“Are you sure this is it?” asked my dining companion. This was a very reasonable question. Caboose Tavern is located feet away from the W&OD trail in Vienna, in an industrial complex that looks more like somewhere you go to hide a body than have a gourmet meal.
Once inside, though, the stylish brewpub erases thoughts of the illicit. So does the menu from executive chef David Rabin. Caboose Tavern is a recipient of Slow Food’s Snail of Approval, a designation designed to reward restaurants that focus on ethical and local ingredients. The menu is Appalachian-inflected to reflect our regional growers’ heritage. And that means dining on wild game.
My companion and I shared two meat dishes: venison steak and rabbit confit. On the menu, it says that the venison plate also includes wild boar bacon. I didn’t detect any of that among the new potatoes, mountain green beans, and cipollini onions, but two game meats on my table at once was enough to satisfy my thirst for unusual blood for one meal. Especially given the care with which it was prepared.
Though the venison is $30 for a small portion, it makes sense for a plate of local meat fit for a fine dining restaurant. Mine was cooked to a tender medium-rare, just as I’d requested, with a caramelized jacket of sear.
However, if I were to return for just one game dish at Caboose Tavern, it would be the rabbit. The pulled meat, which I tell first-timers is like a milder, silkier chicken, is served with light, gnocchi-like dumplings with green beans. It’s all dressed in a garden pesto that imbues every strand of meat and blob of dumpling with its oily, herbaceous charisma. For just $19, it’s a stunner of a dish.
Caboose Tavern might be a hidden destination for its house-brewed beers, but the game should be mentioned in the same well-seasoned breath.
520 Mill St. NE, Vienna
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