What do you get when you marry “Cheers and a general store together?” The answer: Chef Thomas Harvey’s self-described vision for his new restaurant, Harvey’s, which debuted in March in Falls Church. While the restaurant still has some minor improvements to make when it comes to culinary details — as to be expected of a still-new business — the concept is strong, as are the ties to the local community.
Harvey’s menu selection would certainly be classified as American, but, as Harvey notes, because America itself is a melting pot, “There are all kinds of things represented here.” The diverse menu also represents all the people with whom Harvey, a native Virginian, has worked over the years. (His resume includes stints at Palena, Casa Luca, The Partisan, and The Tuskies Group, to name a few.)
From all-American blackened shrimp and fried green tomatoes (with a Frito crust, of course), to an Italian-inspired frutti di mare spaghetti and whole branzino, there’s something for everyone on this menu.
As it is his namesake, dishes are very much tied to Harvey’s life; the osso buco is what he cooked for his wife when they first started dating. His unique fried calamari is a nod to his great grandmother (using her Yorkshire pudding recipe as the batter). The honey cake is an Eastern European recipe from his wife’s family. Homemade pimiento cheese, a staple of his upbringing, appears on the menu and is available for purchase by the jar.
If you’re a breakfast sandwich aficionado, you won’t want to miss the “Sweet Fire” sandwich, consisting of eggs, pimiento cheese, hot honey, and a crisp fried chicken breast, all sandwiched between a fluffy biscuit (or you can opt for a croissant or English muffin; I’m not one to turn down a biscuit). Paired with oversized hash browns and fruit, this meal had me ready for a nap by 10 a.m. (in the best way).
For those who prefer to start their day on a sweeter note, the banana bread French toast will make you wonder why all French toast isn’t made with banana bread. Thick, dense slices of the homemade bread are dipped in egg, pan-fried until perfectly golden-brown, then doused in caramelized bananas and maple syrup. Overly sweet? Perhaps, but that’s exactly how it should be.
For lunch or dinner, the burger is a fan favorite. Made with Seven Hills ground beef and cooked to a perfect light-pink medium (as requested), the large patty is juicy and packed with umami flavor. Although the thick-cut, skin-on fries are enjoyable enough, they are not quite as crispy as one would expect. The burger itself will certainly satisfy any burger craving, and for $15, the quality of the meat can’t be beat.
For a splurge, check out the $32 elegant-yet-rustic pork osso buco. The pork shank is served with its braising vegetables and jus and is served atop a saffron and pea risotto. The meat is tender and easily falls off the bone. Although certain bites ate a bit dry, there is plenty of extra jus to compensate. The saffron-tinted risotto complements the tomato-infused jus.
Whether or not you have kids dining with you, don’t skip the side of “shells and cheese,” AKA macaroni and cheese. This grown-up version boasts a peppery, rich sauce — similar to cacio e pepe. For just $5, this comfort food classic is the perfect side to accompany any dish.
There are several dessert options, though only a few are made in-house. The honey cake is one of them, consisting of an impressive 10 (yes, I counted) ultrathin layers of honey “cookies,” alternating with equally-thin layers of a decadent buttercream-pastry cream mixture. The resulting appearance is reminiscent of a crêpe cake, and the texture is impressively light and airy.
The pandemic undoubtedly influenced Harvey’s business model, because it “taught us that restaurants are no longer bulletproof,” Harvey admits. He wanted a flexible space that not only had a traditional dining room/bar set up, but would also offer grab-and-go items in case the business needed to pivot. These items include local sauces, pies, meats, beverages, and more — a convenient “mini-market” option for those who live nearby.
Like the food, the restaurant’s curated decor is diverse but ties back to the Americana concept. The many fun and quirky vintage pieces were acquired from local antique shops. The restaurant’s two large murals were commissioned by local artists, and one of them highlights all the local businesses Harvey’s supports. The laid-back (choose-your-own table) waitstaff is friendly and willing to offer suggestions, and Harvey himself is very present throughout service, both in the kitchen and mingling with customers. His goal: “If you can make people feel like they’re at a family dinner, you’re nailing it.”
This casual and charming neighborhood joint has great potential. With only four months under their belt, Harvey’s is already fully immersing itself in the NoVA community.
See This: Make sure to check out the murals, as well as the grab-and-go cooler for delicious take-home goodies from other local businesses.
Eat This: Hamburger, Shells and Cheese, Sweet Fire Breakfast Sandwich, Banana French Toast
Open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, brunch Saturday and Sunday, and dinner Monday through Saturday. Beer and wine are served (by the glass or by the bottle); though liquor is not offered at this time (with the exception of some canned cocktails), the brunch menu offers “brunchy bubbles & refreshers,” like mimosas, bellinis, and other sparkling beverages.
513 W. Broad St., Falls Church
★ Fair ★★ Good ★★★ Great ★★★★ Excellent ★★★★★ Superior
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