To the right side of the open area reside not one but two projection screens where movies and sporting events are hosted. One of them is designated as a non-smoking and it features its own small bar, also non-smoking, with a wall full of branded and generic tap handles. The 15 foot black ceiling continues the dark motif but a nearby sandbox with kids playing in it does lighten the mood of the place. A chalkboard on the wall displays the current beer offerings while behind it lies one of the largest collections of pint glasses ever seen. Above it hangs a detached auto transmission. The restrooms can be found by following the line of Elvis paintings. Wheelchair patrons finding the steps a barrier must use the elevator to reach the facilities on the second floor. Rumor has it that Elvis has been sighted among the impersonators when he returns to Bardo every year for his birthday celebration.
Continuing to the front of the building reveals another small bar, another row of 36 taps, a few dozen tables and chairs, and a large automobile protruding half way thorough the surrounding glass walls. This front dining area offers lacquered wood tables with green patio chairs was well as a view of the surrounding neighborhood. A few TVs without sound are also in view. Behind the bar hang hand-painted placards indicating which house brews are currently being served. The most colorful of the group is the Marion Berry Lambic which bears a likeness of the current DC Mayor puffing away on a crack pipe. More activities are found upstairs. Here, 13 pooltables help customers work off their calories that originate with the house beers that flow from the two sets of 12-tap towers, pushed by Nitrogen via chilled lines from the serving tanks.
Since the staff is mostly male and the crowd is predominantly the same, the draw is obviously the beers. The Centennial IPA get its name from its dominating flavor component, the hops. Its clear amber color is matched with a medium body, hoppy aroma (dry hopped), and the flavor balanced to hops over malt. The Beat My Wheat (filtered) is well-carbonated with a dark straw color, white creamy head, light wheat sweetness, and an underlying hoppy crispness. The Dillions ESB is a dark amber color with a great full body, and malts barely edging out hops for your palate's attention. The Black Watch Scotch Ale is a dark amber color with a medium body, full mouthfeel, with early hops starting off the flavor before the sweet malt moves in, finally giving way to hops again in the finish. The Red Ice is said to originate with the second runnings of the White Lightnin' barleywine. A deep gold color, this light-bodied brew yields a lasting head, mellow hop-over-malt flavor, and a clean malty/alcohol finish. The award-winning (GABF) Bundaberg Ginger Beer is a clear gold color with a strong ginger aroma, creamy mouthful, medium body, mellow ginger flavor, and a dry finish. An excellent selection of "big beers" and micros from across the US awaits sampling, pints ($4.25/$4.50) are the only serving size other than pitchers ($10.75). The DeGroen's Weizen is a cloudy, opaque straw color with low carbonation, smooth tangy mouthfeel, and a slight clove aroma and flavor. The fred's Cider is also on hand at $5 a pint.
The light menu has some surprising treats such as the grilled mushrooms. Appetizers run $6 to $12, Burgers $7, and Entrees $6 to $7. a "special" house beer is usually available for $8 a pitcher, while happy hour lasts until 8 PM daily and offers pints at $2.30, pitchers for $6.45, and growlers for $9.91 (plus tax). The changing movies offer some variety to the oldies background music but the vast selection of beers and the space to spread out seem to be the reason people keep coming back. When leaving, customers can take along a souvenir T-shirt for $12 or a sealed growler for $14/$10.75. Football season brings in the sports crowd but regardless of your preferences, you should have no problem finding plenty to do and drink at Bardo Rodeo. It's also an easy two block walk up Wilson from the Court House stop on the Metro's Orange Line. Look for the 20 foot totem pole out front and don't forget to say hey to Elvis.
2000 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - August, 1997