Lucky Bar

Awning in front of Lucky Bar
Awning in front of Lucky Bar

Lucky BarwebsiteFacebookTwitter,  1221 Connecticut Ave. NW (at 18th & M), opens at 3p on weekdays (unless soccer event), typically 8a or earlier on weekends , HH 3-8 M-W, 3-close Th, 3-10p F, est. 1997 [Yelp, WaPo, Frommers]

Arguably the best soccer bar in D.C. (though Fado may quibble), Lucky Bar has been treating futbol fans and 23 year olds to good times for nearly two decades. More divey than a true dive, this Joe Englert spot sports nearly 25 TVs on 3 levels in its location in the raucous triangle of 18th/M/Connecticut.

For soccer fans, the bar opens quite early, often on weekends before booze can even be served at 8am and similarly early on weekdays during the World Cup and other big competitions. Every conceivable game around the world is available here, and fans who want to catch the big matches have to show up early or strategically (i.e., right when previous games end) to even get a seat.

First Floor Bar
First Floor Bar

For everyone else, this spot is a less crowded (compared to neighbors Sign of the Whale &  Madhatter) meat market for the younger set (especially popular on Thursdays).  A green awning covering a handful outdoor seating fronts the bar. Behind, the first floor is the most divey of the levels; it is a narrow space mostly taken up by a long bar and some booths.  Located at the rear, up a few steps, is the more expansive main bar area.  Booths, couches, pool tables, lots of tvs, and a smaller bar in the far corner make up this  larger space.  A seemingly impromptu dance floor often (but not always) materializes late at night ; it should be noted that this is definitely a sticky-floor-kind-of-bar.  If you’re hungry for some nuts after dancing, put in a few quarters in a vending machine at the back of this floor, and you’ll be rewarded.

2nd floor main bar area
2nd floor main bar area
Second floor bar
Second floor bar

Leading upstairs near the nut machine is perhaps the most harrowing/steep (at least if you’ve had a few too many Bud Lights) stairs in any DC bar; bargoers making it to the summit will be rewarded with a more private-feeling space and another bar, along with the only bathrooms in all of Lucky Bar. Just be careful walking back down to the 2nd floor.

Legendary stairs to 3rd floor
Legendary stairs to 3rd floor

Although the smell of the adjacent Julia’s Empanadas (Lucky Bar + couple Jamaican empanadas was definitely a common combo of mine in the mid-2000s) permeates the bar, good times can be had . Even if you’re not a soccer fan, the extended happy hour (3-8pm M-W with $2.50-$3.75/pint & $3.50 rail drinks) is cheap, and drafts (even the local craft beers like DC Brau, Chocolate City & Atlas) are $4 until 10p on Fridays.  On Thursdays, the most popular night, happy hour runs all night-usually $3-4 pints & cocktails, $12 pitchers and food specials. Beer and rail drinks are always relatively cheap at all hours too.

Third Floor Bar
Third Floor Bar

Barred in DC Rating: 3/5

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Local 16

Local 16, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1602 U St. NW, opens at 5p (weekdays) 11a (weekends), HH 5-8p weekdays, est. 2002 [Yelp, Tripadvisor, Washingtonian]

Local 16 and its great roof deck from the other side of U Street
Local 16 and its great roof deck from the other side of U Street

From the Hilton Brothers, Local 16 sort of helped kickstart the transformation of the U Street Corridor to full-blown yuppie-dom when it opened in fall 2002 at 16th (hence the name, though it actually really borders New Hampshire Ave., not 16th Street) and U.  Even a decade later, this dimly-lit (my photos are worse than the terrible quality they usually are) scarlet-hued spot still packs the crowds and you’ll often find a fast-moving line out front to get in on Saturday nights.  The folks who frequent this spot skew a bit younger and certainly preppier than the other Hilton Brothers spots I’ve been to ((18th Street Lounge, Marvin, The Brixton).

Local 16
Local 16

Local 16, like 18th Street Lounge, has several rooms, spaces, and stairs and feels sort of like someone’s mansion.  On the first floor-to the right of the entrance-are two rooms, the first of which contains a bar (beer selection is usually better here than the rest of the spot) and the other with ample loungey seating.  These areas are usually the least crowded in the bar. Upstairs up a long double staircase is the rest of the bar. To the right upstairs is the dark, dance floor that gives Local 16 its meat market reputation.  Usually you’ll find lots of folks dancing in here to the loud music.  There’s a small bar in this space; you can choose from the standard boring Heineken/Amstel/Miller bottled fare but not much else.

Rooftop at happy hour
Rooftop at happy hour

To the left of the stairs is easily the best feature Local 16: the huge partially covered rooftop that overlooks U Street.  Packed in nice weather, the roof is basically partitioned in two; the side closest to the bar is usually much more crowded. One nice touch is that there is bench seating along the fence on U Street which means you usually can grab a seat if you want (not that many folks do).  Again, nothing special with drinks and beers (you’ll pay $7 for a beer and a rail drink here), but the roof is a nice place to catch up in a more relaxed and better lit atmosphere than the rest of the place.  One large downside of the rooftop is that (likely owing to a settlement/voluntary agreement) it closes at 1 AM so you can stay out all night drinking al fresco.  Aside from the roof, taking the back set of stairs that take you back to the 1st floor bar (Full House style) is always strangely cool.

7/27/13 Update: Local 16 has a great happy hour Monday-Friday. Not only are nearly all items $5 (including specialty cocktails and 8″ pizzas), it goes (from 5p) to 8p, which is a rarity in DC.

Downstairs bar at happy hour
Downstairs bar at happy hour

Although it definitely has a meat market loungey/sorta-clubby vibe and skews a bit younger than most spots on U Street, Local 16 is a fun place to stop by every once in a while that still feels grown-up compared to most bars in Dupont/Adams Morgan on a weekend night.

Barred in DC Rating: 3.5/5


Smith Point

Smith PointwebsiteFacebookTwitter1338 Wisconsin Ave. NW (at O St. NW), 202-333-9003, open 10:30a-3p Fri-Sat, est. 2000 [Yelp, Complex City Guide, Washington City Paper]

Possibly the most infamous bar in DC (surpassing even McFadden’s), Smith Point is the closest thing to a UVa frat party in DC.  Opened way up Wisconsin Ave. in Georgetown back in 2000, Smith Point had its heyday during the Bush years, but still serves as a fun, yet douchey late night spot in Georgetown (I’ve never been there before 1am, and I don’t think it opens before 10:30p).  Technically, Smith Point is a club with members, so I’ve only been able to get in as a guest of a friend who was a member when he lived nearby (with a steep $10-20 cover due to the many guests he would bring in). Guests (maybe everyone) must enter on an unmarked gate (usually with a line, see picture below) on O Street, which leads into an long, narrowish patio area.  Once you’ve gone through the patio area, you’ll enter onto the dark, sticky frat party dance floor, with the bar in the back.

The entertaining, drunk, and exceedingly preppy crowd drinks vodka tonics and Jack/cokes and bottles of Bud Light (don’t think there’s anything on raft); even the Bush twins and other famous Republicans were apparently frequent guests back in the 2000s, but no longer.  My friend no longer lives in Georgetown so not sure if I’ll ever make it back here, but you can’t consider yourself a DC bar expert without spending 1:30-3am on a Saturday night (followed by the Five Guys catty corner across Wisconsin Ave.) at Smith Point.

Barred in DC Rating: 2.5/5

My Brother’s Place

My Brother’s PlacewebsiteFacebookTwitter237 2nd St. NW (2nd & C), 202-347-1350, opens at 11a (weekdays) noon (weekends), HH 4-8p (M-F) 10p-close (Th-Fri) 12-9p (Sat) $15 all you can drink 9p-1a (Sat), est. 1980 [Yelp, WaPoTripadvisor]

This hilarious dive on a random dead-endish block near the Capitol off Constitution Ave.  (right behind the Department of Labor), MBP is legendary (“FAMOUS & DANGEROUS” according to its Twitter page) for its $15 all-you-can-drink Saturday nights (rails from 9p-midnight, and beers & wines from 9p-1a).  This has been often the site of DC Sports Nexus’s birthday party (I stole these pics on this post from his 2011 birthday party Facebook album), even though we’ve been at least 5 years older than the normal clientele, which appears to be mostly Catholic U undergrads and other cheapskates.  The first floor of this spot has a room with a bar and a decent amount of space; in the front there is an enclosed patio where folks often set up beer pong or flip-cup (there are a few tables out front if the weather is nice). I haven’t spent much time upstairs, but they’ve had a random Latino dance party when I’ve gone.

As you can see, women dancing on the bar
As you can see, women dancing on the bar

We’ve always gotten good service because, unlike most of the people who frequent this place, we actually tip for each drink we get.  There are usually a few girls dancing on the bar (photo above) here as the night goes on.  Opened back in 1980, MBP is worth going at least once with a big group on a Saturday if you want to get drunk for cheap in a real collegey dive bar in the middle of relatively nowhere in NW DC.

The bar at MBP - remember to tip
The bar at MBP – remember to tip

Barred in DC rating: 3/5

 

Madam’s Organ Blues Bar

Madam’s Organ Blues Bar, web siteFacebookTwitter2461 18th St. NW, 202-667-5370, opens at 5p everyday, HH 5-8p everyday, est. 1997 (current location) [YelpWaPo, TripAdvisor, Frommer’s, Lonely Planet]

Kind of a neighborhood landmark (look for the topless redhead mural and the other random mystifying murals along the block), this sprawling bar is known for its nightly live music, including regular blues.  There’s a stage and a dance/listening floor right when you walk in, along with a couple other floors (one with pool tables) including a tiny fire escapeish front balcony (awesome for checking out the 18th street crowd) along with another roof deck wayyy at the top that feels like a crows nest on a ship that is usually enclosed (it might open up during the summer, never been there when it is has (3/7 Update: Reader says that it opens up in summer).  Fun spot with a relatively older crowd in its current location since 1997, though beware that there usually is a cover on weekends due to the live music. One of my friends likes  the soul food.  Supposedly redheads drink beer for ½ off, but as I am not a redhead, I can’t confirm. The owner is not a fan of Adams Morgan Day.

Barred in DC Rating: 4/5