6212 Little River Tpk., Alexandria 941-8880 Hours: Lunch/saloon fare available 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. seven days a week; dinner, 5 to 11 p.m. daily; brunch, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Prices: Soups and appetizers, $2.25 to $5.25; lunch sandwiches and entrees, $4.75 to $9.95; dinner sandwiches and entrees, $4.95 to $15.95; children's menu, $1.95 to $2.95. Cards: All major credit cards. Nonsmoking section available.
Teddy Roosevelt may have been a big eater, but it's difficult for me to envision him sitting down at Bullfeathers to a plate of super nachos or fried zucchini sticks. In fact, the Teddy Roosevelt theme here, from the name Bullfeathers (his sanitized expletive) to the stuffed game animals on the walls, is but a thin overlay on your standard dark wood, brass and glass saloon.
The menu, identical to Bullfeathers' other locations (Capitol Hill and Old Town), is replete with specials -- daily specials, early-bird specials, seasonal beverage specials, even a special 90-item Bloody Mary condiment bar featured at the a la carte weekend brunch.
Predictability is not Bullfeathers' strongest suit. Indeed, hits and misses sometimes show up on the same plate. For example, a nicely broiled, lemony blue fish fillet was accompanied by a mound of medicinal-tasting rice pellets suggestive of early astronaut cuisine. Even vegetable side dishes generate vastly different readings on the applause meter -- one evening, a sprightly potpourri of perfectly sauteed vegetables, but another time, a sad, drab jumble of barely warmed odds and ends.
On the plus side, one can get off to a flavorful start with the large platter of sweet, thinly sliced onion rings, or by sharing the daily pasta special, such as the fettuccine with baby shrimp and mushrooms. The lemon butter sauce on the pasta was pleasant, although it could have benefited from some basil or tarragon. Less successful, the half-dozen oysters Roosevelt were not only buried under a too-sweet mound of chopped spinach and bacon flavored with Pernod, but two of the off-flavor mollusks had me reaching for my napkin.
Two soup-of-the-day samplings left a lot of room for improvement. The clam chowder was weak with overcooked clams and the vegetable soup thin and generally unappealing.
On the other hand, the spicy chili was a big hit -- chunks of beef mixed with kidney beans in a lively gravy. Another tasty, light meal, the "strombully," is a pizza dough pocket stuffed with pepperoni and mozzarella, baked until puffy and crisp, and set in tangy tomato sauce.
For entrees, in addition to the bluefish special, I enjoyed the tender baby back barbecued ribs with a rich, sweet sauce. The barbecued chicken, however, was slightly tough and had little flavor. Also lacking in flavor were the marinated chicken breast and the chicken in the enormous cobb salad that came topped with other ingredients.
While the mildly seasoned Cajun rib-eye steak ($11.95) was decent, the accompanying baked potato wasn't warm enough to melt butter.
On Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, the 1- to 1 1/4-lb. Maine lobster dinner goes for $9.95 instead of the usual $14.95. The petite specimen on my plate, while tender, tasted oddly of boiled corn on the cob (which was not even on the menu).
There are some satisfying desserts, such as the rich key lime pie, cheesecake or sour cream apple pie. For peanut butter addicts, there is a special dessert: two crumbled peanut butter cups, two scoops of peanut butter ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and nuts.
On my visits, I was struck by the newness of the service staff, whose tenure seems to be measured in minutes rather than months, and who are not much more familiar with the menu than a first-time diner. Nonetheless, food usually arrives promptly as ordered, a pleasant surprise given the circumstances.