Barrel & Bushel (Tysons Corner, VA)

A second day hanging around Tysons Corner Center in Northern Virginia sent me out in search of a good breakfast. After a walking loop of the area, I settled upon a spot I had spied the previous evening; across from Earls Kitchen + Bar is Barrel & Bushel, the in-hotel restaurant of the Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner. Instead of being the bustling, over-crowded joint that it appears to be from the start of happy hour through closing, at breakfast time it’s actually a fairly pleasant restaurant that is primarily catering to hotel guests. But as a walk-in, I was promptly greeted and settled into a nice window-side table with a nice giant pot of French press coffee.

I actually rather liked the dining space of Barrel & Bushel. A few years back, I actually met someone that worked as a decorator for the New England-based Margarita’s restaurant chain whose job was to basically transform buildings into (a stereotypical depiction of) Mexican cantinas. Well, I’m pretty sure that someone out there is doing the same for “Trendy Beer Bar”, since that’s exactly the decor: a huge bar with shining beer taps, glass-fronted refrigerators filled with beer bottles and kegs, and even a bartender who was, despite the early hour, spending most of his time delicately buffing beer mugs one at a time with a white cloth. Despite the somewhat formulaic nature of it all, I rather enjoyed the space: it was bright, airy, and had plenty of comfortable seats at large wooden tables right by the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Menu-wise, it’s basically your “American breakfast” joint, with a few nods to local cuisine, like fried chicken (hey, I love places with chicken for breakfast!), biscuits, and Maryland blue crabs. But I ended up settling on an oddly-named dish, the “Grilled Cheese Benedict”. I say oddly named, since it really wasn’t much like a grilled cheese sandwich: it was two very thick (>1″) slabs of grilled ham, griddled English muffin with a light slice of cheese, poached eggs, and a rich Hollandaise. In other words, about the only real difference from a normal Benedict was the inclusion of a slice of cheese and the use of thick-cut ham. But you know what? It was some damn fine ham: nice and juicy, good smoke notes, and just enough sear from the grill to give it a nice flavor. Quite enjoyable.

So, like Earls next door, this restaurant is mostly catering to the mall-goer, the business traveler, and the after-work crowd from the local offices. But despite all that, it’s actually a pretty pleasant spot for a breakfast. Good, plentiful coffee, a nicely-executed Benedict variant, and a pleasant staff that allowed me to relax over a nice breakfast before another day of seminars. I’ll probably be back.

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