Roadhouse meets refinement: that’s the impression you’ll get from Open Road Grill and Icehouse. The restaurant, from The MHG Group that operates Circa, is one in a cluster of eateries opened by the group this fall in Merrifield.
If your bar must come with Americana charm, then you won’t be disappointed here. On the wall behind the bar, an American flag made of bottle caps and a massive 1950s Coke sign flank a motorcycle – yes, a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy parked on a wide shelf. A huge wooden Beech-Nut chewing tobacco sign has been fashioned like shutters which when slid open reveal one of many wide-screen TVs about the restaurant and when closed become the backdrop for live music performances. The bench seating that runs opposite the bar is upholstered in a patchwork of blue-jean scraps. Tables occupy the space between, with broad leather-seated wood chairs. The ceiling and supports are all exposed wood beams. The restaurant has dive-bar flair, but it’s clean, well-lit, and spacious.
On the menu, similarly, booze hall eats are sophisticated. For appetizers, the Roadhouse Wings ($8.50) have a wispy crackle, seasoned but not sauce-slathered. A cup of Crystal Hot Sauce and a cup of smoked Maytag Blue cheese sauce are served for dunking the already flavorful wings. The BBQ Chicken Nachos ($11) showcase tangy citrus and sweet barbecue flavors, the corn tortilla chips stacked with gooey nacho cheese, sauce-covered smoked chicken pieces, and citrus cream sauce.
The restaurant’s entrees don’t stray far from American bar-and-grill favorites. Pizzas are offered, in 10- and 16-inch sizes, with topping combinations like roasted mushrooms and balsamic glaze, smoked chicken and chipotle aioli, pork belly and grilled pineapple – and just a basic cheese pie. Among the sandwiches are two burgers, the Open Road Burger ($11) – with cheddar cheese and all the traditional toppings, plus an onion ring on top – and the 50-50 Burger ($13.50). The 50-50 is so named because it combines pork belly and beef to form its patty, a combination that makes for a unique burger with a robust taste. The burger is topped with red cabbage slaw for some crunch and a scant spread of chipotle mayonnaise on its brioche bun.
The “Big Dish” menu section is a compendium of meat-focused entrees – steaks and ribs – with some seafood options. There’s a catch-of-the-day fish option on the dinner menu, and Fish and Chips ($16) on the lunch menu made with the day’s seafood selection (flounder on a recent weekend visit, with hardly a doughy spot to be found in its thin deep-fried shell). The Fish and Chips are served with a salty aioli made with capers in place of tartar sauce.
The Hot Fudge Ice Cream Cake ($7) has become a popular dessert, offering a thick plank of vanilla ice cream between two pieces of dense chocolate cake, the whole sandwich drizzled in fudge and served alongside some whipped cream. The “Old School” dessert selection has a certain cheeky appeal, though, with lunchbox standards – Twinkies, Moon Pies, and the like – for $1 apiece.
As any good bar should, Open Road has an ample selection of beers, on tap and in bottles, including several local and craft brews. Weekday happy hour deals and a Wednesday afternoon “kill the keg” $3 pint special are definite bargains on a menu that, for its gourmet takes, can get a bit expensive. But for diners looking for a dressed-up approach to the all-American bar-and-grill, Open Road Grill and Icehouse is a new spot to check out.
Open Road Grill and Icehouse is located at 8100 Lee Highway, Falls Church. For more information, call 571-395-4400 or visit openroadmerrifield.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – midnight; Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.; and Sunday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.