Bernie's Got Game . . . and Game . . . and Game . . .

By Jane Black
Wednesday, June 25, 2008; Page F03

One thing is certain if you visit Thirsty Bernie Sports Bar & Grille (2163 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington, 703-248-9300). You will not miss the game. Any game. Arlington's new gourmet sports bar has 15 flat-screen TVs showing any number of sports simultaneously. There are some over the bar, a few in the dining room, even one facing the parking lot so you can watch even before you walk in the door.

It's a little distracting for a bar that has grand culinary ambitions. Thirsty Bernie aims to be more than just a place to knock back a few beers. The chef is Jamie Stachowski, formerly of Restaurant Kolumbia, who made a name for himself downtown with homemade charcuterie and sausages. "The whole idea is that it's pub food but at a higher level. I don't have the mental fortitude to do fine dining," Stachowski says with a sigh. "I want something fun right now."

Stachowski's idea of fun is owner Steven Sadeghian's casual upscale bar with slate floors, copper tables and all those TVs. On the menu is a mix of bar food (wings and burgers) and specialties from his days on K Street, such as bratwurst, pastrami and, soon, charcuterie plates that include venison salami and country pâté. Stachowski says the pub, named for the Saint Bernard rescue dog, soon will offer German and Czech beers. The list now includes mostly American brews.

On an early visit, not every dish was a home run. Wings (six for $7), which I usually think of as greasy packets of bones, were large and meaty and tasted almost light when grilled and served with the fruity house-made barbecue sauce. The bratwurst ($17), a generous grilled sausage, had a beautiful texture, but the grilled peppers on the plate tasted no better than the ones made and left sitting out all day at Nationals Park. I couldn't wait to try the hot pastrami sandwich ($12), but what arrived tasted like thinly sliced roast beef, not the peppery cured meat I expect. The pickled onions lacked the bite necessary to counter the sandwich's fattiness, and the accompanying onion rings didn't taste house-made.

"It's all starting to come together," Stachowski says. His goal: To get everything shipshape by July 4, when Thirsty Bernie will throw an Independence Day grand opening that will feature house-made kielbasa, steamed shrimp and live music.

Entrees, $9-$21.

-- Jane Black

© 2008 The Washington Post Company