Photograph by Darrow Montgomery
The not-so-well-kept secret about dining out is that the bar is often the best place to find great service and feel the pulse of the restaurant. Thankfully, more restaurants are now building bars designed for diners, not just for people grabbing a drink while they wait for a table. The Red Hen’s U-shaped bar, which dominates the center of the dining room, is one such perch. The custom-built wood bar chairs provide plenty of elbow room so diners can dig into chef Mike Friedman’s homemade rigatoni with fennel sausage ragu or a perfect bulb of burrata atop bits of grilled broccolini, farro, and soppressata with romesco sauce. The bar also provides a prime view of the Virginia oak–fueled grill which gives the dining room a cozy cabin feel. Of course, the bar is for drinking, too. The Red Hen isn’t afraid to embrace some bitterness in the cocktails, but don’t miss co-owner Sebastian Zutant’s collaborations with local wine, mead, and cider producers.