The Big Hunt, website, Facebook, Twitter, 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]
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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