Bar #28: Meridian Pint

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Time: Saturday @ 7
Cost: reasonable
Clientele: locals & beer lovers

As I approached the open garage style doors of the Meridian Pint I struggled to find an actual door. I did however find one and avoided the awkward squeezing between people’s tables to get inside. The rest of the gang was running late. So I bellied up to the bar ordered an IPA and absorbed my surroundings. a few booths are in the back but generally a very open feel. The kitchen is visible from the main room. And from the smells and sights I was tempted to order something. Given Gin Kitten’s later experience with their food (“delicious!”), I should have planned my dinner for here.

Gin Kitten finally arrived and found herself downstairs, so I went and joined her. The basement has a similar feel, except it lacked any daylight. In fact the basement was so open that it reminded me of a high school friend’s parent’s new basement, big, open, empty. Leaving me afraid that if someone got too drunk they’d fall and crack their head open on the cement.

We sat at the bar. Behind us were 2 6-8 person booths with taps so you can serve yourself until you run out (or they cut you off). That sounds awesome, but they only fill the taps with beers of broad appeal, so you probably wouldn’t be able to get a full tap of your favorite microbrew. They take 2 hour reservations for these spots, whether you are 2 people or 8. I must say I was bothered that I hadn’t thought to call ahead and reserve one. There are also 2 pool tables (big plus).

When Samedi arrived he went straight for the gold, three tasters of various beers. “The bartender knew his craft. He made a few suggestions that were dead on (he used to work at Churchkey).” I wish I’d done the same, but I didn’t notice the tasters until after I ordered my beer.

Other things of note: on the back of their menu they make a big stink about being “green”. Whatever that really means, but points I liked included all beer comes from fairly local micro-brews (big plus) and they compost 90% of their waste (rather they send it to a composting site).

Bar #27 – The Pug

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This post was written by another one of our guest-bloggers.

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When I stumbled into the Pug, a strange feeling washed over me that I can only equate to coming home after a long absence. My first thought was that this was how the folks in Cheers used to feel when they walked down those steps. I was immediately surrounded by friends and the sounds of merriment, and in the low warm light even total strangers seemed like old chums.

I want to qualify these observations with the fact that I had been drinking for hours and was hammered out of my gourd. I had also just gotten off a loud fluorescent bus, so anything would have been an improvement other than the back seat of a police car. The Pug, however, is a place made for hazy details and pleasantly fuzzy memories.

I seem to recall that there was a ton of old war-related stuff on the walls, like big model planes and pictures of old battleships. It reminded me of a really classy VFW hall, sans despair. Good woodwork, too.

As soon as I walked in the door, someone handed me a Shiner and did not ask for money. (For those of you who don’t know, Shiner Bock is like the PBR of Texas) This happened several times. I’m pretty sure I paid $9 for a draft of Flying Dog and a can of PBR at some point in the evening. As far as I’m concerned, that alone solidifies The Pug’s position among my “pretty good joints”, the only criteria being access to reasonably priced good beer and cheap beer that is NOT Budweiser. I didn’t have any of the food, but it smelled fucking righteous.

Outside, there was a dude drawing portraits on matchbooks for money. They looked nothing like any of the people who got them, and contained some strange, indecipherable code of letters and numbers. I offered him a beer, but I think he was denied access on account of craziness.

In terms of Atlas District bars, this is a great spot to meet up with your buddies in a comfortable atmosphere without the costliness or pomposity that comes with some other H Street watering holes. The mood is jovial, and the place is, by all accounts, always filled but never crowded. Great for riding a buzz to just the right place.

– “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”

Image courtesy of http://hitthatdive.com

Bar #26: The Palace of Wonders

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Time: Saturday 7
Clientèle: H-st regulars, tats, piercings, dancers, and freaks
Cost:
$4 Miller

Honestly what’s to be said? When I walked through the doors I immediately felt like I was home again. Having run away from the circus at the age of 12, walking into Palace of Wonders immediately brought a million emotions and memories rushing back to me. Like how excited I was when I was finally old enough to be shot out of the cannon. Or how terrified we all were when we weren’t sure if the lion would let go of Petri’s head.

On this night the Palace of Wonders had a Burlesque show, with a cover of $20. We didn’t have time to stay for it so I explained our situation to the bouncer who graciously let us in for a drink or two before the show started. The place was empty and with the first floor set-up for the show we headed straight upstairs. Along the wall were display cases filled with old familiar items and new pieces I’d never seen in my old days. Among the shrunken heads, a mermaid, a furry fish, an 8-legged goat and numerous other items it was difficult to see all the shocking and amazing things displayed here.

As I sat and drank my PBR tall-boy I noticed the rest of the bar. Like many bars in DC it is a narrow row house that would be tight for space on a busy night. This is the type of bar where you can easily just hangout, drink and chat with your friends: not too loud, not too crowded, perfect atmosphere (reminds me of the tent). When I went downstairs to the loo I found myself chatting with one of the burlesque performers about his tattoos. I knew I had to leave before the show started or the conversation went any further, otherwise I might be tempted to run away from my current life to join this troupe or return to the circus where I came from (though it must be said, DC does remind me of the circus).

Bar #25: The Red and the Black

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Time: Saturday, 9-ish.

Cost: comparable to other bars in the area.

Clientele: Metal-heads, punk-rockers, H-street hipsters, neighborhood locals, and one cat.

The next bar review in our H Street series is the Red and the Black, the N’awlins-themed tavern next door to Palace of Wonders. In fact, later this year, both bars are going to knock out the dividing wall and become the Red Palace. Which kind of means that this post unnecessary, since we’ll surely be heading back to H-st again soon. Nevertheless…

R&B is one of the new music venues on H-st, and there was a show upstairs that night. Samehdi and I thought that, since we are bar bloggers, we should be given an opportunity to check out the performance space. Unfortunately, the bouncer didn’t see it that way. We asked if we could just “take a peek,” and then when we were denied, I gave him the whole “Don’t you know who we ARE?”and“but we’re BLOGGERS!” and etc., but he still wouldn’t let us in if we didn’t cough up $10 apiece. As far as I know, the bar predominantly features metal and punk shows (that is, shitty testosterone-fueled cock-rock), so I doubt I’ll be going back to check out the upstairs anytime soon. However, many Yelp reviewers have complained that the space is really small and reaches capacity too quickly. In fact, that argument could be made against the lower level, as well. We had a group of about 10 people, but we couldn’t find any tables or spaces large enough to all be together.

The bar has a neighborhood alley cat that sometimes comes in and chills with the customers. The staff didn’t know to whom the cat belonged, but assured us that it was very friendly, and a few patrons were even getting cozy with it.

The beer selection has enough variety to please anyone who’s not a beer snob. Unless you’re coming to see a show, The Red and The Black isn’t going to be an H-St destination bar. But if you’re in the neighborhood or you live nearby, it’s a decent place to have a few inexpensive beers.

I’ll look forward to seeing the new Red Palace later this year.

Bar #24: H Street Country Club

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Time: Saturday @ 5:30

Cost:

$4 Bud

$5.50 beer

$5.50 rail

Luckily, we got to H Street Country Club before it got too crowded. We sat down at a booth and ordered some drinks. We each found ourselves distracted here. I went and played skee-ball with a couple friends, while Gin Kitten went upstairs to play 9 holes of putt-putt and Samedi bellied-up to the bar. Beer selection and wait-staff are average, except for their Irish bartender, who despite being in the US for the past 15 years still speaks with a phenomenal Irish brogue (how come they don’t have one of those next door at the Star & Shamrock?).

Later in the evening it’s nearly impossible to find a spot to stand where you are not in the way of someone playing some game, whether skeeball, shuffle board or big buck hunter. And trying to even play one of the games is more effort than it takes to get to H-St.

Whether you are coming here for the games or the local bar experience your best luck is to come during the week or early on the weekends. For awhile I was coming here regularly on Tuesdays in an attempt to hustle some fools at skeeball. The place would fill-up with just us and the locals. H-street is dead during the week, leaving me surprised that all of the bars are charging $4 for shit beer (read Bud or Miller). Perhaps my biggest complaint about the H-street area is that it is for the most part over-priced given it’s location and selection. As for H-Street Country Club, it feels more novel in the sense of ‘I’m glad I did that, but don’t plan on doing it again,’ than like a good ole fashion bar.

Bar #23 Star and Shamrock

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Time: Saturday @ 5
Clientele: Locals
Price:
$4 Bud
$5 Beers
$5 Rails

I know what you are thinking. In fact I’m thinking the same thing. Another effing Irish bar and this guy is writing it up. Why him? He is just gonna talk about how much he hates Irish bars. Well guess what: You are 100% correct.Now after we stepped out of Biergarten Haus I was feeling great. I’d just found a place that serves great beer in a fantastic atmosphere. I wasn’t sure where we were heading next but I kinda figured that we would not be upping that bar. I realized the next bar on the list was the Star and Shamrock Tavern & Deli. As you all know I’m not a fan of Irish bars. I think that they are overrated. It’s like they invented drinking or something. I personally find them to be generic. Even with this floating through my mind I held hopes for this place. After all, it’s an Irish bar with a Jewish twist. I was curious about how this all melded together. We stepped inside. The bar had a few patrons so we were able to get our choice of places to sit. We picked a table near the window and settled in. Our waitress brought us menus and we started to decide on what to order. I must admit that I was a little impressed by the menu. Generally I’m looking for a place that has two beers that I like at a decent price. They had several beers that I enjoy along with some Hebrew beers that I’ve never tried. The whiskey menu was also good and they offered certain whiskey shots for $5 each. As we waited for our orders we were given Guinness beads, Nationals t-shirts, and hats. You know those hats that look like leprechaun hats. Our drinks were cold and tasty and the staff was both helpful and nice. I must admit that although I liked the staff this place didn’t really stand out from any other Irish bar. I guess there is that Jewish deli in the back but it’s a little out of the way and one could be in this place and never notice it. Besides, how often are you in an Irish bar and find yourself craving Jewish food? A friend and I decided to order up a round of shots to keep things flowing. We hung here for a little while longer and decided to cut out of there and head to the next destination.

The best thing about this place is the story behind how it came to be. Apparently the owners are an Irish/Jewish couple. They were thinking that they were going to open up an Irish bar and eventually settled on this place. The first Friday’s of the month they have discounted Jewish fare and the 17th of the month is discounted Irish fare. This is all nice but at the end of the day it is just another Jewish (Irish?) bar.

They were also giving away free swag – I got a t-shirt, and we all got Mardi Gras beads.

Bar #22: Biergarten Haus

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Time: Saturday 3:30pm
Clientele: DC drinkers
Cost:  beer –  $6.36 and up

On this day we were checking out some of the places on H Street (The Atlas District). We decided to meet up at Biergarten Haus. I’d been out doing some shopping and felt like I would be late, nothing unusual if you know me, so I decided to hop a cab. On this gorgeous day i was looking forward to having a few liters of good beer, perhaps some pretzels and brats and reminiscing about the time I spent in Bavaria hunting down those war criminals, the Von Trapps. H Street was under construction so the road was all effed up. Those of you familiar with the District know that this could be the case for years to come. I’ve literally seen some streets in DC under construction for years. This wouldn’t be noteworthy except for the fact that it is usually the same blocks on the same street.

Anyway, my guest and I hopped out of the cab and much to my surprise were the first to arrive. We stepped in and went straight to the back. What’s the the point of being here if one sits inside? As we stepped through i noticed a deer head hanging over the bar. I like this place. We stepped out onto a cobble stoned backyard and sat at a table near the fountain. Although the place wasn’t at capacity there were a good number of people already eating and drinking. There were several projectors showing the British Open, Yawn! We ordered a couple half liters of beer and chatted while waiting for the rest of our party to arrive. Mere minutes later Gin Kitten arrived and ordered her own half liter. I ordered the Hofbrau and I have to say that it was tasty. In fact the general consensus in our group was that all the beers

were excellent. We ordered a second round but this time I went for a Spaten Optimator Dopplebock. What is there to say about this beer? It was like the skies opened up and a single ray of sunshine was illuminating me. This thing was delicious! I know I’ve said that other beers are delicious before but this was above and beyond. I fought back the urge to cry for joy. At this point Cupcakes and another friend arrived.

Cupcakes had been chatting with an old college friend and informed us that there was a nice breeze blowing through the open door at the back of the patio so we decided to move the party so that we could take advantage of that. While waiting for another round to arrive (No, I do *not* have a drinking problem, ahem), I went to the doorway by the alley to have a smoke. There I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who for the sake of this article we’ll call Drunky. Now, Drunky lives in the neighborhood and had the grizzled look of a man who has spent his whole life wrestling alligators into submission with his bare hands. He started telling me that the neighborhood has become even more dangerous since they opened up these bars. I didn’t think that this was possible. It’s like saying that the momma badger whose pups you are juggling while poking her with a stick managed to become even angrier after a good taunting. Drunky said that he has been robbed at gunpoint twice and had his house broken into twice. I couldn’t believe any robber could rob this man and live to tell the tale. This was the meanest looking s.o.b that I’ve encountered in a long while. Regardless, it is kinda funny to know that some parts of the city that I grew up with are still alive and kicking.
I went back to my table and killed another beer. My friend ordered some pretzels and offered me a bite. I’m not sure if it was the alcohol or the fact that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast – either way they were right on time. At this point we were here for much longer than we planned to be, so we decided that it was time to hit up another spot.
After a few hours of drinking here I have a few quick thoughts. I love this place. Real German beer, cheesy German music, some authentic German food and outdoor seating. We arrived at 3 and initially we thought that was a little early. The waitstaff was awesome. They even accommodated us when we asked to switch tables (didn’t even ask us to close out and start a new tab). Although there were a good number of people there it wasn’t packed. By the time we left at 4:30 or so the place was noticeably more crowded  and there seemed to be a continuous stream of people trickling in. A friend went there later in the night and he said it was as loud and crowded as an AC/DC concert. The only thing missing was some Hoff.
carl

Bar #21: MOVA Lounge

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Time: Wednesday 7-8
Cost:

  • $6 Blue Moon
  • $9 Martini

Clientele: Gay men and lady friends

 

We stepped into MOVA between cigarettes outside of Stoney’s. The place reeked of martinis and mojitos. Looking around, I felt like I was in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. The first floor is decorated in what is best termed ‘modern decor’; white, rounded walls, mirrors to open the space, etc. It’s not my favorite kind of decor in the least. As I was reminded of Malcolm McDowell singing “Singing in the Rain,” I looked up and was immediately surprised by what could only be described as Chuck E’ Cheese lighting below industrial ceilings. Not being an interior designer, I’d suggest this place for a make-over on one of those cable shows.

Samedi ordered us martinis. After the bartender filled our glasses with ice, Samedi informed the bartender that we didn’t want ice in our martinis (obviously). To which the bartender replied “It’s to cool the glass” in such a flamboyent cocky manner that I think Samedi was both embarrassed and pissed at the dude while I just found the bartender to be highly amusing.

There were some decent looking men here, but then there were a few of those greasy types as well, the ones you know come there regularly and get very little attention, wearing their gold chain and half buttoned shirt with billowing chest hair (see Carl to the right). In the back of the bar someone was having a b-day, which included 4 women. On a clubbing night I can only imagine the same clientele but with more scantily dressed women trying to get their groove on without being molested by straight men.  After my tall, blonde, attractive guy friend arrived and realized that he felt uncomfortable with all the male attention, we downed our delicious drinks and headed out for another smoke.

Bar #20: Stoney’s Lounge

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Time: Wednesday 6-8
Cost:

  • $4 Bud light
  • $5 Beer
  • $5 Rail

Clientèle: Locals

On a sweltering day like this nothing is better than a tall cold one in an air conditioned haven. We decided to hit up Stoney’s on P street. I must confess that I’ve been going to Stoney’s since it was a divey cop bar on L street. It was the type of place where you could walk in and get rude service from one of the many seemingly disgruntled employees. Usually by the time you walked out, you’d be covered in a thin layer of atmospheric grease. Basically it used to be a no frills place where the menu was rather minimalistic, but on nice days they would open up the windows to let in a cool breeze, or if you were lucky you could get one of the few tables that were situated outside. I frequented this place because it was very close to the job. Hell, I was there so often that they actually knew my name and would serve any person (intern) that we brought in. When they closed DC lost one of its better dive bars.

On this day it must have been close to 100 degrees outside so the cold air that hit me in the face when I walked in was more than welcome. I looked around the downstairs bar but didn’t see Cupcakes so I ducked through the door to the left and headed upstairs. I found her at the bar, pulled up a stool and ordered a Lagunitus Pils. As I took my first sip I had to wonder if there is anything better on a scorcher like today than a ice cold beer? I think not. Before we were able to finish our first beers Gin Kitten walked in. Although she looked a bit like a hobo she swore that she had just come from work. We ordered another round and drank in our surroundings. Although every seat at the downstairs bar was occupied the upstairs was fairly deserted. While you can usually get a good beer upstairs the downstairs is where it’s at. Down there you can find something that would appeal to anyone. Feel like a cider? They got that. Feel like an IPA? They got that too. You get the idea. After another beer we settled up and headed out to check out Mova, the gay bar next door.

After Mova, we intended to stop at Stoney’s again, if for no other reason than to get the Mova-stink off of us. This time we went straight upstairs. By now it was close to eight and the place was getting packed. There was no seating at the bar and there were many more people roaming around. The bartender informed us that this was the second week that they were doing trivia and apparently people love trivia nights. Being as we were not here to play trivia we decided to head out. I guess on this night i’ll have to settle for a scalding shower to wash the stink of Mova off.

Comparing this newer location to the old one just doesn’t seem right to me. While it might have lost that new bar smell its a far cry from what the old location was. This place is much larger and nicer. The menu has been expanded, although there is still nothing too fancy here just the staples that one would expect in a decent bar. Personally I love the mac and cheese. The bar area is rather smallish. I’d say that you can fit about 15 people around it but they make up for it by having a few tables surrounding it. Much like the old one on a nice day they will open up the windows to allow a nice breeze to blow through. The one area that the old one outshone the new was outside seating. They usually have two small tables out front and those are usually occupied early on and rarely relinquished. If you are lucky enough to cop one of these it is a great vantage point from which to do a little people watching. If you can’t get these and still wanna check out the yuppies, hipsters and weirdo’s you can still do this from the window tables

If you have a larger group then I’d suggest heading upstairs. This area is not usually crowded so it should be able to accommodate you. There is a loungey area to the back with couches and a coffee table. They also have an internet jukebox up there so you can pick what you want to listen to. Much to my disappointment they removed the pool table from the front area of the upstairs and replaced it with more tables. I get that people probably weren’t using it much and more tables means more customers but it just seems to me that good bars should have a pool table. On the bright side, the prices here are comparable to just about any other bar in the city.

Bar #19: Big Hunt

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Time: Saturday 12am – close

Cost:

  • $4 Miller
  • $5 ‘ass’ beer
  • $5 rail

Clientele: tattools and regular local DC folk/interns

This was the last stop during my joint b-day celebration. Upon entering we headed straight upstairs ordered our choice of beer with ‘ass’ in the name (eg. big-ass wheat) and made our way out to the patio. We clearly love outdoor space and this spot was no different, but it was a wet night and Big Hunt has no covering for the patio. Luckily when placed on a bench, my bright yellow raincoat also doubles for a dry spot to sit. The patio is a bit strange as it’s placed between tall buildings, but it does the trick.

The night was filled with fake tattoos for all and unlike the previous bars we hit up they fit in at the Big Hunt. With people wearing stars on their faces, skulls on their shoulders and vampire bite marks on their necks we managed to fit right in. Well, as much as you can while wearing fake tattoos. At some point I managed to make my way to the jukebox. After putting $5 in I couldn’t manage to find all the songs I was looking for which is unacceptable from any modern jukebox. It was necessary that I play my namesake song. Talking Heads seemed to appease me and I rejoined the group to continue celebrating such a joyous occasion as Say Aah played over the speakers.

With monstrous teeth lining the ceiling and tats scattered throughout the bar, this place has a divey feel that is rare in Dupont. The beers on tap are decent and different from the regular fare you’ll find in most bars. Prices are reasonable but not cheap dive-bar prices.

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