Trio of New “Mid” H Street Spots Visited – Fresca, Dirty Water & Dio Wine Bar

H Street is primarily known for its concentrated strip of bars between 11th and 14th Streets, with a few spots on the western end near Union Station, but development has been ramping up between, and now there’s close to a critical mass of spots in the middle. Barred in DC decided to check out a few of these (around 7th-9th Streets) last Friday night: Taqueria & Rosticeria Fresca, Dirty Water, and Dio Wine Bar. A few mini-reviews follow

Fresca Bar

Taqueria & Rosticeria Fresca [701 H St. NE, Facebook, Twitter, website] has been open since January 2016, giving H Streeters a more-authentic-feeling Latin cuisine option. Recently, the taqueria got a liquor license, and earlier this fall, the hole-in-the-wall spot opened a more upscale-feeling bar + table service room in a completely separate space with different entrance (separated by the counter service spot in front by the shared kitchen) along 7th Street NE (a spacious patio will be great in warmer weather) (Apparently with little fanfare, the Fresca Tequileria opened in late August but original operators quit a month later, but it’s still around). There, we enjoyed amazing tacos, gorditas, and margaritas for not much $ (supposedly same food menu as the front). The bar is open late with friendly service and several solid drafts on tap.

Dirty Water [816 H St. NE, Facebook, website] located on the 3rd floor above Mythology Restaurant, is billed as DC’s Boston Sports Bar. H Street sorely needs a sports bar, though I’m not sure this is what folks had in mind. The main bar area is pretty small (main room has 6 TVs); the adjacent patio (with a fabric cover to protect from elements adds more seating at TVs. The bar itself is an unfinished piece of wood; there’s nothing like it in DC. The Boston theme is laid on thick-there’s tons of knicknacks (you won’t be surprised to know that one of the owners was at Rhino, the late Georgetown bar that also supported Boston sports) related to Boston, Sam Adams and Harpoon are on tap, with Cisco and Narragansett in bottle/cans, and Boston sports (even Boston College) are prioritized. A roof deck comes soon. FYI-there’s no affiliation with Mythology, although they do share a kitchen. Happy hour runs until 9p, includes $4 rails, $6 Dobel Tequila, a $6 bucket of Miller High Life 7 oz ponies (five to a bucket), and a $9(!) pitcher of Busch Light. Despite being under the radar in the DC bar news scene, it appears to have drawn crowds already (only PoPville (read the comments) and Hungry Lobbyist have covered it much at all since it opened in mid-September).

Dio Wine Bar [904 H St. NE, Facebook, website], which has gotten much more buzz, is DC’s first establishment devoted to natural wine. I can’t say I knew what natural wine was until this month, but this spot is worth a visit for you to try it (for me, it reminded me a lot of the craft cider that has becoming popular in DC). Wines might be pricier than you’d like (cheapest by the glass was $11 and mostly around $14 range, though apparently there’s a great weekday HH) and I’m not a fan of the what Google calls “industrial chic” decor/vibe, but a lot of care was clearly taken.

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Dino’s Grotto in Shaw to Host Fundraiser for Fabian Malone Tues Oct 10th

Bartender Fabian Malone (you’ve seen him at Lupo Verde, Coppi’s Organic, Alfie’s, and soon at Lucky’s Buns) was shot last weekend in Shaw in an attempted robbery. Without health insurance and unable to work for a while he recovers, his friends started a GoFundMe page to help support him. Nearly $9000 has been raised as of Thurs Oct 4th.

Now, Dino’s Grotto, the Shaw eatery/bar, is hosting a fundraiser on Tuesday October 10th to help him out. Malone previously served as bar manager at Dino’s. From 5 ‘til close, Dino’s (owned by longtime DC restauranteur Dean Gold) will donate 33% of all its booze (liquor, beer and wine) sales that night if you dine upstairs or in the Grotto Bar. Dino’s suggests that patrons also donate any HH savings (or from the half priced burger on Tuesday’s) to the fundraiser.

Donations can also be made that will be passed along to the bartender; $50 donations get you a $10 gift certificate, while $100 donation gets you a $25 gift certificate.

You Can’t Double-Fist Drinks at DC Bars, and Other Laws You Didn’t Know About

In light of the recent revelation to many that dogs, in fact, are not allowed on patios in DC (though expect to change soon), I wanted to highlight the other laws/regulations on the books that you probably don’t know about that apply to DC bars. Blame me if you see these actually getting enforced (trust me-the bars know about these but most are not really enforced), though perhaps this can spur change.

No Double-Fisting Drinks at DC Bars

Double-fisting (I expect some weird Google searches to find this site soon), that is, having a drink in each of your hands, is one way to be efficient in the consumption of alcohol. It is also not allowed in DC bars, ostensibly for safety reasons. Bars are prohibited from serving, in the parlance of the law, “back-up drinks” to patrons, which includes second drinks:

  • served as part of a “two-for-one” promotion (which is why DC Reynolds give you a receipt for your second drink instead of giving you 2 at once)
  • served just prior to last call or
  • provided complimentary by the bar or purchased by other patrons.

This rule is actually enforced by many bars, which is why you’ll often get asked by a bartender where the other people are you’re ordering for when buying multiple drinks.

What about the ubiquitous beer-and-shot combo? Luckily, DC specifically allows “two different drinks served together such as a beer and a shot or any other industry drink that can be considered a shot and a mixer.” You can also order wine at dinner even if you haven’t finished your cocktail (Seriously: “The prohibition against back-up drinks shall also not apply to the service of wine with a meal where the patron has not finished a previously served cocktail.”).

Tap Handles Must Have Brand Name of Beer

Cusbah Follows The Law in Using Tap Handles
…And This Spot Does Not

This one is blatantly violated by some of DC’s top beer spots (one prominent restaurant group with heavy beer focus, in particular): bars/restaurants are prohibited from selling draft beer from any tap unless there is a clearly legible (from a distance of 10 feet away) inscription of the beer’s brand/trade name.

This is customer-friendly in one way (no need to consult a menu in a lot of spots, particularly if you like most beer a particular brand puts out), but, if this was actually enforced, it might make it tougher for DC bars to have the varieties and rarities they often have on tap (because tap handles aren’t always easy to get).

Bars Can’t Use Mother’s Day or Santa Claus to Promote Drinking

This would be against DC law for a bar to use in its promotions.

Now this is a weird one. Bars can’t use statements, pictures, or illustrations that refer to Easter, Holy Week, and religious holidays/symbols to promote alcohol sales/service/consumption. Sort of makes sense, kinda, though a bit antiquated. But they also can’t promote their drinks by referring to Mother’s Day or Santa Claus (or St. Nick, Kriss Kringle, etc.). Non-religious references to Christmas or other holidays are OK.

Ladies’ Nights (or Because this is DC, Equal Pay Nights) Are Verboten

The DC Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination by many businesses, including on basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, family responsibilities, genetic information, disability, matriculation, political affiliation, source of income, or place of residence or business.

Although this doesn’t prohibit bars from turning away underage patrons, it does mean that it can’t treat men or women differently unless there’s a business necessity. The DC Attorney General even ruled that allowing 18-20 year old women to enter a bar, but not men (unless they buy a ticket) was a violation of this law. As a result, your favorite bar’s women-drink-for-79%-of-normal-price Equal Pay Night is probably a violation of this law (unless they don’t turn down a dude who asks for special).

You Can’t Walk Around Bar With Your Pitcher of Beer or Bottle of Liquor

Earlier this year, the ABRA Board issued a fun Advisory Opinion which highlighted another unknown provision: prohibition on removing pitcher of beer or large bottle of liquor (during bottle service). Under the Opinion and rule, bars cannot allow or permit patrons to actually leave their table, bar, or other seating area with their pitcher of beer or bottle of liquor.  ABRA explained rationale for the rule:

to curb the practice of patrons wandering around the establishment with large containers containing multiple servings of alcoholic beverages. The Board finds this practice unsafe because large containers may be used as weapons during altercations…allowing patrons to wander inside the establishment with multiple servings of alcohol reduces the likelihood that the establishment can prevent the diversion of alcohol to minors or responsibly  supervise the consumption of alcohol on the property.

As part of the Opinion, ABRA did clarify that it was OK to allow (1) patrons sitting or standing around the table, bar, or other seating area to drink, lift, and pour the pitcher/container; (2)  patrons to get up or move within their immediate seating area with the container for the purposes of pouring it or taking a picture with it; or (3) patrons fill their cups or glasses from the pitcher/bottle and leave the area with their cup or glass.