On a recent Thursday night, only two days after its official opening, Tavern 64 was buzzing. Almost every table was filled, and word, obviously, was out on the new restaurant in the Hyatt Regency Reston in Reston Town Center.
At Food and Beverage Director Ross Virando’s “favorite table”—centrally located and with a full view of the open kitchen—a small group of 30-something women were celebrating a birthday.
At a long communal table nearby, in the open, “gray area” between the bar and main dining room, a large, animated group of business types were vigorously networking.
And all around them, diners in assorted groups were enjoying the food, drink and the elegant but relaxed vibe of the Hyatt’s new eatery.
It was exactly the scene Virando—who hopped from table to table that night, chatting and offering samples of his favorite wines--and David Eisenman, the Hyatt Regency Reston’s general manager, were not only hoping for but were expecting to see.
Open since June 4, Tavern 64’s overall concept is to serve a menu of upscale, yet “approachable” and moderately priced, dishes made from local and regionally sourced ingredients in a convivial, community tavern atmosphere.
It was a far cry from Tavern 64’s recent predecessor, Market Street Bar and Grill. Although its food was still favorably received, when the decision to close was made after 23 years, Market Street had “run its course,” Eisenman acknowledged. As the restaurant choices at Reston Town Center proliferated, the emptier it became.
Planning for what became Tavern 64--which takes its name from the year Reston was founded by Robert E. Simon--took two years, said Eisenman, 55, who lives in Broadlands with his wife and children. With Hyatt for 32 years, he has worked at 14 of its hotels, the past 12 years in Reston.
Consultants looked at demographics within a few mile radius and the region, analyzed profiles of potential patrons and future trends, tested a number of menus, and set “sustainability goals.”
“The concept that everyone believed would work the best,” Eisenman said, is “American craft” or as some call it “farm-to-table.”
He explained, “We wanted something that had legs to grow.”
“It is the place to go if you want a homegrown, culinary adventure,” said Virando, setting for himself the goal of developing a restaurant “where it’s difficult for a hotel guest to get a table.”
Virando, 33, who grew up in Annapolis, started working in restaurants at age 14. With Hyatt for 12 years, he started right out of college and, since then, has worked at seven different hotels. He and his wife moved to Herndon four months ago to start his job of making the concept of Tavern 64 a reality.
Virando’s partner in this new endeavor is Executive Chef Sean Glover, 30, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Hired in-house after serving as the Hyatt Regency Reston’s food service sous chef for two years, Glover--who lives in Ashburn with his wife, two dogs and two cats--started working in restaurant kitchens at 16.
Glover committed to cooking as a career his second year in college. Finding himself thoroughly bored and “hating” his computer science classes, he recalled thinking: “I know how to make a hollandaise sauce, but I can’t do this!”
Creating a seasonal menu that adheres to the American craft concept, is 95 percent locally sourced and changes three times a year at a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner is an immense challenge, Glover admitted.
He is meeting this challenge in a very modern way. He found many of what the restaurant calls its “sustainable partners,” which are located mostly within a two-hour radius, by “Googling” them.
The current menu--served by casually dressed and friendly waitstaff--features comfortably familiar American entrées like: BBQ short ribs, brisket with cornbread mash, pork chops with sweet potato hash, strip steak, free-range chicken with collard greens, scallops with locally cured bacon and fresh succotash, monkfish, rock fish with jalapeno-cheddar grits, and a vegan vegroll.
“We’re always looking for more local sources. … The good news is doing business with small local farmers; the bad news is that they can’t always meet the demand,” Glover said.
“Crafted is the key word for us,” said Virando, noting, along with Eisenman, that Tavern 64’s liquors, beers and wines, like its food, are as locally sourced as possible.
“This something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Virando enthused.
“Classic cocktails” are made with liquors from Virginia distilleries like Purcellville’s Catoctin Creek Distilling Company, Sperryville’s Copper Fox Distillery; North Garden’s Laird & Company Distillery, and Fredericksburg’s A. Smith Bowman Distillery, which was founded in 1934 at Sunset Hills Farm in Reston.
Eisenman pointed out that some moonshine-based drinks also were offered just as a novelty. Unexpectedly, the moonshine supply had to be replenished after the first week.
Tavern 64’s entirely new physical layout also encourages a convivial tavern atmosphere. The open-plan, 5,500 square-foot restaurant, which seats 168 indoors and 48 on its patio, is designed so dining and bar areas naturally flow together.
Its taupe-colored, paneled décor is simple, soothing and organic with wooden tables, aged-leather chairs and banquettes and ceramic floors that look like aged wood. Strategically placed flat screen TVs reinforce the farm-to-table connection by streaming photos of the menu’s organic ingredients and the farms from where they are acquired.
There intentionally is no bar menu. Instead “small plate” options are offered in both the bar and dining room areas to advance the “gray area” idea, Virando said, noting that having just drinks in the dining area also is welcome.
“We want people to come in and be comfortable and enjoy themselves. … The Tavern concept is not just a name,” he said.
“It’s exciting when things work the way you plan they will,” Eisenman said. “It looks like we’ve hit a home run!”