Pretzels

By popular demand, this page contains reviews of the soft pretzels that I encounter. Unfortunately, I can’t put a second dynamic page on this blog. That means that this page is static, and that we will all be enjoying a little Web 1.0 with our meal.

Pretzels are rated on a variety of factors at the author’s discretion. These primarily include taste, mouthfeel, and sauces; however, a positive or negative experience (beverage composite, atmosphere, availability) can certainly affect the rating. First Down will be listed first, as a baseline. The remainder will be placed in chronological order, with the newest first.

In addition, several Individual #s shall be referenced. The Individual #s are assigned at their request. For most #s, this blog has no idea why these individuals picked the numbers they picked.

First Down Sports Bar and Grill
Location: Ballston (Arlington, VA)
Overall Score: 10/10

Component Scores:
Sauces: 9/10
Mouthfeel: 10/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Beverage Composite: 7/10
Availability: 10/10

First Down’s soft pretzels are the gold standard against which all other pretzels are compared. Unlike many of the other items on this page, these pretzels are fried (rather than baked). This provides an unparalleled crispiness, texture, and flavor. They are brought to the table piping hot. You’ll probably order a second round (or a third).

The deep fryer provides a second advantage: when the kitchen closes late at night, the deep fryer stays open. This means that the pretzels remain available even in the later hours (along with a handful of other foods).

From a sauce standpoint, the pretzels are served with cheese and honey mustard dipping containers. The author’s personal preference is honey mustard, but both are good enough to warrant alternating between the two (perhaps in a 2:1 ratio). The honey mustard has a nice thin texture and flavor balance that probably leans more towards the honey. The cheese is appropriately thicker.

The beverage selection at First Down is typically pretty standard. There isn’t a wide variety; that being said, that really isn’t the purpose of this (rather small) venue. You are there to eat pretzels and watch sports.

Courhaus Social
Location: Courthouse (Arlington, VA)
Date of Visit: September 2019
Overall Score: 8/10 (Composite of two options)
Enjoyed With: Individual #11

Component Scores:
Sauces: 9/10
Mouthfeel: 9/10 (pretzel), 7/10 (bites)
Atmosphere: 8/10
Beverage Composite: 7/10
Availability: 10/10

Couthaus Social is somewhat unique in that it offers two pretzel solutions, each pictured above. The first option is a full pretzel with a great dipping sauce. The second option is a more flavorful pretzel bite assembly that includes onions pre-distributed sauce.

Of the two, the pretzel bites have the stronger flavor. The added onions make a big difference in how these taste. The “problem” (which is perhaps a matter of preference) is that they are really just a larger pretzel cut into smaller bits and then cooked. This seems to make them crunchy (rather than crispy) and a bit harder to eat. The pre-distributed sauce also makes it a bit hard to socially grab a bite, as a napkin must also be at-the-ready. Perhaps because of this limitation, individual #11, with whom I enjoyed these, didn’t finish their portion.

On the other hand, the more standard pretzel offering is great. The full pretzel is cooked at a perfect level and comes out quickly. You can order it pretty late. The beverage selection is also fairly comprehensive. This blog appreciates that multiple options are available, but strongly recommends the full pretzel experience over the pretzel bites.

Randolph Beer
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Date of Visit: August 2019
Overall Score: 7/10
Enjoyed With: Individual #2

This is a difficult restaurant to find, which perhaps explains the duration of the stay (a general fear that if we left, we may never find the establishment again).

Component Scores:
Sauces: 6/10
Beverage Composite: 8/10
Availability: 10/10 (It wasn’t exactly crowded)

Unfortunately, this blog’s more specific notes for this pretzel were lost in transit. Several key details were recoverable, however. The food portions at this venue were smaller- the pretzel may have been the largest item on the menu outside of a traditional burger. The beer selection was solid, though the bar is darkly lit, making some of the “on-the-wall” menus a bit difficult to read. It’s also a tad loud in some seats. Tough to get a sense of the atmosphere, as it seemed to vary greatly depending on the hour.

The pretzel itself held up fairly well. By all accounts, the texture was on-point. The sauces, however, were not as great. This made it more of a standard bread-and-beer situation. This blog would recommend the pretzel if you were at the venue, but would not recommend visiting the venue for the pretzel.

William Jeffrey’s Tavern
Location: Columbia Pike (Arlington, VA)
Date of Visit: August 2019
Overall Score: 9/10
Enjoyed With: Individual #13 + Others

Component Scores:
Sauces: 8/10 (Cheese: 10/10, Mustard: 6/10)
Mouthfeel: 9/10
Atmosphere: 8.5/10
Beverage Composite: 7/10
Availability: 9/10

If you visit William Jeffrey’s on a Monday night, you can catch an open mic night. The seating arrangement here is a bit tricky- there are a handful of high tables with chairs that support large groups, but a large portion of the seating in the main section is on the side, where it can be challenging to see the TVs. Still, it is a nice venue with a great vibe.

These pretzels come in the “baguette” form, which really improves the ease of sharing. They are cooked nearly perfectly: the outside is crisp, with a soft (but not under cooked) interior. The pretzels come with a giant bowl of cheese that really stands out. Its thick, warm, and plentiful, and this adds an abundance of flavor to each bite. It will be tempting to cover the entire thing in cheese and take large bites to maximize flavor. This blog will not judge you if you choose to do so.

Perhaps the only knock on these pretzels is a slight lack of salting and the quality of the mustard available. This blog strongly prefers honey mustard over traditional mustard, and one is left wondering just how much untapped potential there would be with a second dipping option. The restaurant seems to be aware of this quality contrast, as the mustard container is significantly smaller than the cheese container.

Old Man Rafferty’s
Location: Hillsborough, NJ
Date of Visit: Mid August 2019
Overall Score 6.5/10
Enjoyed With: Individual #18

As with a few others on this blog, the photographic evidence for this pretzel was lost in transit along with the more detailed set of notes. Individual #18 did keep some records, however, and recalled, “I vaguely remember it being kinda dry and mustard is one of my fav condiments and I didn’t like it. Too much brown, not enough yellow.”

In addition, this blog spend a significant portion of time desalinating the pretzel- unlike William Jeffrey’s, there was simply too much salt to enjoy this one in its presented form.

For the restaurant’s part, the atmosphere was a net positive. Expect an upper-end New Jersey style family restaurant. There will be some large families alongside some (mostly older) dates. It will be a bit crowded, but not disruptively so.

Crab Cake Factory
Location: Selbyville, Delaware (near Ocean City, MD)
Date of Visit: Mid-August 2019
Overall Score: 6/10
Enjoyed With: Individual #13

Unfortunately, this was one of the pretzels that I did not have an opportunity to capture a picture of. Perhaps ironically, this particular pretzel experience was a key driver in creating the reviews on this page.

Component Scores:
Sauces: 6/10
Mouthfeel: 6/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Beverage Composite: 6/10
Availability: 5/10

As the scores would indicate, this did not go particularly well. We went with a large group on a Thursday night during the summer, and the restaurant was crowded (as one might expect). The restaurant did not seem equipped to handle such a crowd, which had a bit of an impact on the pretzel experience: it was difficult to pair a cold beverage with the food, and it would have been challenging to order a follow-up pretzel if one were required.

I ordered this pretzel alongside Individual #13, and we reached a general consensus: the pretzel wasn’t really cooked enough. It was a bit doughy and mushy on the inside, and the sauces weren’t great. A place like this is probably more known for its seafood (which tasted fine), but I think we were hoping for more given that the bar was hopping.