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.

 

 

Club Heaven and Hell Sent Straight to Hell – Record Setting Fine and Suspension

Club Heaven and Hell, the long-time Adams Morgan club (opened around 1991), suffered a massive blow last week when the DC Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) fined it a whopping $90,000 and suspended its liquor license for 90 days (November 1st-January 29th). This is believed by Barred in DC to be a record fine by ABRA (Halftime Sports Bar was fined $60,000 in Dec 2018, and never re-opened) and record liquor license suspension (though ABRA has revoked liquor licenses before).

The severe punishment mostly results, coupled with a history of violations, from an August 2018 incident where the bar illegally outsourced its security to a promoter of a live music event and violated the terms of its mandated security plan. Specifically, it allowed the promoter to check IDs and control ingress/egress into the club (per DC law, bars can rent out their spots to a promoter but the licensee must control the bar and security staff) and it did not have two bouncers and check everyone’s IDs as it opened (as required by its security plan). Also, the infamous “Yellow Death” cleaning fluid Long Island Iced Tea incident was factored in the penalty: the bar owner admitted accidentally adding Yellow Death cleaning fluid (instead of sour mix) in the drink in November 2018. The bar wasn’t actually punished directly for the mistake by ABRA; instead it was docked because it failed to fill out an incident report and log it in its security log as required by the security plan.

All the ABRA commissioners present found Club Heaven and Hell to be liable, though one recommended revocation of the license. The huge fine and lengthy no booze sales outage (which likely means closure during the period) may be crippling for a bar (known for 80s Dance parties on Thursdays)-it might not reopen. Thus, it’s likely that a motion for reconsideration and/or appeal to DC Court of Appeals will be filed shortly. Stay tuned.

Getting Schooled on Cocktails: DC Harvest’s Mixology Class

Aviary at DC Harvest

Brothers Jared and Arthur Ringel, who own and run one of my go-to sit-down restaurants, DC Harvest, recently invited Mr. and Mrs. Barred in DC to check out the “DCH Mixology Class.” This independently owned spot, which recently celebrated its 5 year anniversary at its 6th and H St. NE location, serves popular brunches, well-priced local and seasonal dinners, and really good cocktails and beer. The mixology class, which costs a very reasonable $45 (with service fee/tax, a shade under $60 total), features a choice of any three of the spot’s signature cocktails along with any appetizer ($14 or less). Given that 3 cocktails themselves if individually purchased cost around $40, this is a solid deal

The class, which can be as educational (or not) as you want, is set up at the bar and usually taught by Jared. The co-owner explains in detail the inspiration for each cocktail (and its name) and what’s in it, and shows you how it’s made. He also shares some tips along the way that you can take home with you to make great cocktails. If you’re with more than yourself, I highly recommend getting different cocktails so you can sample the whole menu.

The whole menu, including the drinks, are seasonal, so we sampled some great fall cocktails, almost all made with spirits from DC, Virginia, or Maryland. The Apiary features honey (harvested by a DC Harvest server), lemongrass, bee pollen, angelica oil, and a Dutch-style gin; the Citron was quite garden-like, with limoncello (from local distiller Don Cicio & Figlo), house-made zucchini shrub, topped off with heirloom cherry tomatoes; the beautiful Pitaya is made with Falls Church Bourbon (the brothers are from there), dragon fruit syrup, lemon juice, elderflower syrup, and shiso; The Espadin Experiment is only one not made with local spirits, but makes sense, as it featues mezcal, along with roasted cashews, poblano peppers, toasted coconut syrup, and lime juice. I really dug the Monticello which is made with an agave-based spirit from Gray Wolf in St Michael’s (Eastern Shore MD), a housemade paw paw cordial, lemon juice, gomme syrup, nutmeg, and egg white. The one cocktail that is year-round at DCH, Kentucky Windage, is made with Kentucky Gentleman bourbon that has been house-“boosted” to add flavor with gomme syrup and house-made bitters.

The class is available basically every night (except certain holidays), with seatings on the half-hour 5:30-8:30p Sun-Thurs and 5:30-9:30p Fri-Sat. Book at the link.

Monticello
Citron
Ingredients for The Espadin Experiment

 

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:

Philly Transplant Misconduct Tavern Coming to Penn Quarter

Misconduct Tavern is coming to Penn Quarter [707 G St. NW, website, Facebook, Twitter]. The nautical-themed spot currently has two locations in downtown Philadelphia and is taking over the Redline (and short-lived 10 Tavern) prime space right across from the Capital One Area. The bar will apparently be an upscale sports bar with craft beer, solid burgers & house-made hot dogs, and other pub food (sounds fairly similar to another Philly transplant a few blocks away-City Tap House). The original Misconduct opened near Rittenhouse Square in 2005 (“Misconduct” was apparently the name of the 1st owner’s boat); the second in 2015.

Redline was in the spot from 2010-2016, while 10 Tavern lasted just 15 months, closing back in April. Before that, lounge Indeblu was in the space from 2004 to 2009.

Emilie, New Restaurant from Himitsu Chef, Coming to Capitol Hill

Kevin Tien (chef of Himitsu)

In a massive development for Capitol Hill, Kevin Tien, the executive chef/co-owner of the critically-acclaimed Petworth restaurant Himitsu, is opening up a new restaurant, Emilie, at the corner of 11th and Pennsylvania SE (just a few blocks from the Barracks Row corridor/Eastern Market Metro) in the Penn Eleven condo building. Penn Eleven is the future site of the beloved Fragers Hardware, which was situated at the location before a cigarette butt burnt it down in 2013.

This, according to Twitter user Mark Sussman, who tweeted a copy of a sheet providing details about Penn Eleven it handed out at a public event. According to the sheet [9/14 Update: Note, a reliable source has informed me that some of the details are incorrect so I’ve removed the photo from the post and Mark has deleted his tweet, but I have not been asked to remove this quote. Multiple sources have confirmed that this restaurant is coming.], Emilie

will focus on seasonally inspired and local cuisine that will change daily. There will be two ways to dine: one is off the menu where you can order small plates, pasta, larger entrees, and desserts. As you dine, 10 or smaller plates will circulate through the dining room on carts. These nightly specials will be served tableside and be focused on the freshest ingredients served in the purest way possible.

In other words, seems like a very upscale dim sum-style a la State Bird Provisions in San Francisco. No word if Carlie Steiner, who also is a co-owner of Himitsu and is behind the beverage program behind Himitsu, will contribute to the drinks at Emilie, but wouldn’t be surprised. Tien has worked on the Hill before; he used to be at Pineapple & Pearls (the sister wine bar, Little Pearl, is just two blocks away) and did a pop-up in May at ChiKo on Barracks Row. No exact details on when this spot will be opening, but 2019 is a safe bet.

 

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.