Mushroom toast at Bar Ivy
Mushroom toast Credit: Nevin Martell

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At first glance, the menu at Bar Ivy looks like season-centric, contemporary-minded New American cuisine: sourdough bread, mushroom toast, and croquettes all make appearances. But look closer and you’ll notice something wild—literally. The sourdough loaf is ribboned with dehydrated woodland nettles, the toast is topped with foraged chanterelles, and the croquettes come with wild garlic remoulade.

Executive chef Jonathan Till, a professional forager with 16 years of experience under his belt, drives the forest-to-table approach. USDA certification allows him to sell wild mushrooms in several states, and operate a side hustle, Heritage Foraging. Most recently, Till worked for Neighborhood Restaurant Group, serving as the executive chef at Evening Star Café until he was laid off during the pandemic. He’s been with Blagden Hospitality Group under chef-owner Nathan Beauchamp for just over a year. “Before we opened the restaurant, Nathan and I had some really long conversations about our philosophies in food,” Till says. “We wanted to make sure we were seeing eye to eye, and we do. We wanted to keep it as seasonal and local as we can.”

Foraged chanterelles Credit: Nevin Martell

Bar Ivy hews strongly to these seasonal, local philosophies, and embraces a West Coast approach by cooking with a lighter touch and making seafood a mainstay element—this includes freshly shucked oysters, a daily crudo, and creative mains, like golden scallops on a bed of sweet potato-corn succotash. The offerings change frequently, or at least their components do. When I dined there, the server told me they were printing new menus every day.

Start with the bread service, the aforementioned bouncy boule of sourdough marbled with green veins of dehydrated nettles. Slather on whatever freshly made butters are on offer; I enjoyed a salted strawberry one alongside miso honey butter spangled with Maldon sea salt. A colorful collection of pickles made with whatever extra comes in from local produce purveyors, including Linda Vista Farm in Montross, Virginia, and Earth N Eats Farms in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, round out the platter.

Sourdough boule with butter and pickles Credit: Nevin Martell

Keep on carbing with mushroom toast. A durable trencher of semolina baguette from Lyon Bakery arrives overflowing with a mélange of mushrooms, perhaps beach, oyster, and chanterelles personally foraged by Till—it all depends on what’s available. (Fun fact: the official term for a group of mushrooms is a troop.) The sauce is an umami bomb, enriched with tartufata (Italian black truffle spread), anchovies, translucent slivers of garlic, and a snowfall of pecorino. It’s intense; it’s delicious.

Another indulgent starter: goat cheese-stuffed squash blossoms. Thankfully, a swipe of vinegary salsa verde cut through the richness of the chèvre.

Pasta primavera with summer squash and cauliflower Credit: Nevin Martell

Moving to mains, make sure to order pasta primavera. Till uses cauliflower puree mixed with semolina flour and egg yolk to forge fettuccine full of the brassica’s sweet nuttiness. A nest of noodles showcases the season: summer squash, tender green beans, and cauliflowers of varying hues. It’s filling without making you feel uncomfortably stuffed.

Till elevates Amish-sourced chicken, citrus brining and pan roasting a leg and a breast until gleaming gold. A puck-shaped ratatouille crépinette made by wrapping thinly shaved eggplant around summer squash, tomato, onion, and a little mozzarella so it doesn’t seem too monastic sits on the side. Fresh raspberries with a sickle-shaped drizzle of raspberry jus inject tangy sweetness.

Roasted chicken with ratatouille crépinette and raspberry jus Credit: Nevin Martell

Beverage director Ian Fletcher oversees drinks. He’s assembled a fun cocktail list (for example, the tropically tilted Tiki Clandestino revved up by mezcal and amaretto that hides a touch of spice) and a selection of approachable wines, including thoughtfully selected sparkling, orange, and rosé options.

The best non-alcoholic option relies on a contribution from Till’s backwoods rambles. Fletcher uses wild sarsaparilla root to craft root beer neither clouded with artificial coloring nor bloated by high fructose corn syrup. Without the onslaught of sugar and artificialism, you can relish the complex flavor, rich with wintergreen and licorice notes. I wish they would offer it as a float with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. Just throwing that out there.

Speaking of the end of the meal, there are always a couple of choices. My favorite was a zesty lemon curd tart.

The food is well matched by its setting. The bright, white-walled space that seats 75 guests exudes easy breezy vibes. Dotted with greenery, a catchy mural of a crab, coastline, and carrots is splashed across the far end of the room. The 125-seat patio sweeps across a buzzy corner on Wilson Boulevard in Clarendon. A small kiosk, open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., serves drinks from Passenger Coffee, pastries, and a breakfast-minded croissanwich. 

Bar Ivy is the kind of place where you want to linger. The cheery service and Till’s wild-accented, of-the-now cooking encourages guests to savor the moment. In this age of digital distraction and Sisyphean to-do lists, feeling present is a rarity. Embrace it.

Bar Ivy, 3033 Wilson Blvd., Ste. 115R, Arlington (703) 544-8730. eatbarivy.com

Got a tip on a new restaurant opening? Email goodtaste@washingtoncitypaper.com. Follow Nevin on Instagram @nevinmartell and on Twitter @nevinmartell.