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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The Big Hunt

The Big Hunt, website, FacebookTwitter, 1345 Connecticut Ave. NW (b/t Dupont Circle & N St, near 18th and N), opens at 4p (weekdays) 5p (weekends), HH 4-7p weekdays, est. 1992 [Yelp, WaPo, Beeradvocate, Tripadvisor]

The Big Hunt
The Big Hunt

Perhaps the most polarizing bar in all of the District, the Big Hunt (one of prolific-bar owner Joe Englert’s first bars, it opened in 1992) evokes strong reactions from everyone who have had the fortune (or misfortune) of frequenting this establishment.  To wit: this is probably my favorite bar in DC. My girlfriend, on the other hand, refuses to step foot in this establishment any more, despite being about a third a mile from our home (this opinion is shared by many of my friends).

Decor at Big Hunt
Decor at Big Hunt

I think it’s a great dive bar with one of the best beer lists in the city, friendly bartenders, a neighborhood feel on weekdays, 15-cent wing night on Tuesdays, and a somewhat-hidden-secret of a back patio deck.  Others feel that the décor is sketchy/weird as hell, too divey/dusty, too much wood-paneling and taxidermy and weird-safari themes, too meat markety-young on weekends, and even the name is problematic (the unfortunate obituary typo involving Larry David’s beloved aunt in Curb Your Enthusiasm comes to mind). I concede that some of these are true, but I think they are much  outweighed by the positives of the Hunt.

Main first floor bar at The Big Hunt

You first walk into this bar, which is located on the east side of Connecticut Ave. on the block just south of the actual Dupont Circle, using the right door under the circus-like entrance awning.  Although I’ve been to the Hunt countless times, I finally realized on a recent weekend visit how big this bar really is.  There are 4 different bars to order drinks from and about 8 different seating areas, though oftentimes on weekdays only one bar is open, and the rest of the establishment is off-limits.

Second room first floor bar at The Big Hunt
Second room first floor bar at The Big Hunt

After you enter, there is a table or two just off the front window and a fairly long bar on the left; low-slung red booths line the right side of the bar.  More tables are in a back area that feels somewhat separate.Just beyond the bar there is an entryway to the other side of the first floor of Big Hunt. Here, another bar basically mirrors the first bar, and more tables, a couple of booths, and a similar back seating area comprise the rest of the room.

Basement bar at Big Hunt
Basement bar at Big Hunt

Down the stairs leads to a basement bar that I seriously did not know was actually still open until recently as I hadn’t been down there in probably 5-6 years; lots of red, a vaguely devilish theme along with a stage for recent burlesque and comedy make up this space.

Upstairs at Big Hunt - Skee ball tables
Upstairs at Big Hunt – Skee ball tables

Head back to the first floor, where you can take two separate sets of stairs (one on each half of the bar) that lead you to the second floor.  One room contains a couple skee ball machines and seating, while the other room contains a very small bar along with barstools and railings to put your drink.

Upstairs bar at Big Hunt
Upstairs bar at Big Hunt

Behind the 2nd floor bar, a door and a few steps lead you to the hidden gem of the Big Hunt: a nice, secluded patio deck that fits maybe 25 people that is open during nice weather; even haters find it hard to dislike this aspect of Big Hunt.  The view isn’t spectacular but better than one would expect for a second floor patio deck surrounded by office buildings (feels like a courtyard).  Often there is a server who takes drink/food orders, and if not, the 2nd floor bar is just a few feet away.

Back patio deck at The Big Hunt
Back patio deck at The Big Hunt

As mentioned earlier, the drink du jour everyday here is beer, and be sure to try wide variety of beers and check out their frequent beer events.  This isn’t a sports bar, so the place isn’t crawling with TVs, but there are few nice HD flat screens on the first floor so you’ll be able to keep up with any big events. Pro tip: most bars that have “house” beers, are just macrobrews from A-B or MillerCoors (or maybe PBR or Natty Boh) with the bar’s brand name tacked on; the ones at Big Hunt, Light Ass and Bad Ass Amber Bock are actually Michelob Light & Michelob Amber Bock).

Decor at Big Hunt
Decor at Big Hunt

Despite its imperfections and antipathy held by many in DC, this remains one of my favorite DC bars.

Barred in DC Rating: 4.5/5

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

 

Bedrock Billiards

Bedrock Billiards, web siteFacebookTwitter1841 Columbia Road NW, 202-667-7665, opens at 4p (weekdays) 1p (weekends), HH 4-8p (weekdays), 1-7p (weekends), est. 1992  [YelpWaPo]

Opened back in 1992, this basement pool hall/game room bar feels miles from the bedlam of 18th Street a block away.  Bedrock, which was the first bar in the mini-chain that now includes Atomic Billiards, Buffalo Billiards, Rocket Bar, and Board Room, is reminiscent of someone’s 1980s somewhat dusty basement.  I’ve only been here twice, and not since probably 2009, but I remember lots of pool tables, darts, and board games and a solid divey atmosphere.  They have a popular Sunday night trivia that is supposed to be kind of hard. Happy hour goes from 4-8p M-F and 1-7p on the weekends, along with some pool and darts leagues during the week,  though I’ve never been.

Barred in DC Rating: 3/5