After about 16 years of dining at a family table for three or more, David and I find ourselves without offspring companionship many nights. As serendipity would have it, restaurants are creating bar menus and, even better, bar specials to enjoy midweek, when presumably bars aren’t three deep with folks clamoring to drown the stress of the working week.

Uhland reviewer logoBut I have a feeling this quiet lull in the work week is all about to change. We found it a delightful change of pace to belly up to the bar on a Tuesday, instead of boiling up yet another pot of pasta or rifling through take-out menus. It seemed to make Friday arrive a little faster.

The first in our series of bar-food investigation began at Not Your Average Joe’s. It is running a "Buck-A-Shuck" night starting at the blue-haired hour of 4 p.m. Yay!

We’ve been old since our 30s and get up before 5 a.m., so where do I sign up for dollar oysters at 4 with a great Provencal Rose? Why, NYAJ, of course.

We were greeted immediately by Robin, who took about three minutes to become a friend. Yes, she’s on Facebook! She hooked us up with, first a dozen, then another, of very fine Duxbury oysters. The beer selection for D (my husband) was pretty good, with local and big names on tap.

And my dry, blush wine? Why yes, I will have the big pour. It’s more economical after all. Warm focaccia with a grated-cheese-infused dipping oil for him and, you guessed it — fries for me — and it was a solid meal.

NYAJ's unexpected salads

Before you get all judgy regarding my lack of veggie, on the next visit I really enjoyed the sesame hoisin salmon salad (which didn’t need the sticky glaze, and was improved by quickly swiping it off) but had to cut back on oyster consumption considerably.

I’ve got to hand it to NYAJs; it does some very creative and unexpected salads. And I’ve never been disappointed by one. D likes the ahi tuna wontons here, but they were slightly greyish on this night and not up to par.

On yet another Wednesday, the oysters were Canadian, and no offense to our charming neighbors above the border, but we New Englanders got it all over you in the bivalve department. D and I customarily turn over the shells after slurping each oyster, but two of our shells from the great white north were not even deemed slurpable and were inverted upon inspection. By this, our third Wednesday, the bar was packed, and our Robin was too busy to even bring it to her attention, so we chalked it up to, you win some … and this time two were lost.

Waltzing over to Tango

Then we proceeded — no, not on the same night — to Tango, where there is an ever-changing $5 bar snack menu Monday through Thursday. Argentines know their way around meat, so, although the steak skewers that we swooned over on a previous visit weren’t available, we knew the chicken ones were a must order.

We also tried the Shishito peppers, the chorizo sandwich, an empanada and bacon-wrapped dates.

First, our bartender delivered some rolls, "fresh from the oven." Unfortunately they were obviously fresh from the freezer first. But I swear you could dip an old shoe in chimichurri sauce, and it would taste great. For the uninitiated, chimichurri is the condiment of Argentina, and it is a vinegar-driven, herbaceous, garlicky bit of wonder that brightens and yummifies everything it anoints.

The peppers were surprising. Literally. One was rich and verdant, and the next was delightfully piquant and spicy. The empanada was nondescript and unworthy of another order. The chorizo, more resembled polish kielbasa, but the sandwich was still satisfying slathered in chimichurri.

Even so, the star was again the skewers, which were juicy, tender and utterly perfect with onion and pepper layers. This time a little chimichurri for dipping pushed the flavor into the stratosphere. Oh, and the bacon-wrapped dates. They were a last-second addition, but we were so glad we went for them. Little morsels of sweet and smoky roasted heaven. Don’t miss these. Specialty cocktails here lean to the sweet side, but the wine selection is good. D had a bit of trouble finding a beer he loved, but next time we’ll get a nice bottle of Argentine red.

Trek to Tryst

Our last sojourn in the bar-food odyssey brought us to Tryst. I’d heard it was for sale or some such and wanted to find out what that meant for the future of the restaurant. Turns out another bar patron was a regular and said the "buyer" was not planning on changing it but wanted to partner with the chef/owner to learn the business.

I ordered the Mary Ann from the specialty cocktails menu. It contained Hendricks gin, Campari, grapefruit and orange juices, and sounded tart enough for my taste. It wasn’t. But a quick squirt of lemon juice from an attentive barkeep made it right. It was in a highball glass with a soda straw and would be much better sipped from a martini glass. But other than all that, it was a decent drink.

D was happy with his beer choice, a Jack’s Abbey IPL. I’d heard the kale and brussels sprouts salad was one of Arlington’s best dishes and wanted to order this, but the guy next to me was enjoying his, and I could see that I’d have a hard time avoiding the parmesan (dairy intolerance), so I skipped it.

But you now have it on good authorities — my friend, and the dude to my left, that it’s damned good. I ordered the steak frites with roasted kale that was just OK, and D had a sausage and rabe flatbread that he thought was the best of all the bar options we’d sampled in these few weeks.

Which leads me to my favorite thing about eating at the bar — chatting it up with folks nearby. Or not. It’s easy to not participate if you’d rather, but I will say that I’ve had some of the most interesting interactions with fascinating folk over bar snacks lately. There was Harry, who was on his way to visit his ailing mom, and Deborah, who works on body alignment at her clinic here in town, and old friends who we hadn’t seen since our kids played on the same soccer team.

And the bartenders in each of the three spots: Robin now greets us by name. And Gabriel at Tango had firsthand perspective about the leaders in Brazil. The guys behind the bar at Tryst were already running at full steam at 5:15, so no time for idle gabbing here. Yes, every seat was full, including bar tables by 5:30. But they still took good care of us.

Overall, I would say it may be my favorite way to dine, but I hesitate to do so, because evidently a lot of Arlingtonians agree and also have no shame about dining at the ridiculous hour of 5 p.m.

Not Your Average Joe's

645 Mass. Ave.

Monday, Tuesday: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Wednesday, Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday, Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.,
Sunday: Noon to 9 p.m.


464 Mass. Ave.

Wednesday, Thursday: 5 to 10 p.m.
Friday, Saturday: 5 to 11 p.m.
Sunday: 4 to 9 p.m.
Monday, Tuesday: 5 to 10 p.m.


689 Mass. Ave.

Dinner: Monday through Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m.
Friday, Saturday: 5 to 11 p.m.
Sunday: 4:30 to 9 p.m.
Brunch: Saturday, Sunday: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

This review was published Saturday, May 7, 2016.

In addition to reviewing restaurants and their food, Lori Uhland of Arlington styles homes and events at She specializes in big-bang-for-your-buck functional design and loves all things delicious.