Mix equal parts sports bar and cocktail lounge and you get Bracket Room, a newcomer to the Clarendon dining scene. The new restaurant was opened this fall by former “Bachelorette” contestant Chris Bukowski and was billed as a “female-friendly” sports bar.
On a recent Friday night both genders mingled at the bar, a long semi-circle at the center of the restaurant, leaving hardly an empty spot. The edges of the restaurant are lined with tables and booths for dining. The space is modern and chic, but its most noticeable and telling pieces of décor are the televisions. Dozens of the flat-screen TVs wrap single-file around the bar, secured to liquor bottle racks suspended from the ceiling. Televisions are mounted to the walls, too. The eye travels mere inches before encountering another, each broadcasting some sports commentary or an athletic event.
The amenities are prime sports-bar stuff, but the menu offers something more than game-day grub. For drinks, patrons can choose from an assortment of craft beers on tap and a selection of wines and cocktails, but special focus is paid to the Shooters menu, 64 in all, made to duke it out in the brackets to see which reigns supreme (the top dog is the Gummy Bear, by the way, a mix of Stoli Blueberi, peach schnapps, pineapple juice, and Sprite). Each shooter can be made into a cocktail, offering even more libations.
Diners can select from several small-plate dishes to make their meal, organized into three sections according to price with house favorites highlighted. One such selection in the cheapest category, $8 – $11, is The Chicken Wings ($9.70). With crispy skin and tender meat, the wings are offered in Buffalo and barbecue varieties. But the restaurant also offers diners the chance to “get sauced,” meaning they can choose from the restaurant’s more than a dozen sauces to dip their wings in. The three house favorites among the sauces are the Horseradish Wasabi (with horseradish taste and not too much heat), Sriracha Aioli (with all the heat of the Thai chili paste), and BR Secret Sauce (the menu says “sorry, we can’t tell ya” when it comes to ingredients, but it’s a Thousand Island-styled sauce).
Another shareable dish in this category, Grandma Rose’s Spinach Dip ($9.70) comes to the table in a hot cast-iron skillet plated with corn tortilla chips, and it’s loaded with strands of organic spinach, creamy and heavy with cheese flavors.
The house pizzas top the mid-range, $11 – $13, category. The flatbread pies, called VA’s Best Pizza ($11.70) are completely do-it-yourself. Diners get their choice of unlimited sauce, cheese, meats, vegetables, and “finishes” (like garlic oil). The basic tomato sauce has enough heat to make one raise an eyebrow at the spicy sauce option next to it. Cheese, a provolone blend or fresh mozzarella, is applied with a heavy hand, especially considering the pizza’s soft and chewy base.
The higher-end items on the menu, in the $13 – $19 price category, are mostly seafood options. Included are the Fish Tacos ($13.90), on a tasty soft corn tortilla with pickled red cabbage and avocado in perfect proportion against flaky mahi-mahi.
The menu also features salads, soups, and “bites” (essentially side dishes). The Big Boy Potato Tots ($8.80) are not to be missed. A fun surprise, they’re twice the size of a typical tater tot. On the outside, they have all crispiness of the snack they’re modeled on, but their interior is closer to mashed potatoes than potato hash. They’re dusted in Parmesan cheese and thyme, but offer an excellent opportunity to, as the menu says, “get sauced.”
Bracket Room certainly has what sports fans and the happy hour set need out of a restaurant, but it’s the overlapping crowd that will be most satisfied – those who want to watch the game and enjoy chef-inspired dishes.
Bracket Room is located at 1210 N. Garfield St., Arlington. For more information, call 703-276-7337 or visit bracketroom.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Wednesday: 4 p.m. – 12:30 a.m.; Thursday: 4 p.m. – 1:30 a.m.; Friday: Noon – 1:30 a.m.; Saturday: 10 a.m. – 1:30 a.m.; and Sunday: 10 a.m. – 12:30 a.m.