If you're among the throngs who descend on Ballston's Carpool on the weekends or after work, many elements of the poolhall/bar/pickup spot's new Herndon location will feel familiar: ten pool tables in excellent condition. The beer selection, with locals like Dominion and Victory Amber mixed among the Saranac and Sam Adams. Vintage car ads and parts on the walls. Dart boards. Foosball tables. Crowds of young professionals gathered at the long, metal bar or on the patio.
But Carpool Part Deux isn't just a Ballston clone. Here, the owners blend the bright, pool-and-greasemonkey atmosphere with a few loungey areas containing vintage sofas and chairs, the kind that wouldn't be out of place at Fluid or Bedrock Billiards -- the latter owned by the same company. An enormous patio, used by previous tenant Chamdo, looks out onto the woods behind the strip mall. Then there's the back room, with a large wall that opens (literally) to allow air in.
Something's missing, though. Ballston's Carpool has deservedly earned the reputation of a happening pickup spot. After visits to the new branch, it just doesn't have the same "meet market" vibe. Perhaps that's because of its location, on an otherwise-desolate Elden Street, sandwiched between a Dunkin Donuts and a Comfort Inn. This spot has been a venus flytrap over the last few years: Champions Billiards opened and closed, then Red Hot & Blue. Chamdo, part of the Bardo/Dr. Dremo's empire, started serving beer in early 2000 and lasted just over a year.
Like Chamdo, this Carpool is not a "destination" bar -- unless you live or work near Reston/Herndon/Dulles, you're probably not going to make the trek out. But Carpool is a great neighborhood joint, and a welcome addition to Herndon's nightlife scene.
-- Fritz Hahn