Category Archives: Chill

Guest Post – Tony T Remembers Capitol Lounge

   

[This is a guest post from Tony Tomelden. You may know him by Tony T, who owns (solo or w/ others) The Pug, Union Trust, and Brookland’s Finest. Before these joints opened, he managed Capitol Hill’s Capitol Lounge for years, which announced yesterday on social media (Twitter (post went viral), Facebook, and Instagram) that it was closing after Sunday, September 20th, saddening former and current customers and staff all over DC and beyond. The current owner Jimmy Silk explained to Jessica Sidman of Washingtonian that its revenues of about 10% of average normal revenues weren’t sustainable but he was keeping the decor/memorabilia for future possible reopening at a different location in the future.]

By Tony T

I dated the server in this pic above while I was at the Lounge. More on that later.

The Lounge opened mid April 1996 I think (someone will look it up and give the correct date; Editor’s Note: appears to be May 15, 1996). Like that first U2 show in the states, everybody was there. Not me. I wasn’t even there the first fucking night. I was still at 15 Min Club and Planet Fred.  I was gonna be a shift manager at the Lounge. As often happens, there were pretty quick shake ups and Little Joe and I ended up managers. Big Joe Englert was hoping for a cocktail/martini friendly bar with a cigar lounge in the basement.  Little Joe and I were probably not the best choices in that regard. Unlike his other spots, Big Joe was pretty hands on at the Lounge. Pretty quickly though he ceded control of the jukebox to me. (pre-internet jukebox you heathens).

It was pretty touch and go, summer is never busy and on the Hill, campaign years are tough. Easter weekend that first year we did $0.25 drafts Good Friday and maybe 20 people came through (Way less than opening night).  Joe and I worked for tips alone. At one point Austin Grill expressed an interest in taking over, and Big Joe was stoked, but it fell through and we kept at it.

The $2 Cap Amber was Dominion. We offered Guinness, Newcastle, Sierra, and the usual fare for the mid 90s. We finally started getting crowds. I worked Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday. Happy Hour on Fridays was really getting to be a thing. For whatever reason, one of our beer deliveries was every Friday. They were always late. After the 3rd or 4th happy hour delivery in a row, I told the driver if he came during happy hour again, I would drop Miller Lite. “No you won’t.” So now you know that bit.

The MLS started in 96 as well. Big Joe hired Old Town Trolley to run back and forth between the lounge and RFK. We sold tickets to section 232 at the bar. The Capitol Lounge Choir. Along with Summers and Lucky Bar, we were it for soccer. The DC Belfast supporters club spent a season there arguing with Lavo. Joe worked on the odd hour waivers for the World Cups.

Big Joe was from some dusty ass suburb of dusty ass Pittsburgh. As soon as it was available, he had the NFL package going. I had to listen to polka every time the Stillers scored. For two awful years before Politiki, we were the Steelers bar. Bunch of the Steelers regulars brought Jerome Bettis in one night for drinks. Course I had no idea who he was.  After the fire, DirecTV gave us no break on fees, so yeah, they can go fuck.

The MPD first district substation is around the corner. A lot of LEO [ed. note: law enforcement officers] regulars. The IMF World bank demonstrations/disturbances from so long ago were organised by some folks working in an office above the Chinese restaurant a few doors down.  On a walk through one night all of the anarchists were shooting pool with the MPD bomb squad. No one ever knew. No Politics. Tough in DC, but we did alright. Those last couple Sundays in an NFL season, after a campaign cycle, there were more often than not opposing campaigns drinking together.

Yep, I DJed Saturday nights. It was good fun.

I met a huge crowd of people at the Lounge who have meant an awful lot to me over the years. When my kids started school, there were three types of parents, 1. “hey, why do i recognize you?” 2.  “TonyT!!! What’s up?!” and inevitably, 3. the ones who looked away. Mostly, I had chucked them out one night or another

Yes, Big Joe made me fire the server I started dating. Stephanie and I have been married 17 years.

Never saw lobbyists pick up big tabs, even after the rules changed. Never got prominent politicians drunk. I always made kamikazes, cosmos and appletinis when asked. Was never treated like shit by an elected official. We did not consume a case of Jamesons my final shift.

I hated that place and I will miss it terribly. For a bit, it was the best bar on the planet, and DC will be worse off after all this shit is over and all the little places are fucking gone.

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

Thomas Foolery

Sidewalk Chalkboard Sign Hints at the Goofiness of Thomas Foolery

Sidewalk Chalkboard Sign Hints at the Goofiness of Thomas Foolery

Thomas FoolerywebsiteFacebook,  2029 P St. NW, opens at noon everyday, closes at midnight weekdays, 2a on weekends, HH (Angry Hour 5-7p daily, est. 2013 [Post (Carman), Post (Hahn) WCP (read this), HuffPoYelp]

Indisputably the goofiest bar in DC, the uber-fun Thomas Foolery entertains those who stop by the snug basement spot in west Dupont on P Street with games and candy and “adult” milk and cookies and grilled cheese! Steve Davis, the rocket scientist who operates Mr. Yogato, the frozen yogurt establishment on the east side of the Circle on 17th Street, runs this joint, imbuing it with the same care-free, harken-to-childhood atmosphere as the yogurt place.

The small bar area

The small bar area

Although one might try to compare it with one of my favorite spots in town, the nearby Board Room, Thomas Foolery has a different style. Unlike the sprawling board games place, Thomas Foolery is quite small, essentially fitting into one room (with a nook that features a king’s throne and a Nintendo Wii) and sporting only one bar (with no stools, so be prepared for all the milling about the area as you embarrass yourself ordering an Elmo and a saucerful of Starbursts).

Nintendo Wii/Mario Kart being played

Nintendo Wii/Mario Kart being played

Games, though significantly fewer in number, are free, and random diversions are available throughout the bar (such as Nerf basketball, Etch-A-Sketch, velcro darts, and hopscotch).

Food with a distinct childhood theme is served, i.e.,  grilled cheese sandwiches and bakery fresh cookies from two popular food trucks are available to purchase. The cookies, from the the great Captain Cookie and Milkman food truck, are well worth sampling, but be warned, you may become a bona fide Cookie Monster. Cups of candy are a nice dessert if you don’t want cookies and ice cream.

Another view of the bar

Another view of the bar

The drink selection isn’t exactly comprehensive, but there are always a couple of colorful cocktails (a shot of vodka with a candy treat at the bottom of the glass was downed on a recent visit). There are no beers on draft, but a nice list of 40 or so bottles are listed, each chosen by a local minor celebrity/journalist (Barred in DC hopes to make this one day).

Candy in shots? Candy in shots.

Candy in shots? Candy in shots.

Most interestingly/hilariously is the selection of 2 or 3 Smirnoff Ice flavors (Steve doesn’t like beer), including regular, green apple, or my new favorite peach bellini. Normally these cost $4; in the many times I’ve been I’ve never actually paid that amount. Instead, patrons wanting to get self-Iced can play a Plinko game next to the register; the drink might be $1, $2, $3, $4, or $5 instead. Another terrific drink special twist; instead of Happy Hour, Thomas Foolery offers an “Angry Hour” from 5-7p daily where patrons who order in an ANGRY tone get a buck off their drinks. These hours (and into the evening) some weekend nights are hosted by a local charity/non-profit organization; some of the “guest” bartenders those nights work behind the bar to earn money for their organization.

Another view from back of Thomas Foolery

Another view from back of Thomas Foolery

Aside from the games and the playful food, the small area of the bar along with the games are conducive to interacting with other guests, which adds to the fun. To be sure, this is a very laid-back spot. The music doesn’t blast (so you can always hear your friends), you don’t spot many bros, and too-cool people would feel out of place. The atmosphere is so collegial that you may even find yourself daring a neighbor at an adjacent table to join your Jenga tournament.

Party Jenga!

Party Jenga!

One simple quibble is that the lighting near the bar is way too bright and fluorescent, which sometimes spoils the mood in the rest of the place. One of the most interesting scenes I’ve seen in a bar anywhere was set here: post-midnight one Saturday, a group of 10 or so younger Muslim women came in, some with strollers. They proceeded to have a grand time playing games, eating milk and cookies, and being friendly with the other slightly drunker customers late into the night.

Barred in DC Rating: 4/5

Close-up of games

Close-up of games

View from P Street

View from P Street

Someone just got Iced

Someone just got Iced

Bar Charley

The bar at Bar Charley

The bar at Bar Charley

Bar CharleyFacebookTwitter,  1825 18th St. NW (at Swann/T), opens at 4p on weekdays, 10a on weekends, closes at 11p Sun-Thu, midnight Fri-Sat, HH 4-6:30p M-F, est. 2013 [Post (Sietsma), Post (Hahn), InTheCapital, PoPville, Forking DC, EaterYelp]

A welcome respite from the circus that is the nearby Lauriol Plaza, Bar Charley is one of my favorite places to grab a cocktail in DC. This new spot in the north part of Dupont, from the folks behind the popular Silver Spring establishment Jackie’s and El Chucho in Colombia Heights, is well worth a visit, whether you’re a neighbor or come from afar.

The dining area at Bar Charley

The dining area

The space, previously home to the short-lived Cajun Experience, is a few steps down from street-level but feels comfortable and neighorhoody without being divey. Although there are no TVs, a rarity for DC bars that I like to frequent, the absence contributes positively to the pleasant and casual, yet upscale vibe. To the left of the entrance is the establishment’s cozy bar area where folks can grab a stool or stand up while ordering from one of two bartenders, who often come out from behind the 10-seat bar to take orders and serve drinks. You can usually find me posting up on one of the 5 stools next to the bay window opposite the bar; this is a good spot to have a group consisting of both people who like to stand (me) and those who prefer sitting (most people). The rest of Bar Charley is made up of the main dining area to the right of the entrance: comfortable seating along one of the exposed brick walls; a communal table in the center of the room; and a large, semi-secluded booth in front of another bay window. In warmer months, visitors can enjoy food and drinks out on the back patio.

Back patio at Bar Charley

Back patio

The stars of the show are the cocktails created by co-owner Gordon Banks. The menu includes the quite economical (for DC standards) classic cocktails ($8 for a Sazerac, Jack Rose, Monk Buck, and fantastic Old Fashioned), on-tap Tiki drinks ($7 for a Mai Tai and Suffering Bastard served in tiki-themed ceramic cups), and more standard-priced creative concoctions (such as the Quack-Quack-erac, made with a duck fat wash and the Stepdad which involves a blowtorch). While the pretty solid wine list, both by the bottle and glass, serves as an ample co-star, the beer list, despite nary a macrobrew, is at best a fledgling starlet. Three drafts don’t rotate as often as I would like and many of the bottles on list are $15-25 large format bottles.

Tiki drinks at Bar Charley

Tiki drinks

Although it has only been open since September, Bar Charley has quickly generated a tremendous amount of buzz (both positive and negative). The spot has already appeared in the Post FOUR times (including critiques by bar guru Fritz Hahn and dining expert Tom Sietsma), and Bar Charley’s request to be open normal DC bar hours (2a weekdays, 3a weekends), has quickly become a source of controversy in its hood, as previously documented by this blog here. Many neighbors vehemently oppose the hours extension, though I personally know several proponents of it.

One of the fancier cocktails

One of the fancier cocktails

Since later hours of operation have not yet been approved, when you stop by for a drink (which you must do), make sure you go on the early side, as Bar Charley closes at 11p sharp weekdays and midnight Friday and Saturday nights.

Barred in DC Rating: 4.5/5

View of the bar with dining room in background

View of the bar with dining room in background

The dining room at Bar Charley

another view of Bar Charley dining area

Bartender making an excellent cocktail at Bar Charley

Bartender making an excellent cocktail at Bar Charley

Bar Charley from 18th Street

Bar Charley from 18th Street