Jack Rose, located at the far southern end of Adams Morgan at its border with Dupont and U Street, is my favorite non-dive bar in DC. With frequent events at any of its 5 bars spread over 3 floors, the whiskey-and-beer-centric bar from Bill Thomas (owner of both locations of Bourbon) is a great place to drink all week long.
My visits to Jack Rose are usually spent at its second-floor Open-Air Terrace bar, reached by the stairwell that greets visitors at the front entrance (the folks who make up the fast-moving line that often forms on weekends are typically waiting to go up here). This expansive rooftop space, carved out of the second floor of a former boxing gym, can be enjoyed all year long; the long bar that occupies one side of the space is covered by a permanent roof, while the other half, with high-top tables, can be covered by removable glass panels when it rains or the temperature goes down. The wall to the north provides a great view of 18th Street and the rest of the Adams Morgan neighborhood (sometimes clear plastic panels are hung to protect folks from wind and cold) . A host of craft beers (mostly $7-8) and cocktails can be ordered from the friendly and knowledgeable bartenders, who do a great job of taking orders even when the place gets crowded, as it often does on weekend nights from 10p-1a. The crowd upstairs skews slightly younger than the rest of Jack Rose; but the lack of cheap beer (often only 1 light beer available) and other typical 18th Street specialties (I overheard a bro and his young lady friend lamenting the lack of Red Bull on a recent visit) means that this bar isn’t overrun with 22 year olds like the rest of the hood further north. Tasty bites cooked on the wood-fired grill upstairs can be ordered earlier in the evening if hungry.
Two more smaller bars also make up the second floor. To the front sits the enclosed Balcony Room, which contains a wood-burning fireplace, its own bar and outdoor veranda overlooking 18th Street, and often serves as the location for private events; while in the back, past the restrooms, is the cozier open-air seasonal Tiki Bar (at least during late summer/early fall 2013), with décor and drinks to match, along with an unique view to the east and south .
The more sedate Dining Room on the first floor is impressive for the shelves and shelves of booze (mostly bourbon and other types of whiskey) that line its walls, evoking the coolest library ever. Many of the reported 1,600 different kinds (“the largest publicly available collection of whiskey in North America” according to one report) of whiskey that Jack Rose possesses are on these shelves. Because it’s more relaxed than upstairs, this is a better place to sample some of the amazing spirits on offer. A dining area makes up two-thirds of the room, separated by a railing/partition from the long bar makes up the rest; I could do without this partition, which forces patrons at the bar to squeeze into a smaller space when crowded.
Those looking for an even more intimate whiskey experience should check out the recently opened Whiskey Cellar, reached by going down the stairs at the back of the Dining Room. This cozy basement space is only open Thursday-Saturday evenings, but is quickly becoming a favorite spot to sample whiskey (bourbon on tap is offered) and spend time in an even more relaxed environment.
If you visit, you’ll frequently spot an older gentleman who looks like Father Christmas with a long hair and beard; this June 2011 Washingtonian profile on this man, Harvey Fry, who supplied around 1/3 of the whiskeys for the bar, is well worth the read. Also, Jack Rose makes great use of social media to advertise its many events; I’m an especially fan of the colorful, informative posters it produces to provide event details.
Although the place (especially upstairs) can get crowded, the lines that often form on weekends are an annoyance, and (most selfishly) it opened up right after I lived less than a football field away (you can spot my house’s old rooftop from the Balcony Room), Jack Rose is well worth a visit.
Barred in DC Rating: 4.5/5