Every Monday starting at 4 p.m., Capital Ale House runs a burger special: with the purchase of a drink, all burgers cost $3. Now, I realize that going to Capital Ale at 7 p.m. ousts my meal from the lunch category and annuls my alliteration, but I am willing to get over it if you are.
With two sprawling stories, this restaurant is huge. You can sit at the bar, in a booth, at an eight-person high top, upstairs in the overflow, upstairs at the other bar, or outside on the rooftop patio. The patio is usually quiet, lit with string lights, and offers a nice view of the courthouse clock peeking through the treetops.
Capital Ale claims to be Virginia’s Beer Authority with over 100 beers on draught daily, according to their website, and your waiter will hand you the extensive menu when you sit down, just to prove their point. If you do not understand their “authority” on beer by then, just glance at the number of spigots behind the main floor bar. But beer is not all this restaurant is good for, especially if you like burgers.
You do not have to buy beer in order to get the special. Capital Ale offers an assortment of fountain drinks, lemonades, hot or cold teas, even french-pressed coffee that comes in a shiny carafe, so when you chow down on your burger you can still stick your pinky out and feel classy.
I chose the Ale House Burger, which usually rings in at $9.50 for the basic burger, lettuce, tomato, and onions. I added gouda cheese for an extra dollar. Other options include the Smokehouse Burger with the basics plus BBQ, gouda, and a choice of pork belly, bacon, or smoked ham, all for $12.50, or the gyro burger, seasoned lamb topped with spinach, feta, and tzatziki sauce for $14.50, or the black bean burger with its cilantro-lime sauce for $10.
Capital Ale sources its meat from local Virginia farms, pasture-raised, and antibiotic-free. The menu reads: “Our beef is from over yonder, not overseas.” Given the quality and conscience of the beef, and given Capital Ale’s location off Court Square downtown, the cost makes sense.
Looking at these prices, however, the Monday night burger deal sounded all the more appealing to my college student budget. With a $4 drink, and a $1 splurge for the gouda cheese, my meal rang in at $1.50 less than what my burger alone would have cost had I decided to go for lunch instead of dinner.
The meat patty could have fit in the palm of my hand — which is probably smaller than yours — and measured an inch thick. You get to build your own burger at the table, as it comes served on a plate with the lettuce, tomatoes, and onions on the side.
If I had not opted for the gouda, I would have enjoyed a plain ol’ burger in good conscience that my cow lived a happy life before he ended up wedged between the two buns in my hands, and that’s about it. No fireworks, no guts, no glory, no hint of smoky cheese.
Though for $3 and a nice view, I might be willing to try another.