From the owners of Galaxy Hut (Arlington/Clarendon, VA), spacebar is Falls Church’s only dedicated, full-time bar. That’s right, 21+ only, so this is not a family establishment. It meets every classification of a “dive” or watering hole: dark, crowded, and overflowing in locals and booze. Since its opening in June 2012, spacebar has secretly paved the way for much more commercial ventures such as World of Beer (which opened 2 months later) over in Arlington. But this is a no frills establishment, and it does not pretend to be anything other than a place to drink beer. The one TV plays random and obscure “classic” movies, the only arcade machine is a converted Galaga tabletop featuring Pac-Man, Jr., of all things, and there’s nary a trendy, overpriced burger or duck fat french fries to be found on the menu. You will, however, be amazed that they specialize in grilled cheese, tater tots, and farm-to-table salads. Along with other Falls Church staples such as Mad Fox, Dogwood, or Claire and Don’s, spacebar is a must on any pub crawls in the “Little City.” On Ben’s and my most recent visit, we noted they were making much more of an effort to feature Virginia breweries, so let’s explore a bit more, shall we?
709 W. Broad St.
Falls Church, VA 22046
Total Beers: 24 rotating beers on draught, 12-15 rotating bottles (including gluten free)
Food Cost: $
Beer Selection: Mostly split between the categories of IPAs, Various Ales, Darker Stuff, and Lighter Stuff, even Ben remarked that this is a “heavy” selection. The overwhelming majority of ABVs run between 7-10% as imperials, doubles, and triples litter the menu. This is the most trendy part of the place, so hop lovers have nothing to fear. When they first opened, spacebar mostly featured microbrew mainstays and regional powerhouses, with a few local offerings here and there such as Legend, Port City, Lost Rhino, Devil’s Backbone, or DC Brau. Now, however, is a much different (and better) story. On this visit, we had draughts from all of the above save Port City (though they were featured in the bottles) as well as surprises in newcomers Crooked Run, Hardywood, Wild Wolf, and Apocalypse Aleworks. They also had a Bold Rock cider on tap for good measure, making for more than one third of the entire menu from Virginia and DC. If you’re looking to find new Virginia beers to try, spacebar is going to great effort to find some of the newest places and brews on the scene. On this particular occasion, we notched our belts on the Apocalypse Cenful Blonde Ale, Lost Rhino New River Pale Ale, Wild Wolf Predator Dunkelbock, Hardywood Hoplar Double IPA, Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager, and Crooked Run Shadow of Truth Black Tripel. Quite the range from some of the best Virginia has to offer, even if many of these particular brews aren’t standouts themselves.
Food Selection: Did we mention the gourmet grilled cheese, heaping piles of tater tots, and farm-to-table salads? Sorry, let’s be clear then: Gourmet grilled cheese. Heaping piles of tater tots. Farm-to-table salads. You might be laughing now, but you’ll be on a soapbox in front of the court house praising our new alien overlords for delivering us these creations. Have a crowd and want to try everything at once? Start with some “totchos,” spacebar’s take featuring tater tots smothered in cheese and your choice of toppings (including jalapeños!) Follow that with one of 20 grilled cheese selections, our make your own from over 40 different options. Math isn’t my specialty, especially after years of imbibing tasty fermented beverages, but that’s easily a couple thousand combinations. So you can go all out, or you can take our recommendations for the turkey+avocado and meatloaf specialties. Then opt for the side salad after the opening plate of totchos, looking no further than the balsamic vinaigrette and dispensing with the toppings to avoid the pending food coma. It’s not the fastest service, especially on a full night around dinner, but you’ll just have to trust that you’ll never look at grilled cheese the same way again!
Atmosphere: This is a happy hour crowd. We arrived at 8:00 to a packed house, nabbing the only table still left. By 9:30, however, the majority of the place had emptied out. It’s easy to see why, as apart from the beer and food, there’s really not much to keep you occupied. With bare walls and the now cliché open duct work, it can also get pretty loud well before a capacity crowd arrives. If you want to know why, the owners are brutally honest even on the website, noting their “sorta crappy parking lot” outside and their approach as a “more laid back alternative to your typical bar.” Mission accomplished, but the limited seating and total lack of table ordering service leads to unnecessary crowding around the bar. This can be particularly challenging on crowded weekend nights, which lends itself to anything but “laid back.”
Overall: Let’s face it – you aren’t coming to a place like spacebar to watch sports, grind it out with sauced coeds on a musty dance floor, or “be seen.” The owners know it, too, marketing their dive as a “a beer-focused night spot.” With little else to distract you except the massive wall of taps lining nearly the full length of the bar, beer is precisely what you’ll be focusing on. This both works for and against spacebar, as the at times overwhelming ABVs for many of their selections don’t lend themselves to a sustained evening. But with grilled cheese that good, and a massive rotating draught list (with mainstays such as the DB Vienna Lager), sometimes you really can just do away with everything else.