Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Heavy on the Testosterone, but Good Beer and Great Wings

Thirsty Bernie’s is a gastropub located in a nondescript strip mall in Arlington on Lee Highway. So right away you are probably thinking, why would you go there? That makes two of us, but read on.

The answer this past Wednesday was that B wanted bar food and beer in big mugs, a request he does not make often, so we headed to this man enclave for happy hour with minor protests from me.

Having been there before for lunch, I originally found the food--full well knowing that they craft their own sausages and breads, to be the heart-attack on a plate variety and not all that spectacular. But B has been several times since and insistent that it was worth a return visit. And in thinking about it, who could not use a 23 ounce mug of craft beer on a Wednesday?!

In entering Thirsty Bernie’s it took all I had not to turn right around and leave. It was filled with some of the worst of suburbia: beer-gutted middle-aged men talking too loudly and already slurring their words at 6:30. Nice. I rolled my eyes several times, questioned B as to why it was that we were here again, and reluctantly sat down.

The beer selections are heavy on European varietals, but include rotating specials which this past week including Kona’s Longboard Lager and New York's Hennepin. The aforementioned mugs are $2 off during happy hour from 4 - 7pm  ($5 and $7 respectively) and the beer is served at an appropriate temperature.

Before I get to the food, two comments on atmosphere and service:
  1. If you are going to be a man-cave bar with dark wood, lots of beer, flat-screen sports-showing TVs, and blown-up pictures of football players on the walls, you need to think of your music choices. Taylor Swift’s "Romeo and Juliet" as the backdrop to the crowd I mentioned above was just plain bizarre, smirk-worthy.
  2. The waitstaff appears to be hired exclusively from some local high school football team alumni association. Our waiter, while sweet and efficient, provided the most humorous moment of the night when we asked about Spaten, a brew from Munich. He shyly responded that while he was pretty sure it was Italian (a name like Spaten just has that Italian ring?!), but then came clean and said since that he was only 20 he really had no idea.

These cheese covered and purportedly homemade potato chips are not on the menu, but somehow B knew to order them.  They were really good, but what kept them from being great was the gratuitous amount of blue cheese on top.  The chips were hearty and thick cut, which made them a natural fit for the amazingly tangy German cheese sauce below and scallions above.  Minus the blue cheese they would be better (and even worse for you) if they added bacon or some house cured pancetta.  Clearly Bernie's food is not meant for weekly consumption for anyone but the men that so disgusted me upon entering.

Since we happened to be there on a Wednesday, when wings are half priced, we decided to try a dozen hot wings and went with a mix of crispy and grilled. These were quite possibly the best wings I have tasted and as a poor graduate student in my past life, I have quite the advanced wing pallet.  The wings had a firey heat, compounded by the sprinkling or red pepper flakes and countered by the chunky and ample homemade blue cheese dressing.  The wings themselves were just the right size -- not too small, but not so large that the sauce to wing ratio was off.  I would venture back into to the 'burbs just for these wings.  The grilled were my favorite, though spicier!

One oddity: Thirsty Bernie's claims to be 95% organic.  I'm not sure what is going on with the other 5%.  The food and beer selection at Thirsty Bernie's is actually worth the trip, and you can tell the owners care and put a lot of heart into the place.  Plus the price is right.  Two 23 ounce mugs, twelve wings, and the cheesy potato chips, tax, and tip were $35.

Thirsty Bernie Sports Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Seems Bernie's is a well balanced place, great beer/food for a great price. Interesting coming from a suburban sports bar. I'll have to venture over there next time there's a game I'd like to catch on.