Week in Review – 4/8 – 4/13

Decided to start a new weekly week in review (posted on Mondays), where I summarize developments in the DC bar scene during the previous week (if you follow me at @barredindc you may know much of this already), note any reviews I posted, and recap where I’ve been.  If I’ve missed anything, like always, you’re welcome to email me at barredindc@gmail.com…

  • New Reviews: Light posting this week (next item may explain why), check out my review of the 14th Street barbecue/German beer outside patio, Standard.
  • Barred in DC Activity Buffalo Billiards (Dupont), P.J. Clarke’s (Downtown), Doner Bistro (Adams Morgan), Standard (U Street/Logan Circle), GBD (Dupont) (2X), The Big Hunt (Dupont), Hawk ‘n’ Dove (Capitol Hill) (brunch)
  • Bar News
    • Ri Ra Irish Pub is moving into the old Mie-N-Yu space at 31st and M in Gtown. Surprisingly there really aren’t any Irish bars in Georgetown (as you can see from my St. Paddy’s Day post), so this is a smart call. Ri Ra, a national chain with 12 locations, is completing the DMV after already operating locations in Clarendon and Bethesda) (PoPville)
    • As first reported by Barred in DC last month (probably), Third Edition in Gtown is being transformed into El Centro D.F. Georgetown, adding to the location on 14th Street. Eater DC has a few more details. (Eater DC)
    • As first reported by Barred in DC earlier this week (ok, this is more of stretch, I just took a pic of the sign), the legendary Adams Morgan dive Millie & Al’s is celebrating its 50th anniversary Wed-Fri May 8-10. PoPville has a hilarious tribute of its history by its current owner. (PoPville)
    • New patio bar at the Petworth Hilton Bros. spot Chez Billy (WaPo GOG/Fritz Hahn)
    • Park Tavern in Canal Park near Nats Stadium open (JDland)
    • U Scream (nee Maggie Moo’s) in the Ellington on U Street to become a wine bar with Mexican food despite being next to a terrible Alero’s (PoPville)
    • Ambar, the new highly regarded Serbian restaurant on Barracks Row, opens up a rooftop patio with solid $4 drink HH 4-7p M-F (WaPo GOG/Fritz Hahn)
    • GBD opens for dinner + late night drinks service. GBD is the fried chicken and donuts emporium from the people who brought you Churchkey (Twitter-GBD)
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Garden District

Garden District (formerly Standard), website, Twitter, 1801 14th St. NW (14th & S), opens at 5p (weekdays) noon (weekends), closes at 2a (Fri-Sat), 1a (rest of week), closed Mondays except during summer months, est. 2011 [Yelp, WaPo, Tripadvisor]
Standard

Previously an open lot to pick up plants and little trees, the incredibly popular Garden District (formerly Standard) is, since spring 2011, an open lot to drink large $7 German beers and eat barbecue sandwiches and assorted sides.  Aside from a small building at the back of this lot, which includes the small bar, a couple bathrooms and a few bar stools, this spot is nearly entirely outside, so count on crowds anytime the weather is pleasant (and even if it’s not, as long as it’s not raining or snowing, when the place is closed).  There are a number of communal picnic tables (with a few outside the tall fence that surrounds the lot), but the space is spruced up with some hanging lights, heat lamps, shades from the sun, and the lively crowd.

View of Standard with back to small building
View of Standard with back to small building

Expect a crowd every day after 6pm and on weekend afternoons, though it tends to thin out a bit later in the evening and usually if you can’t find a spot on a picnic table, it’s fine to stand and drink while ordering from the bar in the back.  The pulled pork is great, and consider getting the grilled corn when it’s available; sometimes Garden District fries up some donuts, which are reportedly tremendous.  The prices on the menu seem bizarre ($6.36 for a beer), until you realize that adding the 10% DC tax makes everything a round number.

Small bar area inside
Small bar area inside

Aside from the wait/crowd, this bar also unfortunately (but understandably) is closed for the winter (from mid-November to end of February) and serves only 6-7 draft beers, somewhat bottled sodas, and water (so you cocktail or wine lovers are SOL), but all in all, a good spot to drink and eat outside on the 14th Street corridor.

Barred in DC Rating: 4/5

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

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

 

BlackFinn

BlackFinn, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1620 I St. NW, 202-429-4350, opens at 11a everyday, HH 4-7p weekdays, est. 2009 [Yelp, WaPo, Tripadvisor]
Blackfinn

Unlike most non-lounge/club bars in downtown DC (which really doesn’t exist as a neighborhood, but it’s roughly between 11th and 21st streets between E and L Streets for the purposes of Barredindc), BlackFinn draws a solid crowd for both weekday happy hour and on weekend nights. This faintly upscale standard spot, which has other locations in Bethesda and elsewhere around the country, opened in fall 2009.

Decent-sized patio (see pic above) fronts the traffic of I Street, though you can spot the greenery of Farragut Square catty-corner. Somewhat bizarre revolving doors allows you entry into the bar, which splits into three areas: one long bar on the right with high table tops and several booths (see below pic), a fairly small dining area on the left which is inevitably empty on weekends and late nights, and another bar in the back where tables are often pushed to the side for a dance floor on weekends (see pic further below).  Lots of brown wood in this spot.

Front bar area at Blackfinn
Front bar area at Blackfinn

With a number of tvs, this is a decent spot to get away from the office to watch a mid-day soccer match or conference basketball game, though not the best place on weekends, (despite being my alma mater UVa’s DC watch location) especially late evenings when they switch to the DJ and clear out tables for dancing and meat marketing. The bargoers on weekends are decidedly different than the rest of the week, a surprisingly attractive rowdyish crowd (with your fair share of VA folks since it’s so close to the Orange/Blue Line) that makes the place feel like a less-crowded SOTW or Madhatter.

Back bar area at BlackFinn
Back bar area at BlackFinn

There’s nothing particularly unique (remember it’s part of a chain) about this bar itself, but I do give them points for having Dogfish Head and DC Brau on tap.

Barred in DC Rating: 3/5

 

Chi-Cha Lounge

Chi-Cha Lounge, web site, Facebook, Twitter1624 U St. NW, 202-234-8400, opens at 5p everyday, HH 5-7p M-F, est. 1997 [Yelp, WaPo]

Small hookah bar/lounge with lots of couches, $8 beers, and a dress code.  If you like that sort of thing, you might like it. I don’t. Have been here twice as it was a block away from my old home, but not since 2008. Latin-themed, opened in 1997. Right next to a Barred in DC favorite, Stetson’s-these two bars could not be more different.

Barred in DC Rating: 1.5/5

 

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