It’s 7:30 on a Thursday night and it’s hard to hear yourself think. Young couples, bands of coworkers and a few older women, perhaps on a book club field trip, are among the patrons chatting their way through cocktails over the pulse of pop music in the main room of Wilson Hardware, a Clarendon nightspot that opened in September.
The restaurant, whose name is a nod to the Virginia Hardware store housed in the space before it became Irish pub Ri Ra, earns marks for its sleek presentation. “We wanted something that had sort of a sexy, industrial New York-style loft feel to it,” says Faris Ghareeb, one of four partners running the property.
As you step into the foyer, a Lichtenstein-esque mural incorporating a photo of the former hardware storefront greets you. In the main dining room, a similar papier-mâché mural with a peering woman is the focal point of the room, resting just above a row of banquettes. The ceiling is high and exposed, with orblike lights descending from its center. And from a seat at the 27-foot quartz bar, it’s easy to feel FOMO, with four other spaces (including a rooftop bar) to enjoy a drink on site.
“A lot of people that are in Arlington feel like they have to go to D.C. in order to get a certain kind of experience,” Ghareeb says. “What we wanted to do is try to offer something that has a downtown or D.C. experience that’s of that caliber here in Arlington.”
To elevate the experience from just another bar for single Arlington 20-somethings, Ghareeb says, the owners sprinkled the dinner menu with a few upscale items, such as duck confit and a rainbow quinoa salad. Their cheekily named cocktails include the Bright Idea, a $23 fruity drink for two served in a light-bulb-shaped flask that’s nestled in a bucket of ice with a color-changing LED light. And for something a little less spring breaky, the Screw Him is a deliciously floral beverage that’s sweet but not saccharine.
Wilson Hardware is the first Arlington venture for a team of owners—Ghareeb, Walid Zeytoun, Alex Haje and Jad Bouchebel—already active in D.C.’s nightlife community. Ghareeb, Zeytoun and Haje operate Opera Ultra Lounge and Bouchebel oversees Provision No.14 and Prospect, all in the district.
“Clarendon was on the top of our list because we think it’s a really dynamic neighborhood,” Ghareeb says.
It’s too soon to tell whether Wilson Hardware will consistently attract a cross-section of the Arlington population, but early signs say yes.