Bar AhSo: Creative Cocktails, Local Beers & Curated Wine

One rarely sees radical new concepts on the restaurant and bar scene. The brutally competitive industry is notoriously fickle, with a widely reported failure rate of 60 percent in the first three years.

So it’s not surprising that many hospitality entrepreneurs choose the tried and true.

Which is precisely what makes Bar AhSo so exciting. Partnered with Leesburg’s ChefScape food hall—another ambitious, some might say “radical” new dining concept—the craft cocktail-centered establishment is a cool and welcome new addition to Loudoun’s night life, particularly at the Village in Leesburg, which has a reputation for piping down early.

Far too early.

But that’s changing.

Managed by Christian Puccio, a genial, long-time restauranteur on the Loudoun scene, Bar AhSo is inspired by Chef Jason Maddens, who, along with his spouse and business partner Tiffany Maddens, also runs the acclaimed AhSo restaurant in Brambleton. The Maddens partnered with ChefScape to create a stand-alone bar that anchors an innovative food hall serving up an intriguing variety of noshing options—soul food, Hawaiian cuisine, Peruvian BBQ, (and more recently) Japanese-style ramen—in the cavernous former shell of Smokehouse Live in Leesburg.

ChefScape’s business plan is deceptively simple, if not insanely complicated to pull off: A food court where budding entrepreneurs can test foodie dreams with a paying public at a fraction of the cost of launching a food truck or brick-and-mortar restaurant. Wannabe restauranteurs benefit from learning what works and…yeah, not so much. It’s a cauldron of foodie experimentation and the public seems to seriously dig it.

Puccio says since opening last January business has been brisk and customers enthusiastic.

Bar AhSo’s guests can take a seat at the comfortably appointed full bar, order from any of ChefScape’s food vendors, and have dishes delivered directly to their seats. (Puccio says ChefScape’s currently working on a phone app that would also allow for easy ordering and delivery.) The bar is up against full-length windows allowing for weather gazing or people watching. Customers can choose from 12 craft beers on tap—eight brewed locally in Virginia; a sommelier-focused, alluring list of wines; or, better yet, the bar’s menu of hand-crafted cocktails.

Puccio says half the drinks are a “greatest hits” selection of their Brambleton restaurant. The other half designed specifically for Bar AhSo, which are seasonally inspired (think fresh, locally grown herbs and other ingredients), but also informed by what bartenders learn from customers—that’s right folks, they’re always listening. The usual bevy of adult beverages are also available, with the bonus of premium brands poured as standards, including Tito’s vodka, Jack Daniels, and Camarena Tequila.

“We’re working to establish a brand in Loudoun. We want our restaurant and bar seen as a high-quality, great-value option for guests,” says Puccio. “A suburban alternative to that long, expensive drive into DC, where drinks can run $20-30. And that doesn’t even include the cost of tolls and parking.”

Regardless of DC demerits, Bar AhSo’s hand-crafted cocktails are unique, diverse, and utterly delicious. They’re also mixed by bartenders with the appropriate levels of sass, wit, and graceful ease—combining for an overall feeling of superb neighborly bar service. Prepare to have lots of fun.

Ready for the best part?

One drink, with all the dashing accoutrements mentioned, will set you back $8 to $13—an outrageous bargain, especially for the Loudoun and DC-metro area. Beers and wines are even more affordably priced, especially at happy hour, which runs daily from 3-6pm.

Just recently, Bar AhSo also took over a vendor slot at ChefScape. Called “Uncommon Ramen” (because the classic Japanese dish is served with decidedly untraditional, American-jacked barbecued meats), the food hall now serves Chef Maddens’ popular ramen bowl long served at his Brambleton venue. After a stressful ten-day turnaround in Leesburg, the kitchen is already ladling out 200 bowls of hearty, beef-laden noodles on a busy day, according to Puccio.

Given the dearth of decent bowls of ramen in Loudoun, this should surprise no one and delight many.

So, whatever your taste buds are hankering for, or whenever you’re in an exploratory mood—a local beer, a thoughtfully chosen glass of wine, or a well-crafted, affordable cocktail—Bar AhSo and ChefScape will radically exceed your expectations.

Bar AhSo is located in ChefScape at Village at Leesburg.


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John McNeilly

John McNeilly, a resident of Leesburg, has over two decades experience as a professional communicator, including holding media and public relations positions at The Washington Post and Discovery Channel. Since 2008, he’s written extensively about area food trends, farmers markets, restaurants, wineries, craft beer, and distilled spirits, local politics, and high school sports for a variety of community newspapers and magazines in the Washington metropolitan area.
Category: Drink, Featured