So Long Iron Horse Tap Room, Long (?) Live Boardwalk in Penn Quarter

Ground Floor Bar at The Borad

The Boardwalk, 507 7th St. NW (at E St), M-F open at 4p, Sat-Sun 2pish, HH 4-7p M-F Sat-Sun 2-5p, Twitter, website (est. 2019)

Iron Horse Tap Room, the biker-themed Penn Quarter spot with games and a solid beer list, unceremoniously closed on Saturday October 26th, two months shy of a full decade in operation.The announcement that it would be replaced by The Boardwalk came first October 3rd from the Washingtonian right after PoPville reported the imminent closing (Eater also picked up the news; like most bar news in DC, if you only read the Washington Post, you still won’t know this happened). The owners of Iron Horse appear to retain ownership in The Boardwalk, but they have now brought on the folks who run the super-bro Shaw bars Cortez and Takoda-to be managing partners. The spot opened officially last night, as detailed in this Washingtonian story. (posting the story and a pic of the menu brought strong reactions-see below)

Via Washingtonian

Barred in DC stopped by the new spot for happy hour last night. The ground floor is certainly transformed-the floor is painted white and everything is much brighter. Instead of motorcycles, beach cruiser bikes you might rent at a boardwalk are hung. The basement basically seems identical to Iron Horse, with a few new games and a paint refresh. The opening night menu features eight $12 cocktails on draft (including the Takoda Mule and Cortez Margarita), as well as eleven draft beers. Aside from the much ridiculed $7 Miller Lite and the even-worse priced Miller High Life, the other beers are $8-9 which are about $1 more for many of the same beers were priced two weeks before. Other than a 7 oz. pony bottle of High Life, no cans or bottles are yet offered. During happy hour, the draft cocktails are $4 off, the High Life is $3 off, and rails are $5; a “Happy Meal” with a 7 oz High Life + a shot of whiskey (Evan Williams per the bartender) is offered. Because why not, I got the “Butter Corn Old Fashioned” which was boozy as the menu claimed-made with butter washed bourbon, bitters, demara, and black walnut; garnished with a maraschino cherry. Not gonna lie, I liked it and probably is worth might be even worth the $12 it costs.

Butter Corn Old Fashioned and Popcorn

Food options are slim: a hot dog (a follower said it was great-$6 made by Autumn Olive Farms; $1 more for chili on it), $5 ice cream sandwich, and $2 freshly made popcorn (nothing special, but tasted good). Hot dogs are $4 and popcorn is free during happy hour. No corn dogs or cotton candy so far, though mentioned in initial releases.

The Iro…er, The Boardwalk, basement bar

Based on Twitter chatter, none of the bartenders from Iron Horse (which was apparently popular with industry late night crowd in the neighborhood) are with this new incarnation. Twitter reaction has not been kind. Here are a sampling of comments, bulleted for your edification (like those meme stealers on Instagram, I’m taking all the credit for these):

  • I was really excited to go to this boardwalk themed bar which surely wasn’t going to attract a bunch of annoying people but then I saw High Life was $7 and I decided to shut my face in a car door repeatedly instead
  • So they closed a great bar to reopen as an awful bar. Awesome.
  • Before a Caps game there’s nothing I want to do more than drink a candy apple spritz
  • I went for a drink tonight to see what they did to Iron Horse. The people that created this monstrosity definitely have this sign [that says ‘live’ ‘laugh’ ‘love;’]. The entire place reminds me of that episode of Bar Rescue when they turned Piratz in Silver Spring into a corporate bar.
  • Iron Horse was a great late night industry place. Boardwalk on the other hand will not be…looks like Jackpot will benefit from IH closing
  • It sounds like an the menu looks like a touristy cash grab.
  • “Have you tried their butter corn old fashioned?” is code for “I just moved here recently from out of state”
  • …we lost Iron Horse for this?
  • Trash.
  • Just walked by…no thank you…
  • This is awful.
  • F this place. Bring back Iron Horse Taproom.
  • I give that place a year maybe 2. Should’ve opened it in Clarendon.
  • Wellp. So much for this place. That’s just disappointing as hell.
  • Is there an upcharge for “Boardwalk Lager” champagne service?
  • Already hate this place. Iron Horse had a great drought list, and happy hour applied to everything. Hate it when they throw the lousiest beer on their happy hour menu and call it a day. Losing both Iron Horse and Penn Commons was a major blow for HH in Chinatown.
  • $7 for a Miller Lite. The Boardwalk is the bourgeoisie.
  • First RFD is gone… Then Iron Horse…now THIS bullshit?
  • the worst part is there will still be tons of people there paying $7 for a damn miller lite.
  • I just got a lot less excited.
  • God damn it
  • Lol wtf seriously #MillerHighLife $7 huh well I know where I wont bring the kitchen cooks and bar staff… damn guys you need to stay more competitive with the other bars… what the hell is up with your beer prices
  • That draft list is just a bit ersatz compared to iron horse.
  • $7 for a high life?! this place will be closed by next baseball season.
  • Have they even SEEN a beach before—no one is paying 7 dollars for a damn Miller Lite. Also, what’s with no hard seltzer??
  • No boardwalk fries, no orange crush. Sick.
  • Somehow a cocktail being on tap makes me feel significantly worse about paying $12 for it.

 

 

Island Time Bar and Grill – DC’s Most Secret Bar Is Off the … GW Parkway.

The Bar at Island Time Bar & Grill at Columbia Island off GW Parkway, in DC.

Yes, the headline is true. Legally speaking, islands in the Potomac River between DC and Arlington/Alexandria are part of the District of Columbia. This includes Columbia Island, where’ll you find the traffic circle opposite the Lincoln Memorial at the end of Memorial Bridge, and about 1.3 miles of George Washington Parkway towards I-395.

Also on this island is the LBJ Memorial Grove as well as the Columbia Island Marina overlooking the Pentagon Lagoon. Part of this marina is one of the more chill and somewhat unknown bars in DC, Island Time Bar and Grill. This seasonal outdoor spot is open from mid-April to late September and, during the Memorial Day – Labor Day period, Noon-7p Wednesday-Sunday (closed Mon-Tuesday). An outdoor bar with a friendly bartender is covered, as is a large patio. Live music is played every week (usually Saturday late afternoons). Drinks include $8 crushes (my Grapefruit Crush was made with Deep Eddy Ruby Red vodka and fresh squeezed fruit) and cocktails, several beers (including a few on draft), and $7 wines. Food is pretty standard fare; I hear the $16 crabcake sandwich is solid. Clientele is a mix of younger couples, cyclists taking a break, and older folks about to get on their boats.

Island Time Bar & Grill overlooks Pentagon Lagoon

The bar can be reached by car via GW Parkway Southbound or by bike/foot/scooter by taking the Mt Vernon Trail north from I-395 and taking an underpass under GW Parkway after crossing a short bridge.

One reason the spot hasn’t been on my radar: like other spots on National Park Service or Smithsonian properties in DC, no ABRA liquor license is required.

 

Bike Racks Often Full

Duke’s Grocery Comes to Foggy Bottom

Duke’s Grocery, 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #3500 (at I), Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, website, est. 2019, 11a-late, HH Noon-7p M-F ($5 select beer & wine, rails) opens in Foggy Bottom on Thursday, May 30th. The new spot, which is still located at it’s original location in Dupont Circle (17th & P, opened in Sept 2013; full disclosure, Barred in DC lived across the street for a couple years and is friends with co-owner Daniel Kramer) and its similar Duke’s Counter location across from the Zoo (Connecticut Ave, opened in July 2016), comes to the long-vacated legendary Kinkead’s space (23 years there) at the Shops at Penn.

The third location is the biggest yet with more space for posting up at the bar and bar area (dining room behind the bar); lots of exposed brick, bar height tables. New space provides flexibility for many more plate and entree options than the amazing sandwiches (and of course one of DC’s top burgers, the Proper Burger) Also there are 12 draft lines (solidly priced at $7-8, including Brewdog IPA) and a much larger cocktail menu (almost all $12-13).

Dining Space

Barred in DC stopped by and sampled the incredible “Dark Wings” (which include a large cup of mussels, huge duck wings that are battered that look like legs, and pretzel rolls, all for an amazing $15), the octopus romesco with a ton of octopus and well cooked pasta, and a tremendous lobster bisque with popcorn. Great refreshing drinks included classics like the Pimm’s Cup, Sidecar and Citrus Crush, as well as newer drinks like the Cucumber Rickey.

The bar. Really dig the legally-required draft beer labels

This is a big development for the Foggy Bottom bar scene and adds to the great Bindaas a few doors down and the uber-popular Founding Farmers half a block down the street. Note that the Farragut West (18th st entrance) and Foggy Bottom Metro’s are equidistant at 1/4 mile away. Perhaps in two years, Duke’s will be one of the anchors for the “Western Market,” a planned renovation to the complex with new vendors and eateries.

Beer & wine opening menu
Cocktail opening menu
“Dark Wing” duck wings, mussels, and pretzel bread for $15 is amazing
Loved the Popcorn Bisque (lobster broth)
Another view of the mural
Great English touch
The signage inside; a walk-up window to-go may be available here
Outside showing where patio seating will go

Astoria Comes to 17th Street in Dupont

Astoria (1521 17th St. NW (b/t Q & P), 5p-2a Sun-Th, 5p-3a Mon, Instagram, Washingtonian), from Devin Gong and the folks that brought you the great cocktail + bao/dumplings/skewers H Street spot, Copycat Co., opened Wednesday, April 24th (as first reported by PoPville). This 17th Street spot, in the long-vacant space between JR’s and Agora, focuses on Sichuan food and cocktails. Surprisingly, there has been a dearth of media/PR-driven hype about this spot, despite the awesomeness of Copycat. Only the Washington Business Journal contributed any original reporting on this spot, and that was back in April 2018 (Note: Washingtonian posted a more legit opening article a few hours after this was published.  So Barred in DC swung by its first Friday in operation for a first look. In short, this place, really a fancier version of Copycat with more significant food options, is tremendous, and there may be nothing set up like it in DC.

The drink menu is comprised almost entirely $14 cocktails. Like Copycat, the base menu consists of classic cocktails (Bourbon Smash, Caipirinha, Moscow Mule, Old Fashioned, Daiquris/Gimlets, Painkiller) with “Suggestions” for variations. When I visited there was an additional seven cocktails that were featured (presumably rotating on a regular basis). I got the Banana Painkiller (featured) plus a Boulevard Smash (bourbon smash with campari). Many of the drinks come in For those that prefer something cheaper to drink, $6 TsingTao and PBR cans, $8 3 Stars, and $14 Brooklyn or Anderson Valley Boont Amber (large format presumably), along with $12 wine by glass options were also available.

For the Sichuan cuisine (spicy, though some items are not traditional), 12 items (all $14) are available. Some are labeled as a “snack”, while many are labeled as a “dish” (which I think means it’s a bigger portion). The items included Dan Dan noodles, chili wonton, chimichurri, water boiled beef la-zi chicken, ma po tofu, sweet & sour ribs, walnut shrimp, veggie triple delight, basil eggplant, pork fried rice, and sober soup (borrowed from Copycat). The menu suggests 1 per person for a snack, 2 for a meal, and 3 if you’re really hungry. We had dan dan noodles, chili wonton (small size), and water boiled beef (good size). The place isn’t cheap (split a dish and 4 cocktails with Mrs. Barred and spent around $90) but it will definitely be popular.

The Banana Painkiller (left) and Pikachu No. 2

Space-wise, the very narrow establishment (sits maybe 50 people) greets patrons with a host at the door (who manages seating for the tables) and a bright, airy nook for waiting or posting up front for drinks. Around 5-6 deep blue, plush booths (4 or 6 seats) make up the first half of the establishment. A long, copper (or gold?) topped bar then extends back towards the rear (with shelving on top with bottles). This is where things get really interesting-aside from 2 stools at either end, there are NO seats directly at the bar. Instead, along the wall, pairs of stools face each other (with a table/rail running the length of the wall with bump outs for the table). When the place isn’t super busy, you still can talk to and order from the bartender, even though they are like 6 feet away. At other times when people are actually standing at the bar ordering, servers or other staff take orders (one snag so far is that it hard to figure out who exactly to order from which resulted in dropped orders for some in our group). Finally, in the back there are a couple more tables (including ones that fit a ton of people and/or are communal). Make sure you check out the ornate AF bathrooms when you visit. A 25-seat patio apparently awaits soon.

Also, the name: Astoria. A staffer told me that one of the owners if from New York, and the name is a homage to the famous bar at the Waldorf Astoria hotel as the bar was meant to be evocative of it.

More pics below:

Idle Hands a Solid Addition to the H Street Scene

 

[NOTE: This bar closed at end of September 2018]

 

Idle Hands [Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, 1236 H St. NE, open at 6p, est. 2018] is a solid addition to H Street from Hill bar owner Erik Holzherr. Idle Hands comes to the space that was the super (overly?) chill Church & State. Erik also ran Church & State so the space is still recognizable and many of the cool church-like touches (like windows and the confessional room off the bar) and the relative lack of light remain. Think board games (available for rent for a few bucks except from 6-7:30p M-F and Sun when they’re free), a few arcade games you can sit your drink on, video games. Unlike Church & State, which offered great cocktails which took forever to make, Idle Hands menu is simplified, with a list of 7 quick and easy (but still tasty) $9-11 cocktails named after late 80s/90s movies, 2 housemade shots (“fireball” & “coffee liqueur”), about 14 types of canned/bottled beer (mostly around $7), and wine ($8-11/glass). Happy hour runs 6-7:30p M-F and Sun with a buck off wine and beer and $5 off bottles of wine.

Holzherr made the place much livelier, enlisting his friend to create speakers made out of cardboard and pumping out 90s tunes. You could call Idle Hands a more adult/less divey version of Atlas Arcade downstairs (also run by Holzherr, who appears to own the rowhouse, as he does his SE gin joint Wisdom).

Also, you may have heard the controversy stemming from marketing materials/interviews which talked about the bar being a “sexy nerd bar,” Drunken Twister (which incidentally may be hard to play since space is so tight) and infamously, the “casting couch” (Read DCist, WCP). The bar was blasted in social media and in Frozen Tropics blog comments, which led to a post by Erik on The Hill is Home blog apologizing but defending himself from the “anonymity of the Internet.” As someone who has met Erik many times (I live near Wisdom and am a lifetime member of the bar’s Gin Club), the vibe people are getting from those descriptions is different than the super chill, laid back dude I’ve met, so I’m giving the benefit of the doubt, but I understand if others are not.

Bar Roubaix, a New Hilton Brothers Concept, Opens Next Friday in Columbia Heights

Bar Roubaix (courtesy Bar Roubaix Facebook page)

Bar Roubaix, Facebook, Twitter, est. Dec 2017, 1400 Irving St. NW [open at 5p daily, closes at noon Mon-Wed, 1a Thu, 2a Fri-Sat] is slated to open Friday, December 8th (a previous version of this story said the 1st but this has been pushed back), in the old Acre 121 space at 14th and Irving in the heart of the Columbia Heights neighborhood.

The spot, which strives to showcase “Great Beers. European Street Food. Cycling Culture,” is being run by brothers Ian and Eric Hilton (as first reported by PoPville in late April when Acre 121 closed after nearly six years). Although the Hilton brothers own/operate many spots around the area (Marvin, The Gibson, El Rey, The Brixton, American Ice, Satellite Room, the Brighton, Chez Billy Sud/Bar a Vin, Ten Tigers Parlour, Crimson Diner/Bar/View, and the upcoming Gaslight Tavern at 9th/U), this spot will retain the same ownership of Acre 121 (and Lou’s City Bar next door). Both bars are apparently owned by the developer of the Highland Park apartment building (Donatelli) in which they are located, quite possibly the only bars in DC owned by a property developer company.

Posts on social media so far only hint at some of the European street food offered by Chef Rafael Nuñez (who once cooked at Eatonville & Busboys & Poets): house-made spanakopitazapiekanki, German potato pancakes (Kartoffelpuffer) and doner kebab might be on the menu. Less is known about the drinks, but expect craft beers; the GM, Arturo Zaloga, recently managed the bar at the nearby Mezcalero and has been behind the bar at other Hilton brother spots like Marvin, El Rey, and The Brixton.

If you’re not Martin Austermuhle and aren’t familiar (and I wasn’t until I asked Jeeves), “Roubaix” refers to a town in France that is the terminus of a long-running bike race from Paris, as well as a name of a renowned road bike.  There will be a cycling arcade simulation game powered by Open Sprints software,  and a pool table. Bar Roubaix will have plenty of parking racks and will feature a fixing station where cyclists can perform maintenance or adjustments on their ride.

Before Acre 121, Commonwealth Gastro Pub from Jamie Leeds and the Hank’s folks (definitely don’t recall this part) occupied the space from 2008-2011.

[This story has been updated.]

Hill Prince: The Best Bar in DC Right Now.

Hill Prince

Hill Prince, website, Facebook, Instagram, 1337 H St. NE, opens at 5p (weekdays), noon (weekends), HH until 7p everyday, closed Mondays, est. March 2017 [Washington Post, Washington City Paper, Washingtonian, Eater DC]

Hill Prince is the best bar in DC right now. I’ve been to the newish H Street spot (opened back in March) at least 10 times since it opened (I’m not a regular anywhere-gotta perform research, ya know?). Although it exudes cool and charm, Hill Prince also feels like a neighborhood bar thanks in part to the much-ballyhooed budget-friendly (and excellent) $10 classic cocktails but also largely due to friendly service from folks like Tony Lawson (ever-present beverage director), Eve (who hosts recurring “Friday Eve” parties on select Thursdays)-even the door person/bouncer greets you warmly. The crowd, unlike many of the other spots on the 1300 block of H Street, skews a little bit older, and it often feels like an oasis of chill when it gets “lit” (as the kids say) on the Atlas Corridor weekend nights. Crowds do come at times on weekends, but there’s more an ebb and flow that adds positively to the vibe.

The cocktail menu varies a bit, but expect around six classic cocktails (awesome Daiquiri, French 75, Sidecar, Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Negroni, and New York Sour have been on the menu) and a few more specials ($12 or $14). Around 4 rotating beers are on tap (beers from local breweries like RAR are often available, Narragansett Lager was on tap for much of the summer), along with around 10-12 bottles/cans (you’ll see $4 High Life or Natty Boh often being drunk). There’s a choice of wines as well.  Whistle Pig seems to be often highlighted as the fancy whiskey of choice. Recently, Hill Prince just kicked off a great happy hour, going everyday until 7p – many drinks are roughly $3 off.

Space-wise, it’s bigger than you think , and there’s a lot of pine flooring, exposed brick/wooden ceiling, and even a floor-to-ceiling wooden beam or two. The front section of Hill Prince is occupied by the long main bar as well as a table with a few chairs. Stairs, off-limits to patrons, are kind of mysterious (I’ve heard that some dude lives up there, unaffiliated with the bar). The next room has a long-ass drink rail, which is a nice perch if you can’t catch a spot on the nearby couch or at the bar. Currently, a DJ sets up shop there starting at 10p on Fridays and Saturdays (don’t worry, it doesn’t turn into a dance club). Back further is a small covered patio that overlooks a super-chill hipstery courtyard (strung lights, sandy surface, tables); in warm times, a mini-bar with separate menu (think a couple canned beers an $9 G&T and Dark & Stormy) has been open weekend nights. In the carriage house on the other side of the courtyard is an under-construction bar (possibly 30 seats and a more permanent DJ set-up); owner Nick Wiseman tells me that it’s on track to open in early 2018.

Hill Prince comes from Nick and his cousin David Wiseman, the folks behind the upscale Jewish deli DGS Delicatessen in Dupont and Whaley’s in Navy Yard/Capitol Riverfront (in fact, I’ve hung out with staff from both spots on multiple occasions at Hill Prince). The bar has a fairly subtle equestrian theme (other than the fake stuffed horse head), as Hill Prince is the name of the horse that won the 1950 Preakness and the building used to house horse stables. Not surprisingly, the bar hosted watch parties for the horse racing Triple Crown series in May-June (I met DC bar extraordinaire Derek Brown there watching the Belmont). During the summer, crab boils were held on select weekends, and recently the bar started serving waffle brunches on weekends (noon-4p).

In full disclosure, one reason I extoll the virtues of Hill Prince to all who I encounter is that it’s less than a twenty-minute walk from my house, but I legit would love this bar even if it was in Park View. Go.

Bar at Hill Prince
Back Room at Hill Prince
View of Bar from back room
Bar at Hill Prince
Hill Prince is named after the 1950 winner of the Preakness
Hipstery Courtyard