Archive for June, 2010

Bar #16 Irish Channel

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Time: Thursday 9-11 (post glorious softball win)

cost:

  • $4 Miller
  • $6 beer
  • $?   rail

Clientele:  Tourists & locals

After our glorious victory in softball we decided to have a beer while continuing our quest to visit every bar in DC. Tonight we hit up the Irish Channel Pub. What is there to say about this place? It is both an Irish bar and a hotel bar. As one walks up you will notice that there is some outside seating, which is always nice. As you step in you will see a fairly large bar, a small stage, a few pub tables and some wooden booths. There is also a dining area but a sit down dinner is not the reason that one comes here. After a few hours of drinking and playing softball we were not looking for a hard night out; just a bite to eat and a few drinks. We sat at the bar and ordered a few beers and a few of us got some grub. As time wore on we lost one of our group to a group of guys outside. I’m not sure what these guys did for a living but they sure reminded me of pirates. In their effort to make time with our friend they provided her with a seemingly endless supply of drinks (Must be nice to be an attractive woman in a bar).

We left her to her fate and finished up our food and drinks. After a few minutes we decided to head outside and relax in the patio. We briefly engaged the pirates in conversation before abandoning our friend and grabbing a table. At this point we were approached by some dude who could have passed for homeless if he were just a little dirtier. I think he wanted a smoke or something. Anyway, after finding out that we worked for various think tanks he decided to engage us in conversation. Although he was prone to idiocracy, like stating that we need to fund NASA cause we are going to kill this planet, he seemed to be fairly intelligent. The conversation segued from politics to history, a subject that I love. After a lively discussion of the factors that contributed to the end of WW2 the skies opened up, we were forced to seek shelter inside and the drifter stepped off into the darkness. Our friend returned to join us while the pirates prepared to head out. Of course being what they were, pirates, they couldn’t leave without making a scene. The first mate had a little scuffle with a staff member and for his troubles he was promptly kicked out. The captain and a few deck hands ushered their friend out the door ( but not before one of them propositioned our friend). Good times.

Although hotel bars generally cater to tourists there is a more of a local feel to this place. This is the type of place where the bartenders know the regulars and if they are off duty they will have a drink with you. Friendly bartenders are a huge plus. Depending on the night that you are here you might experience someone singing, people doing karaoke or just a chill night of drinking. The problem with having the guy performing is that sometimes the music is deafening and it can be a little sing song. I don’t think that I need to state that this is not always a pleasant experience. Like with most Irish places the beer selection leaves something to be desired. They do have a good single malt scotch and Irish whiskey selection. Their prices aren’t bad and won’t destroy your bank account. A beer will run you from $4-6. There is a pretty good list of what one would consider Irish food (After a night of hard drinking the shepard’s pie hits the spot). As you know I’m not a fan of Irish bars but I like this place for the fact that it feels like a local watering hole. Be warned, because of its proximity to the Phone Booth on any day that there is some event being held there this bar will be taken over by whatever hooligans are attending said event. So if you don’t like drinking with large groups of rowdy hockey fans who are rocking the red I’d suggest you check your calendar before heading to the Channel.

One last thing that separates the Channel from other Irish places that I’ve been to is that there are real Irish people working here.

Bar #15: The Raven Grill

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time: Saturday 1:30-close

cost (cash-only):

$3- $4.50 beers (PBR, Miller, Yuengling, Magic Hat, Stella, Guinness, etc.)

$4.50 – $5.50 shots, rails, and mixed drinks.

clientele: ironic hipsters, scenesters and libertarians; local degenerates; Mount Pleasant townies.

(disclosure: Gin Kitten occasionally bartends at the Raven).

What is there to say about The Raven Grill? Beloved by many, this Mount Pleasant neighborhood bar is one of the  oldest establishments in the District. Rumor has it that they’re operating with liquor license #001, granted shortly after prohibition ended. However, this place is so old-school that they don’t even have a freakin’ website to link to, so I don’t think this rumor has ever been confirmed (here’s a neglected facebook fan page).

Truly, the Raven Grill is the divey-est of dive bars. The interior is dark, the space itself is narrow, tiny, and poorly-ventilated, and their drink selection is abysmal. And don’t be fooled by the name – there’s no grill and no food. What the Raven lacks in… well, everything… it makes up for in character. It is the scrappy, mangy underdog to the more conventionally-attractive establishments like Tonic or Marx Cafe.

The Raven is the kind of bar that you either absolutely love (Cupcakes and I), you absolutely hate (Samedi), or you pretend to absolutely love to impress your cooler-than-thou friends. Seriously. Most of the people who claim to love the Raven are full of shit. Stop kidding yourself – you’re a hipster who fancies himself a hep cat because he drinks PBR at one of DCs most-beloved dive bars. On some weekends, bearded boys donning fedoras and women’s jeans, along with their anorexic, bespectacled girlfriends descend upon the place like vultures, crowding the place so that getting a drink without getting sandwiched by hipster musk is nearly impossible, all of them competing in that age-old scenester pissing contest of who can get the most “indie-cred” or whatever conceptual bullshit they use for social currency. Listen: if you take a bus to get to the Raven, you’ve already lost that contest. But I digress. If you can secure yourself a booth or a spot at the bar among the scenester circus, the Raven can still be an enjoyable experience.

Hipsters aside, the Raven is an ideal lazy, cheap location to drink just for the sake of going to a bar where everyone knows your name (I’ve been christened by a regular as the bar’s version of Shelly Long). Weeknights are the best time to visit. The staff are all interesting, friendly people, and the owner emmigrated from Ethiopia after a fascist government seized all of his property, so you’ve gotta give him some entrepreneurial kudos. The old-school jukebox has a lot of really great, eclectic music, though sometimes it gets dominated by some jackass playing the same six songs. The only thing that the Raven is missing is the thick haze of a smoking bar – thankyouveryMUCH DC city council.

The clientele is really what makes this place such a good time. It’s definitely a mixed bag of degeneracy: the hispanic ADHD guy sporting an Ed Hardy t-shirt and a fauxhawk; the tattooed barback who was once pronounced clinically dead for seven minutes and somehow was spontaneously revived; the long-haired bartender with a savant-like understanding of congressional districts and elections; the rag-tag crew of overeducated libertarian think-tankers; the slew of cokeheads who sometimes steal people’s drinks off the bar; the employees from the bar up the street who know that the Raven is the superior watering hole… it’s all part of the package called The Raven Grill. Indeed, the Raven is a microcosm of an ideal world, a world where people from all walks of life come together to drink in peace and harmony. What unites all these people? Well, if I had to guess, I’d say it’s their unquenchable thirst for human interaction and the enduring wisdom that alcohol is not only the cause of, but is also the solution to, all of life’s problems.

Bar #14: Solly’s Tavern

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Time: Saturday 9-11

Cost:

  • $4 miller (tall boy)
  • $6 decent beer
  • $4 rail

Clientele: locals with a very Cheers flavor

We arrived at Solly’s Tavern, The Dive of U Street, following 4 hours of day-drinking at a bbq, all of us still damp from the afternoon’s light drizzle. We immediately booked it upstairs to find our people and some space. Because we were wet, it felt over-air-conditioned, but as the crowd poured in and the liquor flowed I warmed up. A man who could be best described as a caveman bought me a PBR, and I noticed they were watching Star Wars at the bar. Gin Kitten entertained herself with the caveman, while I went off to regale myself in stories among friends I hadn’t seen in years.

Solly’s has the ability to be great when it is empty, but when it’s packed (like any weekend night) it becomes hard to get a beer and difficult to jockey for a position among the floor of tables upstairs. These nights are only ever recommended with a group of people and this particular night we were rolling at least 30 deep (yes, we helped pack the place).

The downstairs area is small, but the bartender is great and it won’t take you long to get a drink from him. I pretty much love this bartender if for nothing else but his long hair and rock t-shirts which remind me of home. The windows in this bar are a particularly great feature. downstairs has two separate window nooks that you can chill in, and the upstairs windows provide a great view of U-St. Also of note are the juke-box and Safari Buck Hunter.

But I must say, the best part about this bar is the patio. Even though it was still drizzling on and off this evening, much of our time was spent out there. The patio is also a nice stop on the way home after work, but make sure to get there early.

Bar #13: The Passenger

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Time: Friday midnight-close

cost:

  • no cheap beer
  • $5+ decent
  • $7 rail

clientele: hipsters, scenesters and posers

We ended up at the Passenger at the end of a long night of drinking, crazies and reminiscing. At this point we managed to whittle down the large group from Laughing Man to a manageable group of 10-20. I can’t be sure exactly how many since my blood was well saturated.

Upon entering there’s a large unused space in front of the bar. No tables, just what appears to be a dance floor but is clearly not used as one. I rolled up to the bar to quickly order a drink and rudely placed myself at an ‘open’ spot that happened to break up two people hanging out. I chatted with them briefly and learned that one was a lawyer. Upon learning this I demanded him buy me a drink, but immediately walked off with the beer I purchased and rejoined the group. I was impressed our group managed to find some bar space. This pretty much left us sandwiched between the bar and a wall (or is it supposed to be rock and a hard place?) and in the way of people headed to the bathroom. Near the end of the night I realized some other people caught up with us but brilliantly plopped down in an open booth.

I’m a fan of the decor of this place; black walls, fun lighting and a window seat that is pretty great (though too large and a pain in the ass to get in and out of). The convention center area is sort of an up and coming bar scene as more places have been opening. This brings it’s own set of characters as Samedi notes below. As far as I’m concerned the Passenger is a welcome edition to it (but I won’t be going out of the way to come here).

Here’s what Samedi had to say:

I like the beer selection but the clientele makes me wanna go on a murderous rampage. I hate hipsters, scenesters and posers! I long for the days when they would get robbed and beat up just for being in this neighborhood. Everytime I’m in a bar like this and hear one of them complain how the neighborhood isn’t what it once was I wanna slap them with a chair and ask them if they are talking about when they were still living in whatever shitty part of the midwest they are from.

And for future reference ending the night with a Martini night cap equals bad idea. I just remember the sweet sweet taste of a salty olive.

Note: Gin Kitten and I believe the heart of the midwest is fantastic but the other states can piss-off.

Bar #12: Fado’s

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Time: Friday 11:15

Cost:

  • $5.50 Miller
  • $6.50 decent
  • $6.50 rail

Clientèle: Patrons complaining about DC’s lack of a “real Irish bar.” (then again, you’ll find this in ANY Irish-themed bar).

Before I get into this I must state that I hate Irish bars. It’s not that I don’t like the Irish. In fact some of my best friends are of Irish descent (LMAO). It’s simply that I don’t understand the fascination with Irish bars. Did they invent bars? What’s weird is that every time I’m in one of these bars I hear people complaining about the lack of “authentic” Irish bars. What the fuck is an authentic Irish bar? The vast majority of the ones that I’ve been to are generic and lack character. But somehow they are all over the fucking place. Personally I’d be fine with a couple hundred less Irish bars in Washington, DC. Having said that I’ll get into this.

We stopped into what I can only describe as a dimly lit cavern. I know that I’ve described other places as caves but the further you walk into Fado the more you feel like you are going spelunking. It really does remind one of of a cavern. The first thing that I noticed was the lack of lighting. Did they forget to pay their electric bill? I’m not sure what they hope to accomplish with the lack of lighting but it does a disservice to their patrons. No one wants to be the person leaving with what they thought was some hot one-night action, only to step outside and realize that they just picked up Vera. Fado is dominated by the bar in the center. Even with this huge bar it is easier to flag a yellow cab in Machu Picchu than it is to get a drink in this place. The establishment is usually packed to the gills. The beer selection sucks ass. You will not find anything tasty or exceptional on their menu. A beer will run you between $5 to $7 dollars and a rail drink will cost you about $7. I’m not sure what to make of the clientele. It seems to range from early 20-somethings to middle-age dad-type guys and beyond. This is one aspect of the place that I like. I love a bar with this much diversity. We stayed here for exactly one drink before running for the hills. This place is not my cup of tea.

Bar #11 Laughing Man

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Time: Friday at 9

Cost:

  • $4.50 Miller
  • $6 decent
  • $6 rail

Clientele: 150 libertarians (jk), professionals who work in the area, tourists on the weekend and a few locals

I arrived at Laughing Man a little late accompanied by Cupcakes and Gin Kitten. We were expecting a pretty wild night as we were meeting about 150 libertarians who were in town for an event. As we all know, when libertarians are involved, all rules go out the window. We had no idea where the night was going to lead. Hell, I might come to in Columbia doing lines of blow off of peasant girls, with empty bottles of rum scattered around the room and armed to the teeth with automatic weapons. What I’m trying to say is that when hanging with libertards one needs to buckle your chinstrap, grit your teeth and brace yourself. When we walked in we realized that our group was downstairs. I don’t know of you are aware of this but I hate bars that are downstairs. It really does remind me of being led to my execution in the bowels of Lubyanka. I shook off the ghosts and descended into this section of the bar.

I stepped into a fairly well lit room that is dominated by a good size bar. Although it was crowded the service was good. I never spent more than a minute waiting to order a drink. At this point I must confess that although I’ve been to Laughing Man many times I’m not a big fan of the downstairs. It can be loud and the music sometimes sucks. The upstairs is much better. There is abundant natural light and if you are lucky enough to get a seat at one of the tables near the front you are golden. I’ve found the service at the upstairs bar to be just as good as the downstairs bar. Like many bars in the District they are working on getting a permit to have outside seating. Hopefully I won’t be dead before this happens.

They have one of the best happy hour specials in town. Appetizers are $4 from 3-7 and drink specials run from 3-8 ($3.25 domestic drafts, $4 premium drafts and $5 martinis). Recently I rediscovered my love of a dirty martini and let me tell you pimpin’ this place makes a great dirty martini. And they are cheap! What’s not to like about these prices? During the week you will be surrounded by professionals who work in the area but on the weekend it will be somewhat deserted other than tourists and very few locals.

As the night wore on the alcohol continued to flow freely and the conversation bounced from things like public policy to what people have been up to in the last few years. As we prepared to leave I couldn’t help but to think that although it wouldn’t be my bar of choice, I enjoyed it. Laughing Man is a good place to start off a weeknight of drinking.

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