Welcome to your new Arlington restaurant addiction, the R Bar & Grill.

It’s the signature eatery and watering hole of the newly-renovated Hilton Arlington, which makes it a natural option for hotel guests. But with an interesting new menu and an extended happy hour (11 a.m.-7 p.m.) that includes $5 wine, $2 drafts and half-price wood-fired pizza (from 3-7 p.m.); the R Bar is also a perfect “something different” dining destination for locals who want to up their Arlington restaurant game.

We headed over to the R Bar to have a chat with Executive Chef Marcelo Vasquez, who took the helm in December 2014. The Chilean-born and trained culinary artist (whose previous posts include Kona Grill, the Hard Rock Café and Omni Hotels & Resorts) had plenty of excitement to share about the new R Bar experience:

ARLINGTON: We love the décor. It’s quite a change from Septembers (the Hilton’s former anchor restaurant.)

CHEF MARCELO: It’s definitely different. Details like the wood-fired oven, marble table tops, and re-purposed Edison lightbulbs set us apart from other hotel restaurants. It’s an atmosphere that’s inviting to families and business travelers, but sophisticated enough to work for locals and visitors looking for an intimate dinner or a night on the town. 

ARLINGTON: You’ve done a lot of interesting things in your career. What made you decide to come to Arlington?

CHEF MARCELO: The Hilton and the restaurant were transforming into something different from what they had been for years. The possibilities that came to my mind were exciting and intriguing.

ARLINGTON: Tell us what inspired you when you created the R Bar menu.

CHEF MARCELO:  I wanted to create a menu that included items that are popular with our guests – executed with our own unique interpretation, of course. Secondly, I wanted to introduce a strong Texas presence. Texas cuisine has a distinct, adventurous identity and we love having it as the centerpiece of our menu.

Q: Okay, now we’re hungry. What should we try?

CHEF MARCELO: For starters, try our Loaded Shrimp Cocktail, made with vodka Bloody Mary sauce and served in a Mason jar with a crunchy cheddar jalapeno toast. Or our Charcuterie Platter, offering a selection of premium cheese, Spanish chorizo and grilled French bread. We also recommend our Smokey Caesar Salad, which features a smoked tomato Ranch dressing, fried green tomato “croutons” and charred corn.  

You’re going to need a cocktail to go with all of this, of course. Try the Dark and Stormy - Texas rum with ginger beer) - or the BLT Bloody Mary, which is so substantial it can almost be a meal on its own. We also serve a signature R Bar Margarita that features Patron Tequila, Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka, strawberries and a sugar rim.

ARLINGTON: You’ve got our attention. What’s next?

CHEF MARCELO: You might try the Brisket BBQ pizza, Texas Goat Cheese Pizza - or the Jimmy’s Pizza. It’s made with pepperoni, pecan wood-smoked bacon and Italian sausage that we get from the famous Jimmy’s Food Store right here in North Texas. 

If you like burgers and tacos, you might explore our Texas BBQ Burger or the Kobe Sliders – or the Cooper Street Tacos, which are made with chicken fried chicken and green chili country gravy.

Next come the chef’s favorites - like the  Tomahawk Chop, which is a 25 ounce pork chop cooked to order and tender enough to cut with your fork, served with apples and a cherry demi-glace sauce. Or the Tito’s Chilean Sea Bass, marinated for 48 hours in Tito’s Vodka and miso seasoning, served with a sweet chili sauce.

ARLINGTON: It all sounds absolutely mouth-watering. What about dessert?

CHEF MARCELO: How about a Dr. Pepper Cake, served with a raspberry sauce, or the Cheese Cake Cookie Roll, which is a rolled cookie crust filled with a creamy cheese cake and served with berries? Or my favorite: the Tiramisu Dome, served with “manjar”, a delicious caramel custard I enjoyed growing up in Chile.

ARLINGTON: What else should everyone know about the R Bar?

CHEF MARCELO: Come see us and find out for yourself. Whether you’re a visitor or a local, it’s going to be a memorable experience.