Week(s) in Review – 4/14 – 4/28

Sorry-I was still recovering from a tremendous weekend in Portland, Oregon, one of the great eating & drinking destinations in the U.S. so missed on a weekly roundup last week. I’ll combine it this week. If I’ve missed anything, like always, you’re welcome to email me at barredindc@gmail.com for suggestions

  • New Reviews: One of my favorite (yet polarizing) bars – The Big Hunt in Dupont Circle; and a chill, nice happy hour patio + basement wine bar – J&G Steakhouse Wine Bar & Patio near the White House/Downtown
  • Awesomeness: Barred in DC has hit the big time – my review of Standard is now on its Press page (http://www.standarddc.com/press.html) next to USA Today, the Post, Food & Wine and other comparable publications
  • Barred in DC Activity
    • Mostly in Portland: Vault Martini Bar – avoid; Teardrop Cocktail Lounge – awesome cocktails, pricey for PDX but cheaper than comparable DC spot; Hollywood Bowl & Arcade – somewhat shady old-school spot in neighborhood in NW Portland, diveish bar attached with great local crafts on draft; Clyde Common – great happy hour, like many in PDX 3-6pm with $3 drink minimum, some legit rock bands + groupies frequent this spot; Streetcar Bistro & Tap Room – more of a nice neighborhood spot restaurant but with great beer list, though closes at midnight on a Friday; Tremendous wine tour of Willamette Valley (concentrated near Dundee) of 5 wineries with Eco-Tours – highly recommended, only $65/person; Huber’s – PDX’s oldest restaurant, very old school spot famous for their Spanish coffees, a great show in making them; Portland City Grill – spectacular view from 30th floor, kind of the John Hancock Building of PDX, somewhat overpriced but good times; Bamboo – stopped by the bar before dinner, 23rd Street is very nice
    • DC: J&G Steakhouse Patio (Downtown), The Bullpen (Navy Yard/Capitol Riverfront), the Red Loft in Nationals Park, also walked through (but did not drink at) the new Park Tavern (Navy Yard/Capitol Riverfront), Standard & Local 16 (U Street/Logan Circle), & Jack Rose (AdMo)
  • Bar News
    • Hill Country is Penn Quarter is teaming up with the National Building Museum to host cookouts/bbqs during the summer. Called Hill Country’s Backyard Barbecue, it will be open everyday except Monday & Tuesday, beginning at 4p on weekdays and noon on weekends (WaPo GoG)
    • Blue Banana in Petworth/Georgia Avenue closed. Apparently a weird sports bar + music venue hybrid that opened in Dec. 2010 but never gained a following. Never went, space will be retooled (PoPville)
    • Jackpot, a basement tavern from the owners of Rocket Bar and Iron Horse Taproom, will be opening nearby on 7th St. NW. Will be good addition to hood, always need new bars to detract from the suckitude of Bar Louie (Young & Hungry)
    • Carriage House, the successor to the infamous Tom Tom of Adams Morgan has finally opened. Seems more upscale and less trashy than Tom Tom, though owned by the same folks, who also own the also-infamous Spaghetti Garden/Roxanne/Brass Monkey/Peyote Cafe (Eater DC)
    • Stoney’s, the neighborhood spot in Logan Circle famous for their grilled cheese, is planning on opening a second location in the wasteland that is the West End at 21st and L (Wash Biz Journal)
    • Kabin, an Aspen ski-lodge-themed spot above the new Gryphon (and in the old Steve’s Bar Room space, a strange dancy dive bar) in Dupont is opening in late-May (count on late June); apparently the same folks (looks like a bunch of Indians and a Vietnamese dude, so expect this to be steered towards the VA douche crowd) will also be opening a speakeasy called The Shepherd next door in June or July (count on August). Always interested to see new bars in the hood, though call me skeptical on both these spots (Young & Hungry)
    • Science Club no longer open for lunch, will open at 3p on weekedays (Twitter-Science Club)
    • GBD, the new fried chicken and donuts emporium in Dupont from the people who brought you Churchkey, launches tremendous-sounding happy hour from 5-7p Tues-Fri. $3 punches & wines, $4 rotating beers. Along with the DGS Delicatessen happy hour I reviewed in March, this block on Conn. Ave. is turning into one of the better happy hour destinations in DC  (WaPo GoG/Fritz Hahn)
    • Pricey new hotel in Georgetown, the Graham, is opening the first true rooftop bar in Georgetown (Old Glory has a 2nd floor patio in the back without much of a view), called the Observatory. Looks like great views and pricey drinks with some bottle service reserved tables (WaPo GoG/Fritz Hahn)
    • La Frontera Cantina, popular with me simply because of the empty patio on 17th St. in Dupont with cheap extended happy hour specials, is being replaced by (same owners) by Ultimo Lounge, Tapas y Carnes. Grand opening in early May. Hopefully keep some of the cheap specials they had. (Borderstan, first reported by PoPVille)
    • Long-under-construction Guitar Bar above Shake Shack in Dupont runs into some legal issues (PoPville)
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J&G Steakhouse – Wine Bar & Patio

J&G Steakhouse – Wine Bar & Patio, website, Facebook, Twitter, 515 15th St. NW (15th and Pennsylvania near G), open 5-11p (Sun-Thu) 4p-midnight (Fri.-Sat.) + lunch non-Sunday, est. 2009 [Yelp]

View of the Patio and the Treasury Building
View of the Patio and the Treasury Building

[Update 6/22/13: Wine Bar and newly constructed bar upstairs to be renamed Bar 515, opening in mid-September] The W Washington hotel, with a location a block from the White House, is a popular spot for celebrities (I think I saw a Jonas brother one time) and presidential fundraisers.  It also is famous for perhaps the best view in all of the District(of the Monument and the Mall and the White House) in its rooftop P.O.V. Lounge bar; surprisingly, I actually still have not made it there in its current incarnation (I once had an awkward summer associate outing when it was the decidedly less hip Hotel Washington).

J&G Wine Bar
J&G Wine Bar

Down below, you can find one of the best steakhouses in DC, the J&G Steakhouse, where tucked under the dining room, somewhat below the ground level, is one of the more pleasant surprises in downtown DC, the Wine Bar.  It’s a nice, cozy, rarely crowded spot with a small bar with about 6 seats, a long communal table in the middle, a few tables off to the side, and more bar stools along a railing that faces the patio.  Speaking of which, J&G’s Patio (which sort of seems to be claimed by both the J&G Restaurant and its Wine Bar), is one of the nicest non-roofdeck patios in the city.

Umbrellas and tables on the patio
Umbrellas and tables on the patio

Facing both 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, this expansive space has several tables with umbrellas along with small firepits surrounded by brown couches.  Owing to its location right in tourist central, there are often more tourists here than the typical DC spot, as the patio is hard to resist, but it’s rarely crowded (these pictures are misleading as they were taken at the Spring Patio Launch Party) and the Patio often hosts barbecues and parties to coincide with big events like July 4th.

Another view of the Patio
Another view of the Patio

Not really a late night spot (good for happy hour or early evening), the Patio and Wine Bar are solid, nicer choices downtown with solid cocktails and wines (though the beers are the standard Stella/Amstel/Heineken bottled kind of crap).

Barred in DC Rating: 3.5/5

 

The Big Hunt

The Big Hunt, website, FacebookTwitter, 1345 Connecticut Ave. NW (b/t Dupont Circle & N St, near 18th and N), opens at 4p (weekdays) 5p (weekends), HH 4-7p weekdays, est. 1992 [Yelp, WaPo, Beeradvocate, Tripadvisor]

The Big Hunt
The Big Hunt

Perhaps the most polarizing bar in all of the District, the Big Hunt (one of prolific-bar owner Joe Englert’s first bars, it opened in 1992) evokes strong reactions from everyone who have had the fortune (or misfortune) of frequenting this establishment.  To wit: this is probably my favorite bar in DC. My girlfriend, on the other hand, refuses to step foot in this establishment any more, despite being about a third a mile from our home (this opinion is shared by many of my friends).

Decor at Big Hunt
Decor at Big Hunt

I think it’s a great dive bar with one of the best beer lists in the city, friendly bartenders, a neighborhood feel on weekdays, 15-cent wing night on Tuesdays, and a somewhat-hidden-secret of a back patio deck.  Others feel that the décor is sketchy/weird as hell, too divey/dusty, too much wood-paneling and taxidermy and weird-safari themes, too meat markety-young on weekends, and even the name is problematic (the unfortunate obituary typo involving Larry David’s beloved aunt in Curb Your Enthusiasm comes to mind). I concede that some of these are true, but I think they are much  outweighed by the positives of the Hunt.

Main first floor bar at The Big Hunt

You first walk into this bar, which is located on the east side of Connecticut Ave. on the block just south of the actual Dupont Circle, using the right door under the circus-like entrance awning.  Although I’ve been to the Hunt countless times, I finally realized on a recent weekend visit how big this bar really is.  There are 4 different bars to order drinks from and about 8 different seating areas, though oftentimes on weekdays only one bar is open, and the rest of the establishment is off-limits.

Second room first floor bar at The Big Hunt
Second room first floor bar at The Big Hunt

After you enter, there is a table or two just off the front window and a fairly long bar on the left; low-slung red booths line the right side of the bar.  More tables are in a back area that feels somewhat separate.Just beyond the bar there is an entryway to the other side of the first floor of Big Hunt. Here, another bar basically mirrors the first bar, and more tables, a couple of booths, and a similar back seating area comprise the rest of the room.

Basement bar at Big Hunt
Basement bar at Big Hunt

Down the stairs leads to a basement bar that I seriously did not know was actually still open until recently as I hadn’t been down there in probably 5-6 years; lots of red, a vaguely devilish theme along with a stage for recent burlesque and comedy make up this space.

Upstairs at Big Hunt - Skee ball tables
Upstairs at Big Hunt – Skee ball tables

Head back to the first floor, where you can take two separate sets of stairs (one on each half of the bar) that lead you to the second floor.  One room contains a couple skee ball machines and seating, while the other room contains a very small bar along with barstools and railings to put your drink.

Upstairs bar at Big Hunt
Upstairs bar at Big Hunt

Behind the 2nd floor bar, a door and a few steps lead you to the hidden gem of the Big Hunt: a nice, secluded patio deck that fits maybe 25 people that is open during nice weather; even haters find it hard to dislike this aspect of Big Hunt.  The view isn’t spectacular but better than one would expect for a second floor patio deck surrounded by office buildings (feels like a courtyard).  Often there is a server who takes drink/food orders, and if not, the 2nd floor bar is just a few feet away.

Back patio deck at The Big Hunt
Back patio deck at The Big Hunt

As mentioned earlier, the drink du jour everyday here is beer, and be sure to try wide variety of beers and check out their frequent beer events.  This isn’t a sports bar, so the place isn’t crawling with TVs, but there are few nice HD flat screens on the first floor so you’ll be able to keep up with any big events. Pro tip: most bars that have “house” beers, are just macrobrews from A-B or MillerCoors (or maybe PBR or Natty Boh) with the bar’s brand name tacked on; the ones at Big Hunt, Light Ass and Bad Ass Amber Bock are actually Michelob Light & Michelob Amber Bock).

Decor at Big Hunt
Decor at Big Hunt

Despite its imperfections and antipathy held by many in DC, this remains one of my favorite DC bars.

Barred in DC Rating: 4.5/5

Week in Review – 4/8 – 4/13

Decided to start a new weekly week in review (posted on Mondays), where I summarize developments in the DC bar scene during the previous week (if you follow me at @barredindc you may know much of this already), note any reviews I posted, and recap where I’ve been.  If I’ve missed anything, like always, you’re welcome to email me at barredindc@gmail.com…

  • New Reviews: Light posting this week (next item may explain why), check out my review of the 14th Street barbecue/German beer outside patio, Standard.
  • Barred in DC Activity Buffalo Billiards (Dupont), P.J. Clarke’s (Downtown), Doner Bistro (Adams Morgan), Standard (U Street/Logan Circle), GBD (Dupont) (2X), The Big Hunt (Dupont), Hawk ‘n’ Dove (Capitol Hill) (brunch)
  • Bar News
    • Ri Ra Irish Pub is moving into the old Mie-N-Yu space at 31st and M in Gtown. Surprisingly there really aren’t any Irish bars in Georgetown (as you can see from my St. Paddy’s Day post), so this is a smart call. Ri Ra, a national chain with 12 locations, is completing the DMV after already operating locations in Clarendon and Bethesda) (PoPville)
    • As first reported by Barred in DC last month (probably), Third Edition in Gtown is being transformed into El Centro D.F. Georgetown, adding to the location on 14th Street. Eater DC has a few more details. (Eater DC)
    • As first reported by Barred in DC earlier this week (ok, this is more of stretch, I just took a pic of the sign), the legendary Adams Morgan dive Millie & Al’s is celebrating its 50th anniversary Wed-Fri May 8-10. PoPville has a hilarious tribute of its history by its current owner. (PoPville)
    • New patio bar at the Petworth Hilton Bros. spot Chez Billy (WaPo GOG/Fritz Hahn)
    • Park Tavern in Canal Park near Nats Stadium open (JDland)
    • U Scream (nee Maggie Moo’s) in the Ellington on U Street to become a wine bar with Mexican food despite being next to a terrible Alero’s (PoPville)
    • Ambar, the new highly regarded Serbian restaurant on Barracks Row, opens up a rooftop patio with solid $4 drink HH 4-7p M-F (WaPo GOG/Fritz Hahn)
    • GBD opens for dinner + late night drinks service. GBD is the fried chicken and donuts emporium from the people who brought you Churchkey (Twitter-GBD)

Garden District

Garden District (formerly Standard), website, Twitter, 1801 14th St. NW (14th & S), opens at 5p (weekdays) noon (weekends), closes at 2a (Fri-Sat), 1a (rest of week), closed Mondays except during summer months, est. 2011 [Yelp, WaPo, Tripadvisor]
Standard

Previously an open lot to pick up plants and little trees, the incredibly popular Garden District (formerly Standard) is, since spring 2011, an open lot to drink large $7 German beers and eat barbecue sandwiches and assorted sides.  Aside from a small building at the back of this lot, which includes the small bar, a couple bathrooms and a few bar stools, this spot is nearly entirely outside, so count on crowds anytime the weather is pleasant (and even if it’s not, as long as it’s not raining or snowing, when the place is closed).  There are a number of communal picnic tables (with a few outside the tall fence that surrounds the lot), but the space is spruced up with some hanging lights, heat lamps, shades from the sun, and the lively crowd.

View of Standard with back to small building
View of Standard with back to small building

Expect a crowd every day after 6pm and on weekend afternoons, though it tends to thin out a bit later in the evening and usually if you can’t find a spot on a picnic table, it’s fine to stand and drink while ordering from the bar in the back.  The pulled pork is great, and consider getting the grilled corn when it’s available; sometimes Garden District fries up some donuts, which are reportedly tremendous.  The prices on the menu seem bizarre ($6.36 for a beer), until you realize that adding the 10% DC tax makes everything a round number.

Small bar area inside
Small bar area inside

Aside from the wait/crowd, this bar also unfortunately (but understandably) is closed for the winter (from mid-November to end of February) and serves only 6-7 draft beers, somewhat bottled sodas, and water (so you cocktail or wine lovers are SOL), but all in all, a good spot to drink and eat outside on the 14th Street corridor.

Barred in DC Rating: 4/5

Smith Point

Smith PointwebsiteFacebookTwitter1338 Wisconsin Ave. NW (at O St. NW), 202-333-9003, open 10:30a-3p Fri-Sat, est. 2000 [Yelp, Complex City Guide, Washington City Paper]

Possibly the most infamous bar in DC (surpassing even McFadden’s), Smith Point is the closest thing to a UVa frat party in DC.  Opened way up Wisconsin Ave. in Georgetown back in 2000, Smith Point had its heyday during the Bush years, but still serves as a fun, yet douchey late night spot in Georgetown (I’ve never been there before 1am, and I don’t think it opens before 10:30p).  Technically, Smith Point is a club with members, so I’ve only been able to get in as a guest of a friend who was a member when he lived nearby (with a steep $10-20 cover due to the many guests he would bring in). Guests (maybe everyone) must enter on an unmarked gate (usually with a line, see picture below) on O Street, which leads into an long, narrowish patio area.  Once you’ve gone through the patio area, you’ll enter onto the dark, sticky frat party dance floor, with the bar in the back.

The entertaining, drunk, and exceedingly preppy crowd drinks vodka tonics and Jack/cokes and bottles of Bud Light (don’t think there’s anything on raft); even the Bush twins and other famous Republicans were apparently frequent guests back in the 2000s, but no longer.  My friend no longer lives in Georgetown so not sure if I’ll ever make it back here, but you can’t consider yourself a DC bar expert without spending 1:30-3am on a Saturday night (followed by the Five Guys catty corner across Wisconsin Ave.) at Smith Point.

Barred in DC Rating: 2.5/5

Darlington House – Cantina Pub

Darlington House – Cantina Pub, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1610 20th St. NW (20th and Q), 202-332-3722, opens at 4p (weekdays) 11:30a (weekends), HH 4-7p weekdays, est. 2009 [Yelp]
Darlington House - Cantina Pub

Just north of the Dupont Circle North/Q Street entrance, this basement bar-known as Cantina Pub, though I’ve never heard anyone call it anything except Darlington House-opened up in the old Childe Harold space (which apparently the Boss Bruce Springsteen played at in the 70s) in spring 2009.  This fairly small, low-ceiling’d bar below the much nicer restaurant upstairs, isn’t quite a dive, but is a decent, fun spot to stop by for happy hour and can be surprisingly lively late (though never crowded) on a weekend if you’re in north Dupont.

Front area of bar
Front area of bar

Once you walk in the entrance a few steps down from 20th Street, you’re right in the bar, with the sole, long bar to the left with a few table tops and bar stools on the right.  The place opens up slightly in the back with a few tables for sitting maybe 20 people.  Throughout the inside is one of my opposite-pet-peeves, exposed brick.

Back area of bar
Back area of bar

The beers on tap are nothing to write home/prison about, but there is a decent cocktail and TV situation slong with a covered patio upfront can also fit around 20 people that is good for people watching. Because of the layout, you have to actually walk on the sidewalk to get to the patio; it feels weird to take a beer from the bar (or vice versa), but no one has seemed to mind-yet.

Barred in DC Rating: 3.5/5