DC Bar News – Week in Review – May 21st-28th

If I’ve missed anything, like always, you’re welcome to email me at barredindc@gmail.com for suggestions.

  • Bar News
    • The Elroy opened up at 14th and H Street NE on Saturday, May 25th. This futuristic-themed bar is from one of the partners of the short-lived (and underappreciated) NY Avenue Beach Bar and is named after a Jetsons character. TV in the bathroom mirrors and a back patio deck. Seems like a good change of pace for H Street. (Young & Hungry, PoPville)
    • Duffy’s launched a new decent progressive happy hour. Like most DC happy hours, it ends way too early at 7pm, but $1 beers from 4-5 and $5 Bulleit Bourbon/Rye drinks are not too shabby, to pair with their wings (considered by many to be best in DC). (PoPville)
    • B Too, the new 14th street Belgian spot from the chef/owner of Belga Cafe, starts “Happy Times,” its version of a happy hour today (Tues. May 28th). It starts at 4p (unclear end time), with selected half-price beers, $5 wines, $6 cocktails, and a few food items (B Too Facebook)
    • Ceiba unveils its Sinkhole de Mayo $5 cocktail, available until the huge sinkhole at 14th/F is repaired. Sounds pretty good. (HuffPo)
    • DNV, the newly-renamed rooftop bar at the Donovan House on Thomas Circle, opened for the summer on Friday, May 24th. $300k in renovations, solid $5-7 happy hour options from 5-7p. (PoPville)
    • Vendetta (H Street) opened Tuesday, May 21st in the old Red and Black space. $16 pasta dishes, bocce courts, and Vespas from Joe Englert and co. (WaPo GoG/Fritz Hahn, The Hill is Home)
  • Barred in DC Activity: Cafe Citron (Dupont), GBD (Dupont), Cause (U Street), Satellite Room (U Street), Policy (U Street/Logan Circle), Masa 14 (U Street/Logan Circle), The Gibson (U Street/Logan Circle)
    • Arlington, VA: Jay’s Saloon (Clarendon-awesome dive, well worth the trip across the river), A-town Bar and Grill (Ballston)
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DC Bar News – Week in Review – May 13th-20th

If I’ve missed anything, like always, you’re welcome to email me at barredindc@gmail.com for suggestions.

Buffalo Billiards

Buffalo Billiards, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1330 19th St. NW (just southwest of Dupont Circle), opens at 4p (weekdays) noon (weekends), HH 4-7p M-F, est. 1994 [Yelp, WaPoTripadvisor]

View of Buffalo Billiards as you walk in
View of Buffalo Billiards as you walk in

Quite likely the largest sports bar in DC, Buffalo Billiards is also arguably the best, which says more about the quality of sports bars in DC than anything.  Opened in 1994 by the same folks who earlier brought you Bedrock and Atomic Billiards (and later opened Rocket Bar and Board Room), this cavernous, subterranean bar right south of the Circle itself cost nearly $1.5 million (adjusted for inflation) to build out originally.

Bar on the right
Bar on the right

Tons of tvs (over 50; mostly flat screens with a few huge projection screens thrown in for showcase games) adorn the walls, while at least 15 pool tables, 10 shuffle board tables, a couple ping pong tables, skeeball, darts, and other assorted games fill up the floor.  There are three bars spread out to serve you mostly standard ho hum beers (everything on draft here seemingly tastes slightly worse than every other DC bar, too cold usually) and rail drinks (no cocktail list here, though not sure why you’d want to order one), along with a mixture of standard tables and hightops with barstools where you can receive very sporadic service from the disinterested waitstaff.  During big events, such a Michigan Wolverine games and fights, at some of the bars, Buffalo Billiards will actually set up a queue to make the drinking process more orderly, which actually works out pretty well (I wouldn’t mind if other bars tried this at times).

Shuffleboard and TVs at Buffalo Billiards
Shuffleboard and TVs at Buffalo Billiards

The spotty service when you’re not at the bar, coupled with the huge space, makes this bar very appealing for you cord-cutting cheapskates out there: this is probably the easiest bar I’ve ever been to where you can pull off,without awkwardness, watching a whole game without ordering anything (pour yourself a glass of water at the bar from the pitchers provided). Also cool-there are enough tvs so you should be able to catch any game you want (just ask the guy upfront who controls the tvs), the layout is such that you can walk around very easily to get a better look at TV showing another game you’ve suddenly become interested in, and usually the bar turns on the sound for the marquee game (this is rare in DC). There are lots of different nooks (but not enough bathrooms), including a couple private rooms (a smaller one in the left when you enter and a huge one in the back) that are often open to everyone and a sizeable open-air basement patio which is marred by the overwhelming presence of smokers and poor TV angles.

Open air patio
Open air patio

Even though I often try my best to pick another bar (though only works well in DC when you’re watching a game of the most local interest or the biggest game of the day) when I want to watch a game at the bar instead of home, and have never had any desire to go when not watching a game, Buffalo Billiards remains the best place in DC to consume the most games at once.

Barred in DC Rating: 3.5/5

 

DC Bar News – Week in Review – May 6th-12th

If I’ve missed anything, like always, you’re welcome to email me at barredindc@gmail.com for suggestions.

  • Bar News
    • Cantina Marina, chill outdoor waterfront spot in SW, celebrated its 10th anniversary
    • Check out BYT’s 2013 Brunch guide (Great bottomless drinks spots like Masa 14, El Centro, etc.)
    • Cause on 9th Street on the U Street corridor has a solid late-night happy hour Mon-Thurs. More bars should do this (I’m looking at you, GBD); every spot in Portland seemed to have something like this.
    • Chez Billy in Petworth brings back its oyster happy hour in its back beer garden. Tues-Sat 5:30-7:30p. $1 raw oysters, $10 fried oysters, $5 frites, $3 Stella Artois draft. I think Stella is highly overrated but will need to check out this spot sometime. (PoPville)
    • DCist lists its favorite al fresco (non-rooftop) spots to drink in DC (DCist)
    • Drink DC lists bars with bag/purse hooks (Drink DC)
  • New Posts: RFD (Chinatown/Penn Quarter; in partnership with DC Sports Nexus), Local 16 (U Street)
  • Barred in DC Activity: Occidental Grill (Downtown), Harry’s Pub (Downtown), Black Jack (Logan Circle), Tortilla Coast (Logan Circle)

Local 16

Local 16, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1602 U St. NW, opens at 5p (weekdays) 11a (weekends), HH 5-8p weekdays, est. 2002 [Yelp, Tripadvisor, Washingtonian]

Local 16 and its great roof deck from the other side of U Street
Local 16 and its great roof deck from the other side of U Street

From the Hilton Brothers, Local 16 sort of helped kickstart the transformation of the U Street Corridor to full-blown yuppie-dom when it opened in fall 2002 at 16th (hence the name, though it actually really borders New Hampshire Ave., not 16th Street) and U.  Even a decade later, this dimly-lit (my photos are worse than the terrible quality they usually are) scarlet-hued spot still packs the crowds and you’ll often find a fast-moving line out front to get in on Saturday nights.  The folks who frequent this spot skew a bit younger and certainly preppier than the other Hilton Brothers spots I’ve been to ((18th Street Lounge, Marvin, The Brixton).

Local 16
Local 16

Local 16, like 18th Street Lounge, has several rooms, spaces, and stairs and feels sort of like someone’s mansion.  On the first floor-to the right of the entrance-are two rooms, the first of which contains a bar (beer selection is usually better here than the rest of the spot) and the other with ample loungey seating.  These areas are usually the least crowded in the bar. Upstairs up a long double staircase is the rest of the bar. To the right upstairs is the dark, dance floor that gives Local 16 its meat market reputation.  Usually you’ll find lots of folks dancing in here to the loud music.  There’s a small bar in this space; you can choose from the standard boring Heineken/Amstel/Miller bottled fare but not much else.

Rooftop at happy hour
Rooftop at happy hour

To the left of the stairs is easily the best feature Local 16: the huge partially covered rooftop that overlooks U Street.  Packed in nice weather, the roof is basically partitioned in two; the side closest to the bar is usually much more crowded. One nice touch is that there is bench seating along the fence on U Street which means you usually can grab a seat if you want (not that many folks do).  Again, nothing special with drinks and beers (you’ll pay $7 for a beer and a rail drink here), but the roof is a nice place to catch up in a more relaxed and better lit atmosphere than the rest of the place.  One large downside of the rooftop is that (likely owing to a settlement/voluntary agreement) it closes at 1 AM so you can stay out all night drinking al fresco.  Aside from the roof, taking the back set of stairs that take you back to the 1st floor bar (Full House style) is always strangely cool.

7/27/13 Update: Local 16 has a great happy hour Monday-Friday. Not only are nearly all items $5 (including specialty cocktails and 8″ pizzas), it goes (from 5p) to 8p, which is a rarity in DC.

Downstairs bar at happy hour
Downstairs bar at happy hour

Although it definitely has a meat market loungey/sorta-clubby vibe and skews a bit younger than most spots on U Street, Local 16 is a fun place to stop by every once in a while that still feels grown-up compared to most bars in Dupont/Adams Morgan on a weekend night.

Barred in DC Rating: 3.5/5


R.F.D. Washington

R.F.D. Washington, website, Facebook, Twitter810 7th St. NW (7th & H), opens at 11a everyday, HH 3-8p everyday, Distance to Verizon Center: 900 feet (Brought to you by DC Sports Nexus), est. 2003 [Yelp, WaPoTripadvisor, Beeradvocate]

IMG_20130502_180140_862
The front of RFD – Excited bouncer

Although Penn Quarter/Chinatown has a ton of bars, a handful of which are solid, and I live a mile away and work 5 blocks away, I rarely make it over to this neighborhood, for a lot of different reasons that I won’t get into here.  When I do come to the area, it’s to catch a movie or attend a Wizards or Caps game (or some other event or concert) at the venue which made the neighborhood a destination after it opened in 1997, the Verizon Center (formerly MCI Center).

Main area of RFD
Main area of RFD

One of the bars I might check out before or after a game or movie, up on 7th St. just north of H, is R.F.D. Washington.  This bar, which stands for “Regional Food and Drink” (I know, terrible), opened in January 2003 and is owned by the family that brought you the legendary Brickskeller, one of the first and biggest beer bars in the U.S., which was operated in Dupont Circle until 2010 (now the Bier Baron, under different ownership).  R.F.D. itself is a beer-lovers haven-you’ll find a huge beer menu, a ton of beers on tap, and a host of beer events (though usually off the radar compared to others spots like Churchkey, Meridian Pint, or even the nearby Penn Social).

RFD's happy hour menu during the playoffs
RFD’s happy hour menu during the playoffs

I recently stopped by before a Capitals playoff game; happy hour until 7p includes four different $4 craft draft beers-all solid, unique, and new to me-along with a skip-it $5 “Rockin’ Red” shot (Finlandia cranberry flavored vodka, Triple sec, and a splash of cranberry juice) (see above for HH menu and below the Caps shots).  Beers normally are the standard craft-beer price, $6-8. The bar, probably because it is so huge, is full of folks in red jerseys but not too crowded even before a sold-out playoff game.

$5 Rockin' Red Shots - skip em
$5 Rockin’ Red Shots – skip em

R.F.D.’s atmosphere is not really divey or hip, it’s evokes more of a T.G.I. Friday’s vibe (unless you’re in a basement or crappy hotel-it’s hard to be divey in Chinatown). You’re not going here to rage or have a romantic classy cocktail.  Walking in, there are two small seating areas on opposite sides of the entrance which flank 7th Street-they are isolated from the rest of the bar but are exposed to natural light.  A few steps up take you to the main part of R.F.D. A long u-shaped bar is to your left-the bartenders are pretty responsive and there’s usually enough space to stand near the bar, while ordering and drinking. The bulk of the room is devoted to lots of regular tables like a restaurant with waiter service which kind of contributes to the chain restaurant atmosphere; a few more hightops and communal tables would help.

Outdoor covered patio/courtyard area of RFD
Outdoor covered patio/courtyard area of RFD

After you wind your way through the tables, glass doors lead you to the outdoor patio area.  Although covered with absolutely no view (more like a greenhouse courtyard than anything), the patio has its own bar (not always open) and waiter service and lets you drink outside-this is surprisingly hard to do in the neighborhood.  Beyond, there is a whole another large back room (in a different building) with its own bar, tables and more open space than the front bar-if you’re looking for a relatively more party-vibe in R.F.D., this is where you’ll find it.

Back bar of RFD
Back bar of RFD

Although not really a destination of itself, R.F.D. is a solid spot to meet friends and grab great beers before or after a game.

Barred in DC Rating: 3/5

 

Caps game afterwards, just 900 feet away
Caps game afterwards, just 900 feet away

DC Bar News – Week in Review – 4/29 – 5/5

If I’ve missed anything, like always, you’re welcome to email me at barredindc@gmail.com for suggestions.

  • Bar News
    • Black Whiskey, from the owner of Kushi, soft-opened Thursday, May 3rd (and officially opened on May 5th) in Logan Circle right south of 14th & P. Really excited about this spot. Two floors with separate personalities: the first floor “Social Room” will be used for live music/DJs/art exhibitions with a capacity of 250, while the second floor “Carvery Pub” will be more of a standard bar with 10 craft beers on tap along with 60 whiskeys. There’s a free pool table too, and some awesome sounding food ($18 carver plate w/ meat + 2 sides). Opens at 6p everyday (like Black Jack nearby) (Borderstan, WaPo GoG/Fritz Hahn, BYT)
    • Hill Country’s Backyard Barbecue opened up for the summer on Friday, May 4th on the lawn of the National Building Museum (use the Judiciary Square Metro). It will be open everyday except Monday & Tuesday, beginning at 4p on weekdays and noon on weekends. BYT has a rave review (bring your own picnic blanket, it’s gonna get crowded.
    • Policy announces its 3rd annual Memorial Day (Sunday) all-you-can-eat-crab party. $35, includes fixins. Noon-5p. Usually these day parties at restaurants aren’t great deals, but this is a good one.
    • The infamous Rumors in Dupont files for bankruptcy protection. The bar’s 2nd time filing for bankruptcy (1997), it has been open for over 30 years. (WBJ)
    • Stoney’s, the neighborhood spot in Logan Circle famous for their grilled cheese, celebrated its 45th anniversary (though only last several in Logan Circle) and announced plans for 2nd location in the wasteland that is the West End at 21st and L. Will be much less divey (though the current place isn’t that divey). (Young & Hungry)
    • The Donovan House hotel on Thomas Circle in lower 14th Street will open revamped rooftop bar, renamed DNV (called ADC in past years), in mid-May. Somehow it spent $300k to renovate an already nice space. Food looks good, and luckily they’ll continue their solid 5-7p happy hour. (Washingtonian Best Bites)
    • The great GW dive, Froggy Bottom Pub, is moving to a much nicer space in an office building 3 blocks away on K Street. Been in the old space since 1985; excited about the banh mi sandwiches. A friend from UVa’s parents own the place; extremely nice Vietnamese couple. Lot of trepidation, but should be a fun spot and will fill a niche in the immediate neighborhood. (PoPville)
    • Millie & Al’s,one of DC’s best dive bars and possibly the first bar I went to in DC back in 2003 or 2004, celebrates its 50th anniversary in Adams Morgan.  Read this great Washington City Paper column and come celebrate with drinks priced by the decade from Wed. May 8-Fri. May 10th. (Young & Hungry column, Millie & Al’s Facebook page)
    • Great map of Bar Roof Decks (elevated outdoor spaces not surrounded by walls) in the DC metro area
  • New Posts: No new reviews, but I hope folks found the two posts on Cinco de Mayo and The Derby in DC helpful
  • Barred in DC Activity: GBD (Dupont), The Brixton (U Street), American Ice Company (U Street), Satellite Room (U Street)