No stranger to change, the Clarendon neighborhood is braced for yet another round of evolution as The American Tap Room opened its third Virginia location Tuesday night to a packed house at 3101 Wilson Blvd., replacing Sette Bello Italian restaurant.
Thompson Hospitality president and chairman Warren Thompson was on hand to welcome guests to his shiny new family-owned, beer-centric gastropub and restaurant, rumored to have cost $3 million.
"We offer chef-driven fare at a good value, a great line up of over 100 beers, an extensive wine list, and an incredible selection of unique martinis. No one else in the area offers all that," said Thompson.
Once you get past the bordello-esque red exterior, side patio seating area and cool-looking neon flame bowl over the entrance, you’ll pass a grand piano near the host stand and find a large, main bar with 45 generic looking chrome tap handles, unlike the individual taps with their various shapes, colors, and sizes that help you to spot your favorite brands. The leather bar chairs provide comfortable seating beneath the numerous flat-screen TVs hung high above the bar.
This area is flanked by a large, well-designed dining room, with high-décor lighting fixtures and a perfectly amplified background of good music. All this upscale ambiance is enhanced by the floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the main dining area. And that’s just the beginning.
Adjacent to the main floor show is a mini side bar complete with 25 draft handles in a separate sun room area. The outdoor patio seating area sports classy brown wicker embossed furniture and three large open fire pits to keep things warm and toasty on those crisp autumn evenings to come.
"Our goal is to have a bottled beer from each state. DC is full of people from other states, and there's a comfort in finding that one beer you love from back home, but typically can't find. We are working to make sure you can find it. We're almost there, but the ABC laws make it a bit more difficult, but we'll keep at it," said Wade Breaux vice president of marketing, of the 65 drafts.
Among the selection of brews, there are plenty of hoppy pale ales, but far fewer dark beers. Thankfully on their list I found Dominion Oak Barrel Stout, Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout, Starr Hill Dark Star (a true Irish-style stout), and, of course, Guinness. It would be nice if one tap were reserved for a local brewery, like Port City in Alexandria, Va., which makes one of the finest porters around - anywhere.
ATR’s signature beverage is American Tap Room Pale Ale, brewed for the restaurant by Heavy Seas Brewing, of Baltimore, Md. It’s described as refreshing, with a restrained slug of grapefruity American hops.
“This beer is a nice, earthy, English-style pale with a firm maltiness and strong hop backbone. Look for it to pair well with burgers, stews, and anything spicy. This pale also makes for a good session beer at 4.75% abv. We are also really excited about ATR serving casks!” said Jonathan McIntire, Heavy Seas Va./DC territory manager.
The bar staff, headed up by bar manager Jayson Kostyk, is working to install two beer engines and a cask refrigerator at the bar, putting them in company with Fire Works Pizza, Ballston Rustico, and occasionally Galaxy Hut in serving genuine cask ale in our craft beer-crazy little corridor of the world.
“It’s great to see new places like American Tap Room expand upon the already great beer scene here,” said Devin Arloski, Mid-Atlantic brand development manager for Latis Imports, importer of the sessionable and food-friendly Palm Ale.
The menus both for the food and beverages are back-illuminated with LEDs when opened. “Our chefs have knocked it out of the park with a menu filled with thoughtfully sourced, interesting items – great ingredients cooked simply that really let the quality shine," said Breaux.
"We've got a beer menu that's worth celebrating, so we're working on beer-tasting menus, special events with our brewers, and other programs that will really show-off our beers,” said general manager Scott Schultz. “But aside from these types of special events, there's always something happening: daily lunch specials, happy hour, our Bar Bites menu…it's just a great place to spend some time with friends, enjoy a game, hang out on the patio, or have a nice date.”
The American Tap Room will offer free valet parking for the month of September. In case you use public transportation, ATR is right across the street from the Clarendon Metro station on the Orange Line.