At approximately 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 1, Casey Brockman will walk to the line. The Murray State quarterback will look across the field to find Louisville’s stud linebacker Dexter Heyman, hoping to God the Cardinals’ won’t blitz on first. The 6’2’’ junior will lean over center Brock Rydeck, ignore the jeers of the Cardinals’ crowd, and demand the ball.
In all likelihood, it will be a bad day for Casey, Brock and the Murray State Racers, but an excellent day for the rest of us. Because on that day, when Rydeck snaps that ball and Heyman drives Brockman into the field of Cardinal’s Stadium, football will once again be with us (this NFL preseason crap doesn't count).
It’s been said that this game of grace and violence is our national religion. If that’s the case, then the sports bar is our house of worship. Being a fan of far-away teams (South Florida, Buccaneers), it took me a while to find a few decent bars and restaurants in the D.C. area to watch football. The region may be inundated with sports bars, but few offer the trifecta of great beer, good food and the promise of your team on the screen (unless you’re a Skins fan, in which case any Chili’s will do).
Well, friends, I’m here to help. Below are my top five bars and restaurants in the DMV to watch the faux-pros on Saturday and Pro Bowlers on Sunday.
1. The Black Squirrel: The Black Squirrel has three floors, 49 taps and 11 TVs (and if you call ahead, the third floor can be your private sports bar). Owner Amy Bowman keeps this Best Beer Bar stocked with a top tier line-up of craft beers, while the talented Gene Sohn runs the kitchen (order the burger). Is it a coincidence that on game days all the TVs are tuned in? Nope, The Black Squirrel was co-founded by former sports columnist Tom Knott. (Disclosure: I’m friends with Amy and Tom. Still, The Black Squirrel is a great place to watch football.)
2. Iron Horse Taproom: If the Iron Horse Taproom opened at noon on weekends it would be the best place in D.C. to watch football. The multi-level bar is big, filled with TVs, has a great selection of craft beers, and features the best menu in town -- by not featuring a menu at all. The Penn Quarter tavern (pictured above) doesn’t have a kitchen, so it allows patrons to bring in food or have it delivered. Want to dig into some Texas barbecue while watching the Lone Star Showdown? No problemo. Grab a pound of brisket from Hill Country or better yet, a burrito from Capital Q and head to the Iron Horse. How about some lamb vindaloo while you watch the John Beck/Rex Grossman quarterback controversy unfold this season? Mehak is just down the street. Just make sure your game doesn’t start before 5 p.m. If it does, you’ll need to head elsewhere.
3. Frisco Tap House: What’s more American than football? Excess. The Frisco Tap House has 50 taps, a beer engine, a table where you can pour your own draft beer, an extensive bottle and can list, great burritos and eight giant flat screen TVs (with more coming this fall). Sure, the Columbia, Md., bar is a hike if you live in Logan Circle. But if you live in Maryland, you have one hell of a place to watch football.
4. Capitol Lounge: This is where it started for me. When I moved from Tampa to D.C. in the late 90s, Cap Lounge was the only place in town I could reliably catch Bucs games. It helped that one of the bartenders was a Bucs fan and wanted to watch the games, too. The Capitol Hill bar continues to be a great spot to catch a game, with a mess of TVs tucked and hung throughout the two-floor restaurant, and a stellar selection of craft beers on draft and in bottles and cans.
5. Rustico: These days, it’s tough to write a story about beer without mentioning ChurchKey and its downstairs sister, Birch & Barley. But before there was CKBB there was Rustico, owner Michael Babin’s first crack at a craft beer establishment. While ChurchKey is unabashedly a beer bar, a fine one at that, Babin makes sure his two Rustico restaurants remain casual neighborhood spots, which makes them ideal for watching the game. Greg Engert oversaw the beer program at the original Rustico in Alexandria before heading over to ChurchKey, and continues to curate the draft and bottle lists for his original restaurant and the newer Ballston location. Although neither will be mistaken for a sports bar, the Rusticos have just enough TVs to catch most of the marquee games. And if the beer list and full menu aren’t enough to attract you, they’re offering beer specials as well. Beginning September 10, both Rustico locations will offer $3.50 cans of craft beer, including G’Knight, Dale’s Pale Ale, Old Chub and Ten Fidy (they clearly have a thing for Oskar Blues’ beers), and $2.50 cans of college beer (because you or your buddy don’t know better) during games.
Recently, I found myself in Bethesda with Amy and Noah. It was the middle of the afternoon and we hadn't eaten lunch yet (God, this sounds like just about every Saturday since Noah's been born). Originally, we intended to go to Divino Lounge but once we parked the car, got Noah out of the car, and walked around the corner...oh crap. They're closed. Son of a...!!
"Way to check their hours Jase...What else is around here?" Amy asked.
Man she gets grumpy when she's hungry. Kind of like me.
I thought about our options for a couple minutes. I was obviously taking to long, because Amy suddenly suggested that we go to Jaleo.
The last time we went to Jaleo, we had a pretty mediocre meal and I was hesitant. It's amazing how one bad meal will do that and so many people, including myself, will write off a place after one semi-bad experience, but we decided to give them another chance regardless.
The good news is everything was very good that afternoon (and the following Saturday night as well), unlike most tapas restaurants, where half the dishes your order end up being boring. My favorite tapa (geez I ate that word) was the duck confit, which is by far, one of the best deals that Jaleo has to offer at $7.50, with a very large duck leg that seems to never end. Sadly, it's on their "temporary" menu, so get it while its still on the menu. Other amazing tapas include the homemade grilled pork sausage with white beans thats salty and well seasoned, grilled sirloin with sherry sauce, or some sinful béchamel chicken and Spanish ham fritters.
The only dish I had that I wasn't crazy about was a surprisingly bland Chorizo sausage. Seriously, Chef Andrés, spice this up a bit. No not a bit, a lot! I mean, chorizo is supposed to be spicy, right? So the menu is still a bit hit or miss. Another disappointment was the pork rib that was almost completely fat. We sent that one back it was so bad.
During our afternoon visit, service was very smooth and we couldn't really ask for more. When we returned again the following Saturday, things weren't quite as smooth, which I remembered from our previous experience at Jaleo. That evening, despite the fact that the service was very rushed, which is understandable, considering how crowded the restaurant was, the kitchen continued to bang out dish after dish.
As far as the wine list goes, there are many options all across the different price ranges, which I can appreciate because I don't always feel like dropping $60 on a bottle of wine. Glasses at the bar are reasonable as well. The slightly tart, yet fruity, Albarino that Amy and I had at the bar was only $8 a glass.
It's easy to get carried away at Jaleo, which can easily be considered a cheap eats restaurant, but also can break the bank if you order a ton of tapas and a more expensive bottle of wine. I can appreciate that though, because it means you have the flexibility to make what you want of the meal. All of our bills were under $100.
480 7th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004
7271 Woodmont Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814
2250 A Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA 22202
See Web Site
Dress Code: Business Casual to Casual
friendly rating: 2 Diapers
The first time I went to Acadiana, on a random Tuesday night, I wasn't expecting much. I'm usually not a big fan of Southern-style cooking and there are so many restaurants serving mediocre Cajun, Louisiana-style, or general Southern cuisine, so I figured Acadiana wouldn't be much different. Also, Southern food tends to be a bit heavy and overly greasy, just for the sake of being heavy and greasy, which I rarely enjoy.
But Amy wanted to try Acadiana so I figured, "What the hell."
I was very surprised that I ended up enjoying my meal from start to finish. Service was spotless -- the food fantastic. We shared the oysters au gratin to start with, which were pretty good baked in butter
and Parmesan cheese, but then again, what isn't?
But it was when the entrees came that we started eating the really
brilliant food. Amy happened to have the special, a 4-hour marinated
prime rib loaded with garlic and what I thought was balsamic vinegar
(I'm probably wrong about the balsamic vinegar, it was a while back). This dish didn't have much to do with Southern food though, but was just a nice simple preparation of a fantastic cut of meat.
I opted for the "Grillades and Grits," a dish of sauteed veal medallions served with wild mushroom gravy and jalapeno cheese grits. The veal was tender and full of flavor from the mushroom gravy. The cheese grits are amazing -- I love them! They were creamy but not runny and packed a little bit of a punch with the jalapenos.
Our desserts were very good as well. We shared both of our desserts - a praline creme brulee and beignets. The beignets were especially good -- Acadiana serves them covered in powdered sugar and with a coffee pots de creme. This was my kind of dessert -- not too sweet and simple.
Overall, it was a great meal.
Last weekend, I went to Acadiana again, this time with my brother and his wife who were visiting from Boston. I had more chances to try some of the more typical southern-style dishes.
I should mention first that I tried to make a reservation for Acadiana on Monday for the following Saturday night, and since it was so early in the week, I figured I'd have the pick of the litter as far as times were concerned. I was wrong. The only choices I had were six and nine PM. Reluctantly, I took the six.
My experience this time was a little different. I didn't leave quite so blown away, but the food was still good. I think that, in general ,the food we had that night lacked subtlety. Take the dish I had as an example. The grouper is crusted with sweet onions and andouille sausage, and is on top of a sweet potato hash made with red peppers and onion. At first, I thought this was a wonderful dish. It wasn't the most visually appealing, but once I got past that, the grouper wasn't overcooked and had a flaky, meaty texture like salmon. The crusting actually had a little heat to it after eating it for a little while, which I appreciated. But after a while, it just got to be a bit much combined with the peppers and onions in the sweat potato hash and I could barely taste the grouper.
Everyone else seemed to enjoy their dishes. We all ordered appetizers, which was a mistake. Two appetizers for the four of us would've been plenty, but we all wanted something different. I should mention that the foie gras that Amy ordered was beyond excellent. The preparation was simply done with Mayhaw Jelly.
The fried green tomatoes that my sister-in-law ordered were way overdone and complicated. Fried green tomatoes, done well, are a great appetizer. However, Acadiana tops them with gulf shrimp remoulade. By the time you get to the tomatoes, they are a soppy mess.
Both times at Acadiana, our service was very attentive. Our glasses of wine were kept full. The servers know the menu very well and can make informed recommendations. I didn't notice it myself, but both Amy and my brother felt rushed on our last visit. After they commented on it though, I did notice it myself. Our entrees arrived before we were all done with out appetizers. And before we were done with our dishes, the servers were coming by, trying to clear plates and hand us dessert menus, despite the fact that some of us still had food on our plates. We were one of the first reservations, so it might have been that the servers were trying to keep the pace of the meal from dragging so the reservation coming in after us didn't have to wait. I can understand that though, because I do tend to drag a meal out as long as I possibly can, sometimes for two or three hours. However, the rushed pace is a little incongruous with an elegant, Southern-style restaurant.
The other thing I noticed is that the tables are packed in pretty tight if you are only a table of two. For parties of four, the tables are well spaced, but the two rows of tables for two are kept pretty close to each other, and they are close to the noisy bar. I'd say it's not the best atmosphere for a romantic dinner out with that special someone.
Update: I almost forgot to tell you about the cost of the meals. Acadiana is no cheap night out. Dinner for 2 is easily over $100, expecially if you order wine. Entrees are in the $20 to $30 range and appetizers range from $7 to $14. You can see their full menu here.
901 New York Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20001
Mon - Fri: 11:30am - 2:30pm
Mon - Thurs: 5:30pm - 10:30pm
Fri, Sat: 5:30pm - 11:00pm
Dress Code: Business Casual - I wore "nice" jeans with a sport coat the second time and seemed to fit in fine. Overall, it's fairly dressy, but not formal.
Smoking: Allowed at the bar
Closest Metro: Mt. Vernon Square
Parking: Valet Parking is $5. There's not very much street parking in the area.
Reservations: Taken. Use OpenTable.
Baby-Friendly Rating: 1 out of 4 diapers. I'd be very hesitant to take Noah here for dinner. It's just too upscale and I'd worry about disturbing other people's dinners too much to enjoy myself.