Until recently, anyone in Pentagon City had a pretty grim choice for an after-work drink: Ruby Tuesday or Frank-N-Stein, both in the Fashion Center at Pentagon City. But the opening of Pentagon Row -- right next door to Pentagon City -- brought a Champps Americana sports bar and restaurant. Not surprisingly, it's packed at happy hour and on weekends.
Part of a nationwide chain, this branch is very similar to the Champps in Reston: exposed brick, tall windows and plenty of metal. This is an American Sports Bar, however, and everything is bigger than life: the enormous island bar; the huge video walls with multiple picture-in-picture displays; the live DJ who spins records at night. The food is no exception. An appetizer for two feels almost like a meal for two; then there are the large sandwiches like the San Fran Melt -- six ounces of fillet mignon with Pepperjack and American cheeses -- or the veal and bacon hamburger. The desserts, too, are designed for sharing.
In fact, the only thing that's pitifully small is the beer list -- Sam Adams seasonal beer is as exciting as it gets. There is a good-size cocktail menu, though, and plenty of apple martinis have been seen around the bar.
Champps feels somewhat sterile, but at least you know what you're getting: huge portions of food, cold beer, friendly service and ESPN Sports Center. Sometimes that's all you need.
-- Fritz Hahn