Tarbenders Lounge Leesburg: Service, Chef, Atmosphere, Expansion

Tarbenders Lounge Leesburg: Service, Chef, Atmosphere, Expansion

Tarbenders Lounge in Leesburg is unveiling a new, expanded menu featuring a new chef on Dec. 7.

Tarbenders, which is patterned after a prohibition-era speakeasy, was opened in September by Loudoun County hospitality fixtures Brandee Baldwin and Paul Zangos.

Brandee, from Waco, Texas, and Paul, from Long Island, met while both were working at Matchbox Vintage Pizza Bistro in One Loudoun. About a month ago, they added Las Vegas chef Chris May to the mix, keeping favorites from the existing menu and adding a few new options.

“Tarbenders started off as a catering company, and then we partnered up to create this restaurant,” Zangos said. “With the speakeasy theme, I look at it as the revitalization of an era, not the representation of an era. We have a concept called ‘eat your dinner.’ All of our food is fused with alcohol. We braise the lamb in absinthe and cure the pork for our Cuban storm (sandwich) in Dark and Stormy rum. Then we pair the food with the appropriate drink.”

The speak-easy theme is carried throughout the bar and restaurant, from original artwork murals on the walls to a bathroom so fancy that it’s called the “Great Gatsby” room.

“It is a quaint, meandering facility,” Zangos said. “It’s eclectic, and people have their choice of different rooms, and the environment changes throughout the restaurant itself. We actually have original artwork, from Chris Lynch who is from Leesburg. We like to support the arts and the local community.”

The theme and the décor evolved from a combination of their separate visions.

“We put a lot of work into the planning of it, based on both of our experiences,” Baldwin said.

“She has created the ideas for these drinks, and I created the ideas for the food,” Zangos said.

Baldwin said Tarbenders is also different in that it was founded and is run by two experienced bartenders.

“This is a bartender-run bar,” she said. “We don’t have servers. It is an all-bartender staff, from the front to the back. Everyone on our staff is an experienced bartender and everyone is trained to make these specialty drinks.”

A favorite part of Tarbenders’ menu – which is going to be continued and expanded by May – are the Benders.

“All of our sandwiches are called benders, but I don’t even like to call them sandwiches,” Zangos said. “That really diminishes the quality of them. They are unique to this area.”

Zangos and Baldwin think the addition of May will add even more to the quality experience offered by Tarbenders. Zangos said May was a chef at Folks in Las Vegas when the restaurant was awarded a prestigious James Beard award.

New Tarbenders Chef Chris May holds the James Beard medal he helped win as a chef Folks in Las Vegas.

“We were impressed with his work ethic and professionalism and he will be bringing in an expanded menu that brings the concept of ‘eat your drink’ to life,” Zangos said.

Baldwin said Tarbenders is also becoming more involved in the Leesburg and Loudoun County community, with monthly themed parties benefiting different causes in the area.

“On Dec. 23 we are having a Christmas party and the donations are going to Meals on Wheels,” she said. “My mother is head of that back in Waco, so that is very close to my heart. In January, we are having a flapper-themed party, and each month we will have a different party and give to a different charity.”

Tarbenders is at 10 S. King St. in Leesburg. For more information, visit TarbendersLounge.com.

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Joseph Dill