Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Union Jack’s British Pub

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Ballston’s no rookie when it comes to the bar scene.

However, the area’s watering hole favorites were looking particularly empty last Friday evening thanks to a certain new lad on the block, and his name is Jack – Union Jack’s British Pub to be correct. Located directly next door to Rock Bottom Brewery inside Ballston Common Mall, its neighbor may have had the bigger speakers, but Jack’s had the bigger crowd, fittingly so on the heels of its grand opening last week.

841spotlightcolor.jpg“It’s been a full house every night,” Co-owner Gary Ouelette said of the public’s response thus far.

It may be the abundance of brews – 15 on tap and 40 bottled – that are bringing in the steady happy hour head count. Walls adorned with faux rock and British flags complement the castle-like stone flooring resting beneath the feet of blokes with jars in their hands, which is foggy-town slang for dudes holding beers. No worries; cleverly thought out Brit-slang vocabulary napkins are supplied with meals as to not leave anyone out of the wordplay because yes, that is Spotted Dick ($6) you see on the dessert menu, since bread pudding with raisins just isn’t quite as provocative sounding.

Though expectations aren’t typically high for bar fare, Union Jack’s impressive full-service restaurant doesn’t cheat patrons out of a delectable bite to partner their pints. Some keeping in theme more than others, many menu items openly list beer or liquor as their main flavor source. The spirit-filled Drunken Chicken ($12) credits Tanqueray gin, and definitely isn’t misplaced under the “big eats” section of the menu. Immediately, the charbroiled scent of gin and soy sauce wafting off the plate conjured up yearnings for summer cookouts amidst the unexpected snow flurries seen last weekend. Generously grilled yet retaining their juice, these “tipsy bird bosoms,” as the menu goes, are laced with sweet hints from the brown sugar glaze, balanced by the salty tang of the soy sauce-saturated marinade.

For diners wary of the hard stuff, the Newcastle Ale BBQ Ribs ($11 half rack/$18 full) stick to beer. These slow-roasted baby backs are smothered in the England-native brew, but consumers beware – what this rack lacks in alcohol content, it makes up for in spice. Described as “spicy-tangy-sweet,” the menu’s description probably could have dropped those last two adjectives. Regardless, no complaints here; their bite factor plays favorably. And as if the food wasn’t enough to the keep our inner lush satisfied, Friday night boasts beer specials until 9 p.m., an appropriate quench to the booze-infused ribs for my guest and I.

Post-dinner tummies are invited to rest over conversation at the bar, pool table, dart board or, for those bravely inclined, the dance floor, from which the tables are cleared and replaced with a DJ ready to take requests once the families clear out. Even more, Ouelette said Union Jack already has plans to embrace the music scene after the New Year, opening their stage up to live bands.

“It’s a large venue and by bringing in live entertainment, we’d be bringing something to Ballston that it’s lacking right now,” said Ouelette, who went on to note that he believes the restaurant’s incoming shall only make the area more of a destination spot ideal for locals looking to hop from place to place during their night on the town.

Ouelette’s competition-friendly outlook may be amicable, but it’s clear that until this current wave of curiosity among locals settles out, all eyes are on Jack.

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Union Jack’s British Pub

4238 Wilson Boulevard

Arlington, VA

Open seven days a week from 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.