Two things to know about the bar at Copperwood Tavern that have nothing to do with drinking

A new scene emerges in Shirlington.

Photos by Stefanie Gans

By Stefanie Gans

With the arrival of Copperwood Tavern, Shirlington finally scored one of those highly stylized, rustic-chic restaurants so often planted in cities. But instead of a farmhouse vibe, Copperwood plays into a more Montana hunting lodge decor. There are animal heads mounted on the walls and lots of exposed wooden beams. It’s a decidedly rugged atmosphere, which is why owner Reese Gardner chose delicate cloth doilies to use as coasters.

Besides, he says, being great conversation starters—and reminding him of his grandmother’s house—the doilies “add some femininity into a largely masculine venue.” Gardner first saw the doilies in Lancaster and it takes the shop two weeks for Copperwood to receive a 5,000-count order. While the doilies cost triple of what Gardner would spend on cocktail paper napkins, he is committed to the cloth: Through theft, accidental throw-outs and destruction, Copperwood has gone through 15,000 doilies in six months. “It’s part of our concept now,” says Gardner, ” we just have to get better taking care of them.”

And while you’re at the bar, drinking a beer sitting on a doily, enjoy the free popcorn. It’s sprinkled with a housemade barbecue rub—brown sugar, smoked paprika and a dozen more ingredients—which is the same mixture developed for the smoked pork butt sandwich. Chef Allan Javery originally planned to rotate popcorn flavors and started with a truffle and Parmesan coating. The barbecue popcorn was the second installment, but hasn’t shifted off. The 120 pounds of kernels a week the kitchen goes through proves its popularity. / Copperwood Tavern, 4021 Campbell Ave, Arlington