Restaurant – Mussel Bar and Grille

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I love mussels.  They’re something that I only started eating in the past decade or so because of previous shellfish biases, but after I first tried them, I loved them.  It’s become a thing where if I go to a restaurant, and there are mussels on the menu, my choice of entree becomes that much more difficult.  I suppose there are worse things to be obsessed with, and someday I may even try to make my own at home, but for now, I’ll leave it to the experts.

This is all tied in to the fact that I celebrated a birthday recently.  As mentioned before, in my family we like to go out to restaurants to celebrate.  Not that this is unusual – I think a lot of people do.  Cooking on your birthday is not necessarily many people’s idea of a great time.  So when we started trying to find a place in a convenient location that wasn’t too expensive, and could also accommodate our group, I happened across Mussel Bar and Grille.  Even if I hadn’t known about it previously, I would have been intrigued, but I knew about the Bethesda location, and the Arlington spot seemed to be ideally located, in addition to featuring one of my favorite foods AND a variety of delicious Belgian (and other) beers!  Decision, made.  That was easy!

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A few of us got there early and took advantage of happy hour at the bar.  Others arrived later (ah, DC-area traffic at rush hour!).  But as we settled in, we ordered starters while waiting for everyone to show up.  Crab dip is always a crowd-pleaser, and this one was fairly tasty, though was super hot when it arrived at the table, and didn’t have nearly enough bread.

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On the other hand, this pork belly confit arrived at the table, and disappeared so quickly I was hardly given an opportunity to photograph it!

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My mom and I both ordered mussels, and since it was my birthday dinner, I wanted to order something that combined my two food loves, which is why I had the Spicy Thai Green Curry mussels.  They weren’t crazy spicy, but they were so so good.  The best part was that there were a lot, which tends not to be the case with most places serving mussels.  The only sad part was that there wasn’t nearly enough bread to sop up all that delicious broth.  On the other hand, I had an aching tummy later that night from eating a lot of food that evening in general, so perhaps I didn’t really need more bread?

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One of the best parts of getting mussels at a Belgian place is it being served with frites, and I did not pass up that opportunity, making sure I tried all three aiolis that came with them.  I can’t tell you which was what, but I can say that they were all pretty darn tasty.

Other members of the dinner party had steak frite, oysters, pasta dishes.  All were quite tasty, and passed around with gusto.  As a warning with the pasta dishes – there’s a lot of food.  And not in the same way as the mussels which are in a large pot, but with comparatively less food.  There’s a LOT of pasta.  Be prepared to take home a meals worth.

For dessert there were coffees for everyone (except me), and most of the desserts.  We loved the Nutella S’mores Tart.  The Cast Iron Cinnamon Roll was quite tasty too.  And my dad even let me sample one of the cookies that accompanied his root beer float.  All yummy, and great for sharing.

Did we enjoy ourselves?  Most definitely.  The food was good (and generously portioned), the drinks were good.  It was a little loud, but what restaurant these days isn’t?  Would I go back?  Eh…it depends.  It’s a little expensive for a chain restaurant (albeit a local chain) that isn’t particularly creative beyond mussel dishes.  But if there is some time in the future when once again I’m needing mussels in my life and in my belly, I know where to go for a good time.

Details: Mussel Bar and Grille, 800 North Glebe Rd, Arlington VA 22203; locations in Bethesda and Baltimore.  Reservations online.

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