With a new American Tap Room now open in Clarendon, restaurant patrons can now enjoy the 100-beer menu and grill fare made available at the restaurant’s Bethesda and Reston locations in Arlington.
The restaurant bills itself as a spot for “casual sophistication redefined,” which calls for a curious balancing act of high and low dining experience that the restaurant attempts to maintain in both its menu and ambiance.
The hefty tall-backed brown armchairs that surround dining tables in the large restaurant, when accompanied by the flicker of the fireplace in the center of the dining room, might make diners feel right at home (maybe even inclined to crack open a book, but alas, there is just a menu). But tap after tap of beer running parallel to the long bar and the exposed kitchen, only half obscured by frosted glass, snap customers back to a high-end pub reality.
The menu, made under the direction of Executive Chef Bobby Vickers, faces a similar duality of identity. Though grounded in standard bar-and-grill fare (think pizzas, burgers and meat-and-potato platters), various dishes take inspiration from Asian and Caribbean cuisine, and the offerings are bolstered by ample seafood options.
The $8-$12 appetizers, from the maki sushi flight to the chile-cilantro hummus, take diners on an international journey that one might not expect from the restaurant’s name. While the IPA veggies, tossed in a beer-flavored batter and deep fried, introduce customers to the hoppy tastes that might make them take a second look at the beer list, the stand-out starter is the jerk chicken spring rolls. They are hardly spring rolls, in that spring rolls often pair bits of meat with tons of veggies in a crispy shell. This is a downright meat pocket, stuffed full of spicy chicken chunks and served alongside a delicious mango dipping sauce that brings great sweetness to the mix.
The six stone-hearth pizzas this restaurant serves up, ranging in price from $9-$15, combine high-end ingredients like jumbo lump crab meat and prosciutto ham in this classic casual-dining delicacy. The Peking Pizza, a blend of honey-ginger duck, stir-fried green beans and scallions, all coated in a sweet chili sauce, hits the right marks, all supported by a wonderfully crunchy crust.
The entrees are less adventurous, focusing on staples like steak and French fry platters and seafood platters, along with a lone pasta dish in a duck ragout. The steaks, like the $18 10 ounce rib eyes of organic beef from grass-fed cows, are served to order, seasoned only with a rub of garlic and a dab of the house’s cabernet shallot butter sauce, letting the flavorful meat shine through. The fries, though hand cut, are under seasoned and go unrecognized amidst the heaping plates of meat they accompany.
The meal ends with a look at the classic dessert cart, or in this case a tray, with decadent treats like sundaes and crème brûlées to end things on a sweet note.
Having opened in Clarendon just after Labor Day, the restaurant still faces the challenges of settling in, and it still remains to be seen if customers determine the fare is worth the price tag, but for its metro-adjacency, beer offerings and good pub food picks, it may become a preferred spot in the area.
American Tap Room is located at 3101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. For more information, call 703-312-9080 or visit americantaproom.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 2 a.m. and Sunday: 10 a.m. – 2 a.m.