Welcome to the Northern Virginia Restaurant Blog.

Restaurant reviews in Tyson's and surrounding area... mostly

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hard Times Cafe (several restaurants in the NOVA area)

4069 Chain Bridge Rd
Fairfax VA 22030 
(703) 267-9590

This is a great sports bar. My friends and I visit the Hard Times Fairfax location probably once or twice a week for great times to watch some hockey, baseball, and football, and enjoy the food. There are several locations, and I've tried most of them, but I keep coming back to the Fairfax restaurant for several reasons. The crowd, the service, and the cleanliness are above board for this location compared to the others. The managers are extremely accommodating.

For a place that caters largely to a younger crowd (it is down the street from George Mason University) the service is EXCELLENT. There are three separate dining areas (four if you count the pool hall). Weekend evenings and days with major sports activities such as NHL Playoffs (if the Capitals are in it), NFL games (if the Redskins are playing that Sunday), or the NCAA Basketball Tourney it gets VERY crowded so get there early if you want to get prime viewing seats.

Hard Times' grilled wings are the best wings I've ever had. These are not your typical deep fry, toss in a buffalo sauce, and serve up with celery and blue cheese. Hard Times grills their wings before seasoning (lightly, but meanigfully) with a wide variety of flavoring goodness. I absolutely recommend the “Original Texas Grilled;” however, a pound of your choice of Chili Lime, Honey BBQ, Old Bay, Sweet Red Chili or Teriyaki all will work well. Hard Times serves their wings with a side of wet naps for post clean-up. I think this is an insult to their wings as they are not the messy sauce dripping down your arms type of wings.

Hard TImes' chili is also the best chili I've ever had. If you’re lucky enough to show up on a night where they have their free nacho bar, you get to try a couple of their chili on tortilla chips. Hard Times chili almost has its own menu. Each type is worth trying: Texas, Cincinnati, Terlingua, and Vegetarian.

  • Texas Chili: Coarse ground beef cooed in its own juice, using an authentic turn of the century family spice blend and recipe.
  • Cincinnati Chili: Introduced in 1922 by Greek immigrants, it is a fine grind of beef with a tomato base and sweeter spices including cinnamon.
  • Terlingua Red: A tribute to the Texas ghost town that hosted the first Chili cook-off. A redder color and spicy kick of championship chilies.
  • Vegetarian Chili: Soy flakes cooked in a tomato base with fresh mushrooms, onions, green peppers, jalapenos & peanuts.

Try the vegetarian chili first--no, on second thought--save it for last. If you try it first, you’ll never get the opportunity to try any of the others. It’s THAT good. I prefer the chili au natural, but it can be served on spaghetti noodles (their version of ChiliMac), in nachos, on burgers and dogs, and even in their Chili Salad.

I’ve tried many other menu items including burgers, salads, apps, even coffee and dessert. Everything was prepared well, tasted great, and served with a smile. Their great food, great service, fun atmosphere, smoking and non-smoking areas, pool hall, countless TVs, outdoor patio and fun crowds all lend itself to a great way to spend an evening.