Pint of Beer at Ralph Sampson's American Tap House

Experience Ralph Sampson’s American Tap Room

We recommend you experience Ralph Sampson’s American Tap Room. It is a celebration of Burgers, Brews, and Hoos…In fact, it’s a perfect play. Located smack dab in the center in Barracks Road Shopping Center, this upscale sports bar is all you need to catch that WaHooWa Spirit! 


Ralph Sampson’s American Tap Room will remind UVA fans of the old U Hall. For sure you’ll appreciate the excellent menu but you’ll also feel a tug of nostalgia when seeing the museum-worthy memorabilia residing on the walls. Who other than Ralph graces seven Sports Illustrated covers? They hang near a large mural of U Hall, complete with lights and a piece of floorboard. The Virginia Vibe here is enchanting….and certain to make you hungry!


Once you are settled, either at the bar or one of many tables inside and out, you will find the coaches, umm chefs, have put together a great team. Check out the Starters for a spicy lineup including Nashville Hot Tenders, crispy deep-fried chicken accompanied by slaw and pickles. The house-made Comeback Sauce is the perfect complement, or, If you don’t like it hot, hot, soothe yourself with the Marinated Watermelon and Cherry Tomato Salad. Made with mint, basil, feta, and a citrus vinaigrette, this generous portion is about as refreshing as it gets.


The Harvest Salad is another great option. Composed of seasonal ingredients like corn, brussels sprouts, mixed greens, and spiced pumpkin seed, with a delish champagne vinaigrette, you will sense the fall coming on. Another great flavor combination is the Crispy Brussels Sprouts made with hot honey, ginger, mint, cilantro, roasted peanuts, and pickled chili peppers. The menu also includes Korean BBQ cauliflower, fried calamari with charred jalapeño tartar and lemon, among other apps.


All these tasties are easily paired with a selection of fifty plus chilled beers. You can’t go wrong with Ralph’s House IPA exclusively brewed from local fave Three Notch’d Brewing. When it comes to cheering for the Virginia Cavaliers, there’s definitely something in the water here!


As it stands, I am partial to anything with grapefruit and tequila, so the Smokey Paloma is a slam dunk. In addition, there are a number of enticing non-alcoholic beverages to assist, including the strawberry pineapple smash and the cucumber-guava cooler. Yum. 


All these are really fun to drink – in moderation, of course – in front of one of fourteen screens inside. Or consider dining on the patio where you can cheer for Tony & Team on two large screens.


In your excitement over the game, don’t forget to pay attention to the All Stars on the menu…both the lunch and dinner menu have dishes unique to Ralph’s House. You will not find Coach Holland Meatloaf or Coach Bennett Ribeye elsewhere! The accompanying buttermilk mashed potatoes and collard greens with bacon speak to my Southern roots and make me feel at home. The burgers and sandwiches are a happy given. Made to order, the variations satisfy in a savory way. Keep it in the paint and get a head start on your weekend with the Thursday special smash burger. It’s a swish!


Three dishes, in particular, surprised me: Ralph’s House IPA Fish & Chips, the Lobster Mac & Cheese, and Warren’s Fine Fried Chicken & Waffles. Once presented, you may think you won’t clean your plate. Trust me….you will! 


Also, try the lump crab cakes. I love how the crab plates atop a true succotash in all its mixed glory! On the lighter side, shoot for the seared salmon with its veggie cajun rice and spicy tomato vinaigrette.


Keeping your head in the game, you will not want to make any turnovers when it comes to dessert…think Cotton Candy Cloud. This is yours to take on, but I can tell you that bananas foster pound cake, vanilla ice cream, a cloud of cotton candy, and flamed Gran Gala Orange Liqueur play well together. Not a fan? Try the bread pudding, cheesecake, or brownie.


What else can I tell you?! As an Alum, I have to admit a certain affinity that leads to an appreciation for our local basketball great and his namesake establishment. Yet, if I were any other sports fan or just looking for a casual place to meet my friends or family for lunch, dinner, or a special weekend brunch, Ralph’s House would be the ticket. The staff throughout are welcoming and friendly, the food is worth the price of admission, and the atmosphere reflects a genuine love for the game and city of Charlottesville. And don’t be surprised if the man himself walks up to your table to say hello. I’ve seen this happen more than once!


Check the website for specials and hours. GO HOOS!


Click here for the complete Charlottesville Guide to Dining.

This story was written with the expert assistance of an alumna from the Class of 1985 who both witnessed Cavalier Basketball in its ascendancy and prefers to remain anonymous.