Great Hamburgers and More -- Whatever the Day of the Week

(Tracy A Woodward - The Washington Post)
By Nancy Lewis
Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sometimes a great hamburger is all you need, and Thursday's Restaurant and Sports Bar surely has that.

Thursday's, which long ago was called Friday's when it opened in Fairfax County more than 25 years ago, made the move to Gainesville 10 months ago. When his Fairfax lease wasn't renewed, owner Johnny Wright decided to relocate closer to his home.

Thursday's new location faces U.S. Route 29 north, but you have to go through the Heritage Village Plaza entrance and snake your way around to the front.

When you open the door to Thursday's small vestibule, the blast of cigarette smoke reminds you that Prince William County still permits lighting up in bars and restaurants. But once inside the bar area where smoking is allowed, I couldn't detect any smoky smell, thanks to a good smoke removal system. The dining room is nonsmoking.

Thursday's prides itself on being a sports bar, but that shouldn't deter anyone looking for a good meal. The decor is understated with handsome sports photos (Babe Ruth, Joe Theismann, a Redskins group photo) and, of course, lots of televisions.

The large U-shaped bar dominates the main room with rows of booths surrounding it. Above the bar are storage cabinets, and there are 10 flat-screen televisions mounted on them inside and outside the U-shape. An even larger flat-screen TV crowns the back of the bar. There are more televisions in the dining room, and clear windows there afford diners views of the TVs over the bar. All the sets are tuned to different channels, but because the sound is off, the number of sets isn't overwhelming.

This is my idea of a neighborhood place; most of the diners seems to know one another, and the bartenders often have favorite drinks in place (even if it's iced tea) before regular diners are seated. But, then, even newcomers are greeted warmly.

By my second visit, the waiter was inquiring about my husband and suggesting I try something different from what I'd ordered the first time. (But he seemed surprised that I'd ordered spicy hot Buffalo wings on my first visit and that we polished them off with no complaints.) That kind of welcome is important in a rapidly growing area such as Gainesville, where there aren't a lot of homegrown restaurants.

Then there is Thursday's signature hamburger: eight ounces of ground sirloin that is so juicy and flavorful, it's hard to believe it's made from sirloin, which is often dry.

The signature burger is topped with fried onions, bacon and American cheese, but you can build your own, or choose one of the special burgers that may be offered, such as the three-cheese bagel burger that I tried to defeat. I have to admit the burger won: It was three inches tall and in addition to all that cheese, it also had bacon, mayonnaise, shredded lettuce and tomato. I had to eat it with a knife and fork. It was delicious.

Yet Thursday's isn't a one-note menu. Brian Wright, son of the owner, handles the kitchen while his father is usually presiding over guests from a seat at the head of the bar. Manager Paul Iducovich said the menu was expanded after the restaurant's forced move. And now, patrons often come more for the food than the sports.

Thursday's cooking is from an era before restaurant menus became homogenized and hamburgers collectively became fast food. The hamburgers, and everything else, are cooked to order.

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