Category Archives: Dupont

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

Darlington House – Cantina Pub

Darlington House – Cantina Pub, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1610 20th St. NW (20th and Q), 202-332-3722, opens at 4p (weekdays) 11:30a (weekends), HH 4-7p weekdays, est. 2009 [Yelp]
Darlington House - Cantina Pub

Just north of the Dupont Circle North/Q Street entrance, this basement bar-known as Cantina Pub, though I’ve never heard anyone call it anything except Darlington House-opened up in the old Childe Harold space (which apparently the Boss Bruce Springsteen played at in the 70s) in spring 2009.  This fairly small, low-ceiling’d bar below the much nicer restaurant upstairs, isn’t quite a dive, but is a decent, fun spot to stop by for happy hour and can be surprisingly lively late (though never crowded) on a weekend if you’re in north Dupont.

Front area of bar

Front area of bar

Once you walk in the entrance a few steps down from 20th Street, you’re right in the bar, with the sole, long bar to the left with a few table tops and bar stools on the right.  The place opens up slightly in the back with a few tables for sitting maybe 20 people.  Throughout the inside is one of my opposite-pet-peeves, exposed brick.

Back area of bar

Back area of bar

The beers on tap are nothing to write home/prison about, but there is a decent cocktail and TV situation slong with a covered patio upfront can also fit around 20 people that is good for people watching. Because of the layout, you have to actually walk on the sidewalk to get to the patio; it feels weird to take a beer from the bar (or vice versa), but no one has seemed to mind-yet.

Barred in DC Rating: 3.5/5

 

The Board Room DC

The Board Room DC, website, Facebook, 1737 Connecticut Ave. NW (Conn. and R/S St. NW, near 20th & S), 202-518-7666, opens at 4p (weekdays) noon (weekends), HH 4-7p (weekdays) noon-7p (weekends), est. 2012 [Yelp, WaPo]

Board Room

Board Room

The newest spot from the folks who brought you other game bars like Bedrock Billiards, Rocket Bar, Buffalo Billiards, and Atomic Billiards, this north Dupont spot is my favorite new bar in the city.  Not someone to frequent same bar or restaurant too many times, I’ve ended up here for drinks 4 times in the last month.

Back Upstairs Bar

I was initially very skeptical of the conceit of this spot (reflected in its name): a bar that specializes in board games? I’ve generally held the belief that any bar where folks feel comfortable bringing board games is generally a lame spot (the now-shuttered Leopold’s in Ann Arbor was the first place I noticed this).  But this place does it right, with tons of unique and not-so-unique games (Jenga and UNO are two games I’ve played so far) that you can pay $1-$5 to play (some of the more unique expensive games require you to provide your license; if you don’t want to pay, you can always bring in your own game); even the décor and bartops feature board game themes.   The solid beer list ($5.50-7) along with some fancy-ish $8-9 cocktails (get the Orange Crush) that are made strong keep this bar much livelier than you would expect.

Free Game of Hangman

Like many bars in the vicinity, Board Room is fairly narrow, yet deep spot; recommend going past the long bar in the first floor (with some tables in the back) to go upstairs.  The bar upstairs is much smaller, but I haven’t had much trouble getting drinks from the friendly bartenders and tables always seem to open up after a bit.  One weekends this place gets crowded well before 9PM and stays that way till 12:30am at least, but it’s never unbearably stuffed and folks are friendly and often trade games with other groups when they want to switch it up  One quibble: it would be nice if the bouncer/keeper of the board games had some knowledge of the games that are peddled.  All in all, a fun place to go all week long.

Barred in DC Rating: 4.5/5

 

 

DGS Delicatessen

DGS Delicatessen, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1317 Connecticut Ave. NW (between N and Dupont Circle, near 18th and N), 202-293-4400, open for lunch/brunch & dinner (5:30p) everyday, closes at 10p (Sun-Thurs) 11p (Fri-Sat), HH 5-7p everyday, est. 2012 [Yelp, WaPo]

Hiddenish entrance to bar on 18th St.

Hiddenish entrance to bar on 18th St.

What is a bar? Webster’s defines a “bar” as…I’m not looking up bar in the dictionary. Generally people think of a bar as a place you go to drink.  The overwhelming majority of the bars I’ve listed and I will review are traditionally bars, though many of them serve food.  Some of the places I’ve listed, along with DGS Delicatessen-the subject of this review, are actually really restaurants.  I’m not going to list/review every single restaurant, but I’ve included some worthwhile spots to drink, like DGS, which have a very defined bar area/menu (look at that sweet sign below) and/or have solid happy hour specials, that are not traditional bars and close before midnight, even on weekends.

Sign showing where you are

Sign showing where you are

DGS Delicatessen, which opened up in late 2012, has itself been subject to some yuppie controversy over what’s in a name, as folks are upset  that it really is a spotless, upscale restaurant as opposed to a traditional deli, with gargantuan sandwiches and a lot of old-world character.  With that not in mind, we stopped by for their happy hour on a Friday to grab some bites and drinks in their sliver of the bar tucked in the back with its own hiddenish entrance off 18th street.  Get there by 5:15 or you won’t be able to get one of the 10-15 seats, though the standing room area isn’t too crowded against the exposed brick behind the barstools.  It’s a friendly spot, with some clear regulars there for chopped liver, pickles, latkes, pastrami chili and cheese fries (we got the latter two, which were very good, as was the tongue sliders).  A wide range of ages in there, with some elderly folks along with young couples on a date.  We sampled a few of their cocktails, priced $6-9, mostly $7 (themed names-The Chosen Highball, Le Marais, the Mensch), which were very good and had a couple beers (the ones on special were fairly random-Genesee Cream Ale in a can, Tsingtao and Mama Little Yella Pils in a 12. oz draft) for $3-4.  Tunes from the 70s played on the speaker the whole time we were there, which gave it a pretty chill vibe.  All in all, a solid place for happy hour to get a drink and some unique (for DC) eats.

DGS

Sign out front

Sign out front

Barred in DC Rating: 4/5

 

Maddy’s Bar and Grille

Maddy’s Bar and Grille, websiteFacebookTwitter1726 Connecticut Ave. NW (near 20th & S), 202-483-2266, opens at 11a everyday, HH 4-7p (M-F) midnight-3a (Fri) 2p-2a (Sun), est. 2009 [YelpWaPoTripadvisor]

Maddy’s replaced Timberlake’s, an institution in the northern reaches of Dupont Circle (on Conn. between R & S streets), in late 2009. A fairly standard neighborhood spot, Maddy’s can get crowded around happy hour and during boxing fights, though it’s been empty the couple times I’ve been here late on the weekend. There are a decent amount of tables in the front, on the side opposite the sole, long bar and in the back, but when it gets crowded, the awkward half-wall/partition in the middle of the room requires you to squeeze through to get a drink at the bar. Went here for the Pacquio-Margarito fight in November 2010, very crowded but a great scene; good place to watch fights that isn’t a cavernous sports bar like Public Bar or Buffalo Billiards. Otherwise, haven’t had much reason to stop by despite living in the neighborhood and being a chill spot. The chalkboards above the bar listing the beers on draft, along with their prices, is a nice touch and would be something that other bars should replicate.

Nice touch - chalkboards with beer prices

Nice touch – chalkboards with beer prices

Saturday - 10 PM

Saturday – 10 PM

Barred in DC Rating: 3/5

 

Russia House

Russia House, web siteFacebookTwitter1800 Connecticut Ave. NW (corner of Connecticut & Florida Ave., near 21st & S), 202-234-9433, opens at 5p everyday, closes at midnight except Fri-Sat (2:30a), est. 2003 [YelpWaPoTripadvisorUrbanspoon, Washingtonian]

Way at the top of Dupont Circle neighborhood at the corner of Connecticut and Florida Avenues, this lounge is spread out through several floors and rooms, including a piano bar, all fancily decorated, and apparently is frequently by lots of Russians and other eastern Europeans like Ovie and others Caps players.  Kind of a dark spot and sometimes a weird vibe, I actually am somewhat a fan of this spot, though I haven’t been in a couple years. It’s been open to the public since 2003 (was apparently a semi-private club before that since 1995), same owners as another international-themed spot-Biergarten Haus. Seemingly endless selection of vodkas; the Baltika beers (all named with a #, I think #4 and #7 are good, but that’s just a guess) are worth trying out.

Barred in DC Rating: 3/5