We had arranged to meet friends at Liberty Tavern, and upon arriving promptly at 5:30, there was not a spot in the bar to be found, or a table to be had for dinner. We had intended to have drinks for a while, linger, and eventually eat, and so we wandered down the few paces to Eventide's lounge, which was essentially empty (several people at the bar, no one at the lounge tables). By 5:45 when our friends showed up, we had our pick of tables, and were informed that even on Saturday, happy hour was in effect until 7.
We took a booth and settled in for a comfortable, cozy evening during which we didn't have to shout to make ourselves heard, and paid no more than $5 for a drink all night. Among us, we ordered the Butternut Squash Risotto Fritters with arugula salad, balsamic vinaigrette ($10), the Fried Chicken and Waffles, buttermilk fried chicken breast, herbed pecan waffles, maple butter, maple-chicken jus ($17), the Soft Pretzels, housemade peach mustard, deviled Virginia ham ($8), the Pasta Bolognese, spinach pasta sheets, herbed ricotta cheese, pork and beef Bolognese, Parmesan bread crumbs ($15), and the Bison Barbecue Sliders (3) with Napa cabbage slaw and fries ($12). The last was my dish, and the pulled bison barbecue was exactly what I needed for my first real food after a week of being too sick to eat anything fun: not too sweet and perfectly tender, with a creamy/tangy slaw, and lovely, crispy fries (the ketchup was unnecessary to me). I have to admit I'm a bun remover -- I tend to eat sandwiches open face or with half a bun because I prefer a higher filling-to-bread ratio, particularly if I have fries on the side, but I didn't mind have to use a fork on the extra meat. My companions raved over the bolognese, which was presented as a lasagna in a personal casserole dish, and the deviled ham that came with the pretzels; also receiving two thumbs up were the chicken and waffles, comprising a huge, mostly-deboned breast with juicy meat beneath a crisp coating, and waffles that had no score on the sogginess scale, with the maple-chicken jus presented in, essentially, a shot glass on the side for personal decision-making on "to douse or not to douse."
I admit that I'm entirely too District-centric in my dining, and I'd been looking for a chance to get to either Eventide or Liberty Tavern for a while. Seeing friends we hadn't had the chance to visit for a while (and who happen to live at Courthouse) was an easy excuse, to be sure, but I would come back to Eventide lounge on a whim. I'd love to try the upstairs restaurant, but for a casual night out -- even on a Saturday! -- with friends, this completely hit the spot.