Brothers Mark and Stephen Fedorchak grew up in Binghamton, New York, but they’ve built their lives in Arlington—and a name for themselves as Clarendon’s most prolific restaurateurs. Along with partner Brian Normile, they opened Liberty Tavern in 2007, the first eatery in a group that grew to include Lyon Hall and Northside Social. Now they’ve expanded into Falls Church, with Liberty Barbecue and a second location of Northside Social, but they say Arlington will remain home. Here’s why.
How did you decide on the building that became Liberty Tavern?
Stephen: Brian and I had been living down here 12, 13 years. He had established a business as a residential developer. He identified the Liberty Tavern space. A lot of stuff that’s here now wasn’t there before. A lot of people thought it was too far up this way [from then-new Market Commons and Whole Foods], which seems ironic now. I think we all developed a faith that it would work.
What gave you faith?
Stephen: We really loved a lot of places like Whitey’s [in the space that’s now Texas Jack’s] and Galaxy Hut and Amdo, Bardo, and Strangeways—all these old, divey bars, music-oriented bars. We thought there was room for restaurants that were affordable and hospitable but slightly more updated in terms of the food and beverage. It was about us wanting to do a business together in this space—we were living in and around here, and we said, “What is the type of place where we like to go and our friends like to go that would complement what was already here?”
Mark: The market was changing. There was a shift from Sears to Whole Foods, and then Market Commons. It was also appealing because of our location’s proximity to the Metro, which still remains important to the neighborhood. The side of Clarendon toward Whole Foods was more developed, and the side toward Liberty Tavern and Lyon Hall was less so.
How have you seen the area change?
Stephen: It’s a small-town feel, composed of people who arrived here and people who have always lived here. We see both sets of demographics—it’s the constants among the changes that to me are more defining. I lived up the street from here with three roommates in 1992, and I see people who are doing that today.
How has the business environment changed?
Stephen: The industry has become more competitive in general, with more people not cooking at home, upscale grocery stores, and the rise of fast-casual restaurants. You keep having to raise the quality bar in order to stay in the game.
What made you decide to venture into Falls Church?
Stephen: Falls Church is a lot like Arlington—very community-oriented. If you make an effort to immerse yourself, you will be rewarded reciprocally. And we like the fact we have parking there—it’s awesome.
Where do you eat out when you’re not at your own restaurants?
Mark: We generally like to stick to where our former employees are. Some of my favorites include Green Pig Bistro—our former sous chef from Liberty Tavern is there now, so I can be confident that the execution of that menu will be good because I know him so well. One of our sous chefs from Lyon Hall is now the chef at Texas Jack’s, so I like to go there and say hello to him. We like Justin Stegall at Bakeshop.
Stephen: I’ve been a once-a-week-plus Italian Store customer for 26 years, and I fully anticipate being a once-a-week Italian Store customer for the next 26 years.
Do you ever think that you’ll leave Arlington?
Mark: I have no plans to live anywhere but Arlington. . . . I love my hometown, and I feel very fortunate to be living in a community like it.
Stephen: We’re from Binghamton, and Brian is from Binghamton, too, but we have deep ties here.
This article appeared in the April 2018 issue of Washingtonian.