Watching the Redskins on television and eating out have regained their traditional positions as savvy Washingtonians' two favorite leisure-time activities, according to a recent unscientific survey.
Bashing of Supreme Court nominees and browsing through Sharper Image had ranked 1-2 in the previous polling. However, they had the staying power and seemed to provide the intense satisfaction of a Dolly Parton variety show.
Two factors have brought the Redskins and eating out back to the preeminence they had enjoyed for years: 1) It is impossible for a majority of Washingtonians to do without either, and 2) it is extremely easy to do both at the same time.
High bench nominee bashing was easy, too, perhaps too easy, which may be why that sport faded from consciousness as quickly as box lacrosse. Shopping at Sharper Image is too easy, too, until the American Express bill arrives.
Quarterback-of-the-past-and-future Jay Schroeder is the latest football hero to attempt to capitalize on this local fascination with the Redskins and restaurants -- a fascination with foodball, so to speak. There is now, as most fans are aware, a J. Schroeder's All-Pro Restaurant in Falls Church.
It is, of course, fact that Schroeder has never been an all-pro and that, because of Schroeder's less-than-stellar performances recently, Doug Williams is the quarterback of the present and scheduled to start the Redskins' Monday night television game against the Los Angeles Rams (9 p.m., Channel 7). But there is no truth to the rumor that Schroeder was given tomorrow night off so he could serve as maitre d' for the potentially big night at his eatery.
Schroeder was preceded into the foodball field by the player he succeeded at quarterback, Joe Theismann, and former Redskins Rick Walker, Jeff Hayes and Curtis Jordan, all of whom have their names on Northern Virginia restaurants.
Any fan can go to the neighborhood bar and grab a burger during a Redskin telecast, which technically would qualify as Eating Out a la Skins. But these Redskin restaurateurs have divined that many fans would be willing to go one step -- and several miles -- farther to do their eating out, especially on game day, at a table blessed by a real Redskin. Thus, Theismann's three restaurants, Walker's two Scoreboard restaurants and the three Rocco's restaurants in which Hayes and Jordan are involved.
But even eating at one of these "semi-official" Redskin restaurants gets to be old helmet, so let's spice up the game plan for tomorrow night. To execute these plays, the designated driver is going to be required to exhibit an ability to wheel through Northern Virginia not seen since the heyday of Jack Herrity. We're going to let each of the Redskins provide one course -- a moveable feast.
We don't have to eat at all nine restaurants -- after all, one Theismann is quite enough -- but to make it challenging, each of the courses must have some tie to football. It can be done, as proven during a recent dry (well, almost dry) run.
First stop, for the kickoff and Mussels (football is a game of strength) Marinara, was Rocco's on Lee Highway in Fairfax. The second quarter offering was a Number Seven (that was Joe's uniform number) sandwich at Theismann's in Baileys Crossroads. For the third quarter the dish was Potato Skins (lame, eh?) at Schroeder's and during the fourth quarter it was the High Five (congratulations, you made it) seafood concoction on half shells at the Scoreboard in Herndon.
If any of that disagrees with your stomach, you can call an audible. While Rocco's specializes in Italian food, the others have eclectic menus, to say the least, with a selection or two from each and every known food group, cuisine and/or popular trend. For example, all have nachos (in Rocco's case, "Nachos Italia") if you'd like to comparison shop. Actually, Rocco's, Theismann's and Walker's have established track records with their followers for having solid-if-not-spectacular pub fare. Schroeder, the restaurateur, is still a rookie.
What you'll miss in all this is much of the TV action. To compensate, however, tune the car radio to 630 on the AM dial for Sonny and Sam. Most Redskin fans find them digestible.
The scouting report:
Rocco's (Jeff Hayes and Curtis Jordan) -- 10900 Lee Hwy., Fairfax; 6804 Commerce St., Springfield; 8412 Sudley Rd., Manassas. Hayes and Jordan are not involved in Rocco's/McLean.
Rocco's is a logical first stop because with three options, it's handy for participants entering the game from several directions. It's a family-style restaurant with large dining areas, but the Fairfax and Springfield bars have several TV's and are friendly spots for friends to gather. There's lots of Redskins memorabilia around to look at while waiting for game time. The bar at Manassas is quite small and the only obvious homage to the Redskins is a display of Hayes (5) and Jordan (22) jerseys. Jordan was hanging around the Fairfax location during a recent Monday night game, but the bar was only moderately crowded. Asked whether the crowds are bigger when the Redskins are playing, the bartender said, "Oh yeah, oh yeah, a lot bigger." Oh yeah, the mussels were plump, the sauce OK.
Joe Theismann's -- 5912 Leesburg Pike, Baileys Crossroads; 150 Branch Rd. SE, Vienna; 1800 Diagonal Rd., King Street Station, Alexandria.
The original Joe Theismann's Restaurant is the one near Baileys Crossroads. That's the original restaurant (there are, as previously noted, now three of them), not the original Joe Theismann (there is still, and always will be, only one of him, thank goodness). The restaurant is on Rte. 7 and nobody can remember for sure whether Theismann was numbered after the road or the road was numbered after Theismann. The Number Seven menu offering is "thin slices of cold roast beef topped with melted swiss cheese, cole slaw and russian dressing. Served with french fries." The fries were surprisingly good. The decor is subdued gridiron (Theismann's book is prominently displayed over the bar), with the beer taps poking out of life-sized metal footballs (ditto in Alexandria and Vienna). There's a huge-screen TV in the Pasadena Parlor ("founded Jan. 30, 1983" -- date of the Redskins' Super Bowl victory). The bar areas in the two newer restaurants are very well set up for groups of friends to watch TV (three of them) and discuss the action. The crowd at the original location on a recent Monday was sparse. Would it be bigger for a Redskins' game? "Yup," said the bartender, while munching on a steamed "topneck" clam between two crackers.
J. Schroeder's All-Pro Restaurant -- 6196 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church.
There's a TV at each end of the bar and big-screen viewing in the dining area. There are also some Redskin pictures on the walls, but little else to indicate that it's not still Rumors of Virginia. During the recent dry run, the bartender was definitely more cordial than his boss was after being benched last weekend. He took the order, asked for a name and said, "Bob, I'm Mike." OK. When asked if the crowd would be larger (it couldn't have been smaller, the dining area was empty) if the Redskins were playing, Mike said, "When they played a couple weeks ago, this place was wall to wall. They lost yesterday and everybody was bummed out. It affects our crowd." Whether everybody was bummed out was conjectural, but an earlier scouting mission when the replacement Redskins were on Monday night football found that the crowed was indeed wall to wall.
Rick Walker's Scoreboard -- 724 Pine St., Herndon; 10334 Lee Hwy., Fairfax.
This is the only place on the tour that has that authentic sports bar feel; it's in an older building and could be downstairs from Boston Garden or across the street from Wrigley Field -- or in any working-class neighborhood where they take their sports seriously. There are mock football, basketball and hockey scoreboards on the walls and lots of pictures (also lots of TV's), but it doesn't have that professional-decorator, singles-bar look (the Fairfax location does have the look, but it also has the scoreboards). The waiters and waitresses wear striped referee's shirts, though (thank goodness) no whistles. Here too, attendance on the night of the dry run was low, but the bartender, when asked if it would be larger for the Redskins, said, "Oh yeah, absolutely. This is a pretty dead night."
Redskins Park -- 13832 Redskin Drive, Herndon.
Sorry, this is not a public facility, but it is a shrine for the truly fanatic -- and only 10 minutes from the Scoreboard. So, if you're done in by the four-bar, four-course foodball tour, which was conceived with the truly fanatic in mind, and can't make it home, sleep in the car and drop by Tuesday morning to peek through the fence. But first, stop at 7-Eleven for coffee and danish.