Herndon Takes Pool to a New Level
By Fritz Hahn
Special to the Washington Post
Friday, April 3, 2009
The buzz: If you've spent enough time in the suburbs, the pool halls tucked into "village center" strip malls begin to run together. Smooth tables, a bunch of TVs, dart lanes. Shoot some nine-ball, go home.
So to run across one that offers soaring two-story ceilings, a 60-foot bar and floor-to-ceiling windows that offer sweeping views of the surrounding area, well, it's not something you see every day.
Breakers Sky Lounge is hidden inside the odd clock tower that dominates Herndon's Village Center at Dulles shopping center. The signage borders on nonexistent, and getting into Breakers itself requires taking a plain-looking elevator to the fourth floor, leading one female friend to opine that the bar was so well concealed that it was like "the ultimate boys' clubhouse."
Thankfully, there's no "members only" sign.
As you come out of the elevators, Breakers is an impressive space: a vast room with seven pool tables, a long bar running down one side, five dart lanes, a dining area that can double as a dance floor, a fully equipped stage and plasma TVs and projection screens on every wall. Up a flight of stairs is a mezzanine with six more pool tables, its own bar and more dinner seating.
Both levels sport huge windows, and the high vantage point means you can see the trees beyond Herndon's office buildings and parking lots.
It's hard to believe that, until new owners took over last fall, this place had pool tables spread all over the room and those picturesque windows were hidden behind walls.
"I think it's a lot better than it was," says Matt Johnson, who's sitting at the bar one night with a bunch of friends. "It was like a dungeon before."Johnson, 27, who works as a bartender at a nearby restaurant, said the new decor, coupled with a change in "the whole attitude of the place," should pay off for the new owners. "I live right down the street, but I only came in [to the old place] once every few months," he says. "I'll definitely be back more often now."
The scene: The new stage has been getting a workout lately: Breakers started booking bands at the end of February, kicking off with Dewey Beach party favorites Burnt Sienna. Live music is featured every Saturday and some Fridays, mostly with lesser-known acts plucked from the crowded mid-Atlantic cover-band circuit. (It's early for Breakers, but at the moment, its band lineup pales in comparison with Ned Devine's, which is a few doors down.)Other Fridays feature a DJ spinning dance hits while colorful lights swirl over the crowd. On Wednesdays, a small but enthusiastic crowd shows up to sing karaoke.
Pool players should watch out for appearances by big names such as Women's Professional Billiard Association champion Karen Corr, who hosted an exhibition (and took on all comers) in February.
But even when there's no entertainment, Breakers gives you plenty of reasons to drop in, especially if you're feeling budget conscious. The daily happy hour (3 to 8 p.m.) includes half-price appetizers and various drink specials. The special "power hour" from 8 to 9 p.m. (Monday, Tuesday and Friday) means $1 domestic bottles. And on Wednesdays, that $1 special runs from opening until 9 p.m.
On Sunday, pool is free all day. No wonder almost all the tables were taken when I dropped in to watch college hoops.
If you work nearby, you might want to take advantage of the offer of free pool at lunch. Thanks to free WiFi, your boss might not even notice you're gone.
The bum notes come almost exclusively from service, which can be painfully slow. Even when you're parked at a stool at the bar, it's not clear whom you should flag when you need to refill your drink or place a food order.
In your glass: The draft beer selection is pretty predictable, but the drinks arrive in tall 22-ounce mugs. (And at $5.25 for most beers, be it Yuengling or Newcastle, that's a great price, though some, such as Guinness and Smithwick's, are more expensive.)
On your plate: Standard bar food: quesadillas, burgers, steak and cheese, mozzarella sticks. The nachos feature better-than-usual tortilla chips and are piled high with toppings, and the hot wings are flavorful.
Need to know: If you're sensitive to cigarettes, grab seats in the middle of the room, where the high ceilings dissipate the smoke. The bar lacks good ventilation, and the "no smoking area" is a short section at the end of the counter, marked off by tape on the floor. Not effective.
Nice to know: Breakers is all-ages until 9 p.m., when it becomes 21-and-older.