A casual new neighborhood bar serving New York-style pizza, smash burgers, cheesy crab fries, and generous “Vegas-style” portions of chicken Parm opened in Arlington, Virginia, over the weekend. Ballston Local (900 N. Glebe Road) comes from Jason Johnston, the opening executive chef at MGM National Harbor, and business partner Jonah Troth. Opening day was Saturday, May 1. Dinner is available on weekdays, and the Ballston bar opens at noon on weekends.
The counter service-style restaurant focuses on what Johnston describes as “Brooklyn-style” pizza that he forms with Caputo flour and Grande Italian cheese before baking in a deck oven at 600 degrees. Slices start at $4 by the slice, and whole pies are $18. An array of pizza flavors includes cacio y pepe and a clam-topped New Haven option.
The restaurant uses Maryland-raised beef from Roseda Farms in its burgers and steak frite. Poutine, the Canadian pub dish of fries covered in cheese curds and gravy, is available in a traditional version loaded with short rib and a “Chesapeake” style covered with blue crab, bechamel, mozzarella, and Old Bay. Appetizers also include barbecue pork belly nachos, burrata crostini, and meatballs with herbed ricotta. A sizable section of sandwiches pays homage to classics like Hoboken and Philly cheese steaks, chicken Parm or meatball heros, and a meaty “Italian Pork Store” that’s loaded up with cold cuts.
Draft beers come from small Virginia brewers like Aslin, Settle Down Easy, and Vasen. Cans include Miller High Life ($5), Solace Sun’s Out ($6), and tallboys of Port City Optimal Wit ($8). Ballston Local serves some seltzers and hard cider, too. The bar plans to add adult milkshakes spiked with bourbon, vodka, or rum.
Johnston arrived in the D.C. area in 2016 to MGM’s casino in Oxon Hill, Maryland. His role in as executive chef involved keeping tabs on high-profile restaurants and glitzy galas. Before that, he spent five years in an executive sous chef role at the Las Vegas Bellagio.
“MGM was super good to me, but I got to point in my career of, what was I going to do next?” Johnston says. “For years and years I’ve been working in big box, high-volume outlets — I’m looking forward to focusing on what I love bringing to people.”
Updated Monday, May 3, 4:24 p.m. This article has been updated to reflect Ballston Local’s address at 900 N Glebe Road