Mr. Foodie and I are always looking for a great new place to have happy hour in Fairfax. One pub might have great deals, another good food, and another a sunny patio (a major criteria for us since we don’t have a porch, balcony, or yard to speak of), but rarely does one have all three. Lucky for us we decided to visit Dolce Vita Wine Bar in the heart of Fairfax to sit on their trellised patio and check out their small plates. We were not expecting happy hour, in fact, because it was a Saturday when we strolled up to the small, but stately wine bar. Happy Hour enthusiasts will be pleased to know that theirs runs through Saturday from 4-7 and includes both drinks and small plates.
My first impression of Dolce Vita was as a neighborhood joint. Regulars were there picking up their wine club orders, meeting friends and neighbors, and bringing their pups to lounge on the patio. Just inside the door is a rack with microgreens growing in the sunlight. The pots lining the patio all have edible herbs as well. Inside exudes the atmospheres of both a classy wine tasting room and a cozy sports bar.
Mr. Foodie and I began with cocktails – a margarita for him and a glass of bubbly for me – while we perused both the wine bar menu of small plates and discounted drinks and the larger full menu of the Italian Restaurant next door. I was immediately intrigued by several of the small plates, so we started with those.
For Mr. Foodie the hands-down winner of the appetizer round was their plate of mussels on the half shell. Each one was dolloped with aioli – a spicy and tart condiment that splendidly amplified the seafoody-goodness of the mussels themselves.
For me, the winner was the beet salad consisting of both red and gold beets, goat cheese, figs, and arugula. The perfectly cooked cubes of beet worked so well with the sweet figs, creamy goat cheese, and peppery greens. It was large enough to for two, but I pretty much ate it by myself and loved every bite.
We also had the carpaccio with tuna and beef. While we appreciated the components, it seemed like it lacked salt which was puzzling since it had both shavings of Parmesan and capers, salty creatures that they are. I cannot say why we didn’t enjoy it as much as expected, but perhaps it is because the other dishes were just so stunning by comparison.
By the time we polished off the small plates, we had just enough appetite for a pizza. We ordered the margherita pizza. Even though our taste buds were already jazzed from the appetizers, they were tickled pink by the tomato sauce on this pie. It just burst with tomato flavor. The crust was crisp and thin, and the mozzarella ratio was perfect.
To finish the night we ordered the homemade tiramisu dessert to share because it was recommended by the staff. We found the cream and the coffee-soaked cake to be delicious, but it sat awkwardly in the cup – each spoonful was either total cream or total cake. They had several other homemade desserts on the menu that I can’t wait to try.
This was not actually my first time at Dolce Vita Wine Bar – my good friend Rebecca took me there for my birthday many years ago. I remember loving the small plates we had, but not which ones exactly. I am so glad that this place holds up! By the end of the night, Mr. Foodie and I sipped happily on our drinks and watched the sky streak with pink as the sun set. Our entire meal came out around $65 thanks to the happy hour pricing. The verdict? Mr. Foodie and I highly recommend them! You can check them out on Instagram for more mouth-watering foodie pix or see their full menus on their website.