello mushroom slices and tangy, creamy crumbled gorgonzola cheese, all concealed beneath the buttery bun, scored and blistered from wood grilling.
The marriage of great microbrews and great American eats at Dogfish Head Alehouse is a winning combination, but it’s the attention paid to food quality here – that additive-free “real food” philosophy that rewards diners with honest flavors – that will keep local beer-drinkers stopping in for a pint and a meal.
Dogfish Head Alehouse is located at 6220 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church. For more information, call 703-534-3342 or visit dogfishalehouse.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Thursday: 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Friday – Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – midnight; and Sunday: 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.