Guide to Bar Hopping with the DC Streetcar

DC Streetcar
DC Streetcar

The long-delayed DC Streetcar finally opened on Saturday (4 years after it’s originally announced start date), shuttling thousands of excited and curious riders down H Street and Benning Road in Northeast DC. The lengthy process has been well documented by Greater Greater Washington, WAMU, and the Washington Post, and the jury is still out on whether the $200 million project ($50 million for the car barn at end of line and $20 million for test line in Anacostia that will never be used) will be worth it.

Interior of DC Streetcar
Interior of DC Streetcar

What’s undeniable is that the Streetcar will be ripe for drinking excursions (though not on Sunday, since it’s not open, at least not yet)-particularly while it’s free for at least the first six months (SmartTrip will never be accepted, BTW). After walking most of the route and taking the ride the entire length, Barred in DC has discovered which drinking spots are closest to each of the stops. Although full blown bar crawls may be complicated to organize due to the restrictions on them for the eastern half of H Street, nothing stops you from grabbing some friends and hitching a ride, hopping from bar to bar.

How to Get There

Plenty of signs pointing you the right way in Union Station
Plenty of signs pointing you the right way in Union Station

To get to the beginning of the DC Streetcar from the Red Line Metro station, take the Amtrak/MARC exit, go up the escalator by Amtrak Gate C and follow the signs through the parking garage and past the intercity bus station. It takes about 5 minutes to walk to the Streetcar’s first stop in the median of H Street on the Hopscotch Bridge above the railyard.

Stops

DC Streetcar Map Route (graphic by author)
DC Streetcar Map Route (graphic by author)

Union Station
Thunder Grill in Union Station (1100 feet away)
Recommended: The Dubliner (2200 feet away)

3rd St/H St
Eastbound: Ethiopic (280 feet) [closes at 10p]
Westbound: Driftwood Kitchen (355 feet)

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5th St/H St
Eastbound: The Big Board (right at stop)
Westbound: Le Grenier (right at stop) [closes at midnight on weekdays]

The Big Board

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8th St/H St
Eastbound: Po Boy Jim (110 feet)
Westbound: Chupacabra (265 feet) [closed during late Nov-mid March, closes at 10p weekdays, midnight weekends]
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13th St/H St
Eastbound: Sol Mexican Grill & Cantina, Smith Commons (right at stop)
Westbound: Sally’s Middle Name (150 feet) [closes at 11p]; Da Luft (215 feet)
Expect this stop to one of the most popular-there are at least 20 places to drink on the 1200 and 1300 blocks of H Street.

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15th St/Benning Rd
The Argonaut (380 feet)
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19th St / Benning Rd
Langston Bar & Grille (260 feet)

Credit: UrbanTurf

Oklahoma Ave/Benning Rd
Langston Clubhouse Grill at Golf Course (500 feet) [open til 3p during winter, till early evening rest of year]
RFK Stadium [half mile]

Take your clubs to play at the best municipal course in DC  (or hit the range). Another option to watch DC United play.
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Broken Dreams’ Club Pops Up Above Rendezvous Lounge in Adams Morgan

Stairway to Broken Dreams' Club (credit: Broken Dreams' Clubs Instagram)
Stairway to Broken Dreams’ Club (credit: Broken Dreams’ Clubs Instagram)

Yet another pop-up bar has opened above the still-open Rendezvous Lounge (2226 18th St. NW at Kalorama Rd). in Adams Morgan. Broken Dreams’ Club, run by Sam Gordon, has been open since mid-October on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights in the second floor space recently occupied by Dr. Clock’s Nowhere Club and MiG Bar. This “fun, artsy” spot opens its doors at 6:45p those nights and features cool DJs and artists and a $6 Natty Boh + shot of whiskey combo.

Broken Dreams (credit: Broken Dreams Facebook account)

“Definitive” List of DC’s Dive Bars

The Big Hunt - one of DC's dives
The Big Hunt – one of DC’s dives

[UPDATED 7/14/17 – Revised In light of Tim Carman and Fritz Hahn’s articles about dive bars for the Post, including 1) The Top 8 Dive Bars in DC Area 2) Why a Bunch of Bars are not Dive Bars, and 3) Is the Tune Inn a dive bar?; Edited 2/25/16 in light of Twitter comments and particularly some great Reddit commentary; thanks to Borderstan for linking]

The topic of DC’s dive bars often leads to lively debate-just see the comment section of Thrillist’s list of top DC dives. Many self-proclaimed dives have sprouted up throughout town in recent years, a phenomenon detailed in a great piece in the Washington City Paper in August 2014, leading to the term “thrive bar“,as well a persuasive DCist argument that the DC dive bar is dead.

To settle this once and for all (ok, not really), Barred in DC’s definitive (and comprehensive) list of DC’s dive bars is here (with apologies to many Ethiopian and Hispanic spots that might fit the bill). Definitions of dive bars abound-though this list eschews any particular definition and instead tracks public perception of whether a bar is a dive or not. That being said, in italics underneath each bar’s name, reasons why a particular spot really isn’t a dive are included (including whether the Post weighed), and in reality, most of these would be called just a neighborhood tavern in most cities not named DC.

Other bars that are “divey” in certain ways  but not full-blown dives are also listed. Since many feel age makes a difference (including Tim and Fritz) (though only about 40% of our Twitter followers think so), the year of opening is included to help draw your own conclusion. Finally, interesting stories about many of the bars in the list are linked.

 

Old-School

  • Raven Grill (Mount Pleasant) – 1935
    • dunno, too many hipsters and bros on weekends?
    • Post Verdict: One of top 4 best true dive bars in DC
  • Dan’s Cafe (Adams Morgan) – 1940s (current owner since 1965
    • has a bouncer and line to get in, not really a neighborhood crowd, not open 4 days a week, only opens at 9p, still shitty as hell
    • Twitter poll results
    • Verdict: One of top 4 best true dive bars in DC
  • Tune Inn (Capitol Hill) – 1947
  • Post Pub (Downtown) – late 1950s / current name 1974 / current owner since 1976
  • Trio’s Fox and Hounds (Dupont) – 1967 / current owner 2013
    • large TVs, cleaned up in recent years, big patio
    • Post Verdict: Unclear
  • Chuck and Billy’s (ColHi/Pleasant Plains) – late 1960s
    • haven’t been yet
    • Post Verdict: Unclear
  • Black Rooster Pub (Dupont) – 1970
    • business district
    • Post Verdict: Unclear, Fritz Hahn would make a decent case for an after-work dive bar
  • Stan’s Restaurant (Downtown) – 1970s / current owner since 90s
    • sort of more loungey than divey, in business district
    • Post Verdict: Not a dive bar because food is too good
  • Lindy’s Red Lion (Foggy Bottom) – mid 70s
    • college crowd, decent food, business district
    • Post Verdict: Likely not a dive bar because of college crowd
  • Kelly’s Irish Times (Capitol Hill) – 1978
    • Irish bar, too many kickballers, business district, big patio
    • Post Verdict: Unclear, probably not
  • The Bottom Line (Downtown) – 1979
    • business district, corporate-ish crowd for lunch but not so much after work
    • Post Verdict: Not a Dive
  • The Fireplace (Dupont) – 1990
    • haven’t been yet, DJs/VJs?
    • Post Verdict: Unclear
  • The Big Hunt (Dupont) -1993
    • beer is too good, elevated patio, young crowd on weekends, doesn’t open til 4p on weekdays, lots of fun events
    • Twitter poll
    • Post Verdict: Not a dive because of beer
  • Player’s Lounge (Congress Heights) – 1994
    • haven’t been yet, but seems like a definite dive, it was formerly a strip club for godsakes
    • Verdict: One of top 4 best true dive bars in DC
  • Harry’s (Downtown) – 1994 (earlier incarnations since 1930s)
    • touristy, lots of natural light, business district
    • Post Verdict: Unclear, unlikely to consider dive
  • Recessions (Dupont) – 1996/1997
    • young crowd on weekends, in business district, hotel
    • Post Verdict: Unclear, Posssibly might be too much of after-work crowd
  • Velvet Lounge (U Street) – 1997
    • live music club
    • Post Verdict: One of top 4 best true dive bars in DC
  • The Meeting Place (Dupont) – ??
    • never been, in business district
    • Post Verdict: Unclear

The New DC Dive (Post would consider none of these dives due to young age)

  • Black Cat’s Red Room Bar (early 2000s)
    • in live music club
    • Post Verdict: Unclear
  • Wonderland Ballroom (Columbia Heights) – 2004
    • dance club, DJs, not open til 4 or 5p on weekdays
    • Post Verdict: Not dive b/c too self-aware of hipness
  • Trusty’s (Capitol Hill / Potomac Ave) – 2005
    • kitschy with mason jars for beer and schoolbus bar upstairs, brunch, not open til 4p on weekdays
    • Post Verdict: Fritz Hahn says it’s a great neighborhood bar but bus makes it too much like a theme; he said it was on way to being a dive back in 2005
  • Solly’s (U Street) – 2006
    • brunch, lots or programming
    • Post Verdict: Unclear
  • Red Derby (Columbia Heights) – 2007
    • Fancy cocktails, brunch & decent food, roof deck
    • Twitter poll
    • Post Verdict: Not a dive due to roof deck
  • The Pug (H Street) – 2007
    • good beer, hipstery upscale vending machine, doesn’t open til 5p on wkdys
    • Post Verdict: Close to being true dive, but loses points due to fancy vending machine
  • Codmother (U Street) – 2011
    • too crowded and dancey sometimes, doesn’t open til 5p on wkdys
    • Post Verdict: Would be a dive due to cheap beer/grungy environment and funny cocktail names if it wasn’t so new
  • The Pinch (ColHi) 2012
    • food too good, doesn’t open til 5p on wkdys, live music focus in basement
    • Post Verdict: Unclear
  • Showtime Lounge (Bloomingdale) 2013
    • DJs & dancing
    • Post Verdict: Would be due to cash-only policy, $5 beer-and-a-shot combos, a CD jukebox, Redskins wallpaper in the bathroom, a house band, but too new
  • Bravo Bar (ColHi/Pleasant Plains) – 2014
    • doesn’t open til 5p
    • Post Verdict: Would be a dive if not for age/lack of veneer of grease
  • Ivy & Coney (Shaw) – 2014
    • roof deck, doesn’t open til 4p on wkdys
    • Post Verdict: Unclear
  • Lyman’s Tavern (ColHi) – 2014
    • good food and beer
    • Post Verdict: Not a dive

Some Divey Aspects but not a Dive 

  • Downtown/Foggy Bottom/Georgetown: The Exchange (1973), Mr. Smith’s of Washington (in old Chadwick’s) (2015)
  • Dupont: Larry’s Lounge (1992), Buffalo Billiards (1994), Lucky Bar (1997), Bier Baron (2010)
  • Adams Morgan: Bedrock Billiards (1992), Madam’s Organ (1992; current location 1997), The Blaguard (2008), Shenanigans (2012)
  • Logan Circle/ U Street: DC9 (2004), Stoney’s (2006), Duffy’s (2006), Dodge City (2010), Black Whiskey (2013)
  • Cleveland Park – Atomic Billiards (1993), Nanny O’Brien’s (mid-90s)
  • Capitol Hill – Bullfeather’s (1979), Tunnicliff’s Tavern (1980), Capitol Lounge (90s),  Billy Goat Tavern (2005), Hamilton’s Bar and Grill (??)
  • H Street – Jimmy Valentine’s (2007), Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar (2009), Atlas Arcade (2012)
  • Petworth/ParkView/Columbia Heights – Looking Glass Lounge (2008), DC Reynolds (2012)
  • Chinatown/Penn Quarter: Irish Channel (??), Rocket Bar (2007)
  • NE DC: The Dew Drop Inn (2015)

Ivy City Distilleries and Brewery Tour – Recap

Ivy City, the long-neglected industrial neighborhood off New York Ave. in Northeast DC, is now home to several distilleries and a brewery. Inspired by Travis Mitchell’s DCist piece, Barred in DC recently gathered a bunch of friends and headed off for a boozy Saturday afternoon stroll/crawl.

How to Get There

Ivy City Distilleries/Brewery Tour Map
Ivy City Distilleries/Brewery Tour Map

To get to Ivy City, most people will take an Uber/Lyft (grabbing one from the NoMa or Rhode Island Metro stations will save you a few bucks). A couple of us took Capital Bikeshare to the station at NY Ave/Hecht St., a half mile, 10-minute walk away from our first distillery, while multiple Metrobus stops (D4 from Farragut West, D8 from Union Station, or E2 from Fort Totten) will get you within 1/3 mile. Taking Car2Go there is not a bad idea, but don’t drive your own car unless you’re lame or pregnant and not drinking.

One Eight Distilling, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1135 Okie St. NE, open Sat. 1-5p, est. 2015

One Eight Distillery
One Eight Distillery

The first stop of our tour, One Eight Distilling, is named after the provision in the U.S. Constitution that established D.C. as the nation’s capital (or as a cynic would say-established taxation without representation firmly in the Constitution). The large, bright, and well-branded Tasting Room is full of communal tables with a long bar on the right. Three tokens are handed out upon entry that can be traded in at the bar for a healthy pour of each of the 3 featured spirits – District Made Vodka, Rock Creek White Whiskey, and Ivy City Gin. There was no consensus favorite-but all worth trying (great labels!).

Great labels at One Eight
Great labels at One Eight

Three excellent cocktails were also offered ($7 each or all 3 for $20): There Will Be Blood (white whiskey, cardamom, sweet vermouth, blood orange juice), Kumquat Way (gin, kumquat syrup, lime juice, bitter lemon soda), and Citra-licious (vodka, grapefruit juice, dry vermouth, grapefruit juice, dry vermouth, ginger syrup and seltzer) along with assorted merchandise. We finished our time at One Eight with an informative tour from one owners in the substantial and organized 7,500-square foot production space in the back.

One Eight Tasting Room
One Eight Tasting Room
Menu at One Eight
Menu at One Eight
Production space and tour at One Eight
Production space and tour at One Eight

New Columbia Distillers, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1832 Fenwick St. NE, open Sat. 1-4p, est. 2012

New Columbia Distillers
New Columbia Distillers

Next, we headed downhill a third of a mile through an alternatively industrial/desolate (boarded up buildings, including a majestic old school) and residential neighborhood (You might hear the walk referred to as “sketchy”-some might feel uncomfortable walking by themselves, but it’s safe). Seven minutes later, we were at the old guard of DC’s distilleries, New Columbia Distillers.

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Makers of the now-ubiquitous Green Hat gin, New Columbia is a very different experience than the other distilleries we visited-less slick, a bit more cramped, and homier. After walking through the open garage door to access the 3,500 square foot warehouse space, we helped ourselves to tastings of the regular Green Hat as well as its stronger Navy Strength version (harkening back the British Navy’s liquor rations, which were strong enough to start a fire with gunpowder). Green Hat’s strong earthiness is not for everyone-though it does have many fans. Also available were white and rose varieties of Capitoline Vermouth, the fortified wine produced by Etto, the Italian/pizza spot on 14th Street, and bottled at New Columbia. We also sampled a few $5 cocktails served on the makeshift bar in the distillery (payment awkwardly made in the business office a few feet away)-the Moonage Daydream (gin, crème yvette, lemon), T.V.C.15 (a riff on the French 15 made with gin, the white Capitoline Vermouth, cynar, and O.J,) and a Gin Genie & Tonic (gin, grapefruit, and Fever Tree tonic). Frequent tours were also offered while we were there, while other volunteers happily affixed labels to bottles before shipment.

New Columbia Distillers - interior
New Columbia Distillers – interior
Cocktail menu at New Columbia
Cocktail menu at New Columbia

Jos. A. Magnus, website, Facebook, Twitter, 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE, open 5-9p Fri, 1-9p Sat, 1-5p Sun

Jos. A Magnus & Co.
Jos. A Magnus & Co.

We then walked a quarter mile, about 5 minutes (warning-no sidewalk for a block or so), to our last distillery of the day, Jos. A. Magnus & Co. This second-floor distillery is adjacent to our final stop, Atlas Brew Works. We weren’t quite sure what to make of the distillery’s labyrinth-ish space; near the top of the stairs to the left was the Magnus Room, containing long tables as well as memorabilia from the original century-old distillery (from the Cincinnati area) . There, large batch, pre-made cocktails ($10-12) are served in a large, bright and airy room overlooking the Mount Olivet Cemetery across the street.

Magnus Room
Magnus Room
Murray Hill Club in Jos. A Magnus & Co.
Murray Hill Club in Jos. A Magnus & Co.
Production room at Jos. A Magnus & Co.
Production room at Jos. A Magnus & Co.

Since we were at a distillery to sample the spirits, not necessarily drink batch cocktails, we then made our way down the hallway to the distillery itself as well as the Murray Hill Club. This sleek (couches and dark colors) cocktail lounge looks out to the stills, and again, $12 cocktails were offered at the bar made by overworked but pleasant bartenders. When we went, the menu was Soviet-themed, created to celebrate a regular’s birthday the day before. The delicious cocktails were certainly creatively named and formulated (one made with strawberry ice cream), but we were a bit disappointed on the lack of spirit tastings (perhaps if we had gotten there during the tours it would have been different), since the whole point of going to a distillery is to taste the liquor. We gathered later that you could ask the bartender for a free taste, but seems a bit bizarre to not make that more obvious even if not free. The Murray Hill Club would certainly be a fine place to get some drinks (the crowd was a bit more dressed up than the other spots visited and there was at least one woman wearing a tiara and birthday sash).

View of stills from Murray Hill Club
View of stills from Murray Hill Club
Soviet-themed menu at Murray Hill Club
Soviet-themed menu at Murray Hill Club
Another view of batch cocktail bar in Magnus Room
Another view of batch cocktail bar in Magnus Room
Mount Olivet Cemetery view from Magnus Room
Mount Olivet Cemetery view from Magnus Room

Atlas Brew Works, website, Facebook, Twitter, 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE, est. 2013, open 5-8p Fri, 1-8p Sat & Sun. (tours 2/4/6p Sat.)

Atlas Brew Works bar
Atlas Brew Works bar

After getting liquored up at three distilleries, we concluded the day after sunset downstairs next door at Atlas Brew Works. This brewery offers some of DC’s most widely-available popular beers. It was crowded when we got there but it was easy to post up at the bar (no seating makes it easier to order) and order as many 5oz. pours as possible. Here,  $2 or $3 tastings of Ponzi American IPA, Pope Magic Belgian-style Blonde, and the La Saison des Fetes Holiday Saison, as well as the widely-available Rowdy Rye, District Common, and 1500 South Capitol Lager; for those of you who know what you like, pints are $6 or $7, and 64 oz. growler fills are $12 or $15.

$2-3 5 oz. pours are the way to go
$2-3 5 oz. pours are the way to go

Tours were still ongoing of Atlas when we arrived-the bar is just feet away from all the equipment. We instead enjoyed some cornhole/bags games out in the covered/outdoor garage area in the front.

View of brewery from the cornhole area
View of brewery from the cornhole area
Patio for Atlas
Patio for AtlasIv

Afterwards, we took a cheap Uber/Lyft down to H Street to grab dinner. We were able to get seated on short notice at Liberty Tree, an underrated great value spot on the street to close out our day of exploring. Highly recommended afternoon of day drinking, paced out to maximize enjoyment.

Sweet rides in front of Jos. A Magnus
Sweet rides in front of Jos. A Magnus

 

 

Sorry Bros – No Leprechaun Lap This Year

Sorry bros, looks like there won’t be a “Leprechaun Lap” this year. Lindy Promotions, the party promoter (in)famous for Dupont bar crawls over the years, had its St. Paddy’s Day-themed bar crawl rejected yesterday by ABRA under its new rules. The organizers hoped to have up to 3,000 patrons at 34 bars in Dupont, Chinatown/Gallery Place, and U Street.

ABRA rejected the application because:

  1. No litter prevention plan (e.g. trash removal contract);
  2. Concerns about adding a second bar crawl to the Gallery Place neighborhood (Leprecrawl already scheduled there);
  3. Large geographic area could lead to walking between neighborhoods without adequate supervision; and
  4. Concerns about 3,000+ folks concentrated in one area

So far, ABRA has approved two bar crawls (the Mardi Gras party held last weekend and the Leprechaun Lap next month-both by DC Beerathon folks) and rejected three others (The Shamrock LapCupid’s Bar Crawl, & All You Need Is Love). Borderstan has reported that these new ABRA rules have gotten support from the Dupont ANC.

Based on these rejections, if you’re looking to host a new bar crawl, here are some suggestions: 1) Pay for trash pick-up 2) Cap your ticket sales to 2,000 3) Get your application in ASAP 4) Stick to one neighborhood and 5) Pick a neighborhood that does not have a bar crawl approved yet.

Also for your reading pleasure, here’s an entertaining ABRA hearing transcript about the 3 Halloween bar crawls in Dupont with 16,000 attendees (Lindy’s oversold by 3000 tickets) that led to these new rules (these other December transcripts are worthwhile). My favorite part (Midtown’s settlement agreement prohibits bar crawls):

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The Sovereign Opens Thursday in Georgetown

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The Sovereign, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW (essentially “32nd” and M), the Belgian bistro and beer spot in Georgetown from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group folks (Churchkey, GBD, Iron Gate, The Partisan, etc.), is set to officially open to the public this Thursday, February 4th.

The cozy two story bar (84 seat dining room on ground floor with 57 seats upstairs) features rare Belgian and Belgian-style beer as well as cocktails featuring genever (Dutch gin). The dark and moody spot is down a lantern lit alley (think Iron Gate) just off the northwestern corner of Wisconsin and M Street NW a few steps south of El Centro Georgetown (the signage is pretty noticeable walking by the alley on Wisconsin). 50 beers will be on draft (like Churchkey) and 300 more bottles will be available. The more formal first floor features many romantic booths as well as a chill bar area while the second, more lit, floor features a lot of great standing areas/high-top tables to rest your drink on along with two TVs. Although there’s not much natural light in the place, the vibe is still great and expect this to be popular, even though it is in Georgetown and was previously home to the unmemorable Champs and Blue Gin.

At a preview event Monday night, NRG beer director Greg Engert personally passed around pours of one of his favorite beers, the Saison D’Epeautre from the Blaugies brewery in Hainaut, Belgium. This fantastic brew is a reflection of the quality of beer at The Sovereign – I sampled a variety of Belgian beers styles including saison, pale ale with figs (acquired taste), stout, porter, and blonde ale.

For more details, I highly recommend (the slightly esoteric for non-beer dilettantes, but still great) 3 part interview on Dcbeer.com by Dcbeerbill; those with less time should check out Fritz Hahn’s piece in the Post.

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Limited drink menu for preview night.