Rick Walker's Scoreboard -- named after the Washington Redskins' tight end, a partner in this new eatery -- would naturally attract sports fans, young families, and singles drawn by the Redskin connection. The pleasant surprise is that food fans have something to cheer about, too.
With some minor exceptions, the kitchen offers a variety of decent to very good dishes ranging from hamburgers and nacho salad to stuffed flounder and filet mignon.
The surroundings are informal -- a cross between a neighborhood bar and a suburban rec room -- and one of six TV sets is always in view. The sets are all tuned to the sports network, ESPN. But, as something of a compromise for those who might not want to hear the roar of the crowd while dining, the televisions' sound is off and jazz plays softly in the background.
From the large black-and-white scoreboards on the walls to the locker room sign for the restrooms, the sports motif shows up everywhere, but most cleverly on the handsome menu designed by Art Monk and Associates. The offerings are divided into categories such as Pre-Game Warm-ups, Kick-Off, First Quarter, Second Quarter, Halftime -- well, you get the idea. My only quibble would be with the choice of the heading Instant Replay for anything related to food.
A big draw at the Scoreboard, besides the possible presence of a famous football figure, is the hefty half-pound burger. A bargain at $3.95, it arrives crusty and blackened outside, cooked to your specifications inside, with a choice of nearly 40 toppings at 35 cents each.
Another plus are the Scoreboard french fries, perfectly executed with a slightly crisp, golden-brown exterior.
And you'll find the ribs better than average -- juicy and tender in a sweet tomato barbecue sauce.
There is a comparatively long list of appetizers, with names like Fun Bunch, Mussel Flexors, and Slaphots. But the sports lexicon can sometimes throw the service staff for a loss -- for instance, the Triple Play sandwich that arrived in place of the Triple Crown appetizer. Also, the service, while friendly, can be a little slow.
The Triple Crown appetizer, a combination of onion rings, french fries and chicken fingers, could pass for a good light meal, although the gently seasoned chicken was too dry.
A better choice from the list of appetizers is the Red Wings. The spicy fried chicken wings were winners even though the red sauce was a little too vinegary. The Red Wings also come with a smooth blue cheese dip, a soothing contrast to the vinegar.
A picture-pretty and tasty appetizer, the super nachos, was light on the tortillas but generous with its topping of Texas chili, cheeses, black olives and jalapeno peppers set off by a mound of sour cream at the center.
The fried potato Redskins ($3.50 for a half order) and the High Five half shells filled with a savory stuffing ($5.95) were comparatively overpriced for the quantity served, but were otherwise well received.
In contrast, the child's dinner portion of spicy fried shrimp with the homestyle french fries is an exceptionally good buy at $4.95. The approximately 20 medium-sized shrimp were deliciously spiced and tender.
Another light meal possibility is the Texas chili that was so good on the super nacho appetizer. The cup or bowl comes topped with a thick layer of grated white and yellow cheeses, and the tender chunks of beef and tomato come alive in the sweet and spicy, cumin-laced broth.
Not as distinctive, the peppery cream of crab soup was rich and heavy.
Although definitely in the acceptable range, the salad of pasta and seafood could be improved by providing more evidence of the shellfish listed in the menu description.
At the more ambitious end of the menu, the flounder stuffed with crabmeat imperial, the creamy seafood Anthony, and the filet mignon cooked to order by the ounce were all satisfactory.
The Scoreboard gumbo entree, almost inedible on one visit with shellfish that suffered from unnecessary toughness in murky, gritty gravy, has been vastly improved. The gravy is now a lightly thickened broth, wonderfully seasoned, with tender chunks of chicken, sausage and assorted shellfish. Bravo.
As for desserts, the chocolate mousse pie was a hit, but the double chocolate cake, key lime pie and apple pie, though not bad, aren't exceptional.
The Scoreboard seems to be at its best with simpler dishes such as burgers, chili, and ribs. But the fact that other dishes on the menu are also successful should secure a place for Rick Walker's Scoreboard in your restaurant line-up.