What do you mean, all the happening nightspots are in Washington?
If you're (relatively) young, single and live in or near Arlington, chances are you've been to Carpool, at least for laughs. This Ballston garage-turned-nightspot is the kind of place where unattached twenty-to-thirtysomething professionals go to meet, drink, flirt and maybe shoot a little pool, but without the hassles involved in going into the District.
Carpool is owned by the same team that brought us Bedrock Billiards, Atomic Billiards and Buffalo Billiards, and its Service-Station-as-Americana theme (the old gas signs, road maps and postcards throughout the bar) is downright cool if slightly contrived. But the target audience probably isn't thinking about that.
Happy hour is prime pickup/meeting time at Carpool, as guys in white baseball caps and Abercrombie T-shirts share space at the row of dartboards with guys dressed in the latest French-blue-and-khakis office wear. Preppy girls and their boyfriends/dates linger over one of the dozen pool tables. No one's wearing black; very few people are on their cell phones; and people look genuinely happy to be out at a bar. Hmmm. Maybe there is something to this staying-in-Virginia thing after all.
-- Fritz Hahn