Das Bullpen? No need to worry, sports fans: The Bullpen hasn’t affected a European accent or an affinity for soccer. Think of Das Bullpen, which opened this month across from the Half Street Metro entrance, as the Bullpen’s contemplative, worldly cousin. Where the Bullpen can come across as frat party lite, with lots of ballcap-wearing 20-somethings pitching beanbags and drinking out of aluminum Bud Light bottles while rocking out to cover bands, Das Bullpen’s music is not as loud, and the noise comes from groups laughing and talking while sitting at long rows of wooden picnic tables. Instead of Bud Light, the eight draft beers include Boddington’s, Czechvar and Leffe, priced at $6 or $7 a cup. (Yes, your fancy beer still comes in red plastic cups.) Under a large wedding reception-style tent, a grill turns out bratwurst and knockwurst with sauerkraut and mustard.
Like the Bullpen, the land is owned by Akridge and, until the economy tanked, was to have been developed into office buildings and condos called Akridge at Half Street. Rather than let the lot lie fallow, the developers asked local restaurateur Robert “Bo” Blair to open another venture to capture baseball fans on their way to the game. “We thought there’d be a market for an alternative to the Bullpen,” Blair says. “Something more mellow where you can hang out.”
He’s onto something, especially with picnic tables positioned over grassy strips. Before one Nationals game, I noticed that my date wasn’t the only one who had kicked off her shoes. Though the high plywood walls that surround Das Bullpen are a little offputting — who wants to hang out at a construction site? — it’s definitely an improvement over the Bullpen for those who don’t always feel like shouting over a band before heading to the park.
-- Fritz Hahn (April 29, 2011)