Bar #18: Public Bar


Time: Friday 10-12

Cost: $5 Miller

Clientèle:  Regular DC weekend crowds

This place is one that I read about on the Washington Post some months back. I believe that the going out gurus came here when it first opened. I don’t trust those guys but they said it was a cool sports bar and man do I love a good sports bar.

As I walked up the stairs I couldn’t help but to reminisce about the days when this used to be Club Five. I’ve spent many a night here dancing and drinking the night away and I was very interested to see what they had done to the place. I was feeling pretty good as I had already consumed about three martinis and two beers at that god awful Gazuza. I walked up the stairs and stepped into the space that leads to where the main dance floor used to be. I did a lap around the place to see if they could really be considered a sports bar. There are a good number of tv’s lining the walls and I really do like the immense windows overlooking Connecticut Avenue. Its a damn shame that there weren’t multiple games on that night. Apparently some of the tv’s can be controlled by the patrons who are closest. If you have ever been frustrated in a sports bar when the nearest tv is showing a blowout you know this could be a pretty sweet feature. Even though this is supposed to be a sports bar on this night it feels more like a nightclub. There were plenty of people who were dressed to impress and there was pounding dance music coming through the speakers. There is a pretty large open space in the middle (Used to be the dance floor at Five). I do kinda feel that all that is a bit of a waste. On any game day you could fit multiple tables in there and it didn’t seem that it is being used as a dance floor either so what’s the purpose? At this point i decided to head upstairs to join my group. I stepped out on the deck and it was packed to the gills. I can’t say I blame everyone for being up here. It is by far the best feature of the place. I found my group and we pushed up to the bar. Even though the mix of intoxicants in my system had my head spinning I decided to order up another dirty vodka martini (since i was already drinking them why change now). The bartender informed me that they can’t serve you drinks in glasses on the deck. Whatever! Just get me that drink. I received my martini and much to my surprise it was incredibly tasty. At this point I’m standing there sucking down martinis at what might be record pace surrounded by several attractive women. Damn life is good! A group of guys trying to get to the bar invade our space and at first I’m understandably irritated. One of them strikes up a conversation and they turn out to be pretty cool. We are kicking it for a little while, making plans to get up when one of them decided to make clumsy advances on one of the ladies in my group. Undeterred by her lack of interest he continues to press his luck. After several minutes he gets the not to subtle hint and leaves it alone. The women are visibly irritated so I order up a round of shots to take the edge off. Bad idea! Although they were tasty this is what pushed some of us over the edge. I can see it on faces. Heads are spinning and stomachs are churning. At this point I escort one of the ladies outside, we chat for a few minutes and against our better judgement we decide to continue with the night. As we walk off I can only think that this can lead nowhere good.

I enjoyed my time at Public Bar. I thought that it was pricey for a place that is supposed to be some sort of sports bar. I didn’t try the food and I’ve heard that it is pretty tasty. The drink prices aren’t too bad depending on what you are drinking. A Miller Lite will run you about $5. Since I didn’t get the full sports bar experience I think that another visit is in the cards. I’m thinking during football season.

Bar #17 Gazuza


Time: Friday 6-9

Cost (happy hour prices):

$4 beer

$6 martinis

$9 Cuba Libre

Clientele: Hookah enthusiasts; people who like red interiors

It was Cupcakes’ birthday, and we were preparing to go out balls-to-the-wall that night. Our night would begin at Gazuza, a hookah-sushi-martini bar located in Dupont Circle. After assisting the birthday girl with the careful and diligent application of around 35 or 40 fake tattoos (we were going to give her two full sleeves of skulls, guitars, and glittery unicorns, but we got bored after doing just one upper-arm), we embarked to meet our friends at Gazuza.

When we arrived at the second-story martini bar, the place was dead, save for a small group of interns from Cupcakes’ office who were celebrating the end of their semester. This was okay, though, because it gave me a chance to scope out the place. It’s very pretty inside, with crimson painted walls and intimate seating areas with low-sitting chairs and tables. The patio is the bar’s best feature. It’s a huge second-level space with a roof and plenty of seating, separated from the rest of the bar by a glass wall.

I drank Heinekens all evening, and when happy hour was over Miller Lites, and Cupcakes and I ordered some sushi. The food was decent but not notable, but at 50% off for happy hour, I’m not complaining. Once our other friends started to arrive, the pace of the evening picked up. The space upstairs is wide open and is great for rolling from one conversation to another amidst a large group. And hookah! I don’t know how many hookah bars DC has, but the only other one I’ve been to in the area was attached to an Indian restaurant of questionable cleanliness where Indian pop music blasted from the speakers straight into my central nervous system. Sharing hookah with friends in Gazuza felt like luxury by comparison.

I should note that many of our friends were not digging this joint (Samedi included). One buddy of ours even refused to come meet us until we had moved on to the next venue (he eventually showed up after a verbal smackdown courtesy of yours truly, though he still wouldn’t quit bitching). But once the party got rolling, people were sufficiently boozed up to not much care where they were anymore. Despite their complaints, the crowd hung around for 2-3 hours before heading off towards Public Bar.

A few things that didn’t sit well with me: you can smoke a hookah indoors, but not cigarettes. I wonder if they would allow cloves, or other nicotine products that smelled sufficiently like muffins and kittens and rainbows and all the happy stuff that delicious smokeable treats and ladies’ farts are made up of. Also, the staff will not close out your tab if you have a specific waitress, you have to wait for her, no matter how busy or inattentive she may be. Every place that does this pisses me the fuck off. I’m a paying customer, how dare any business owner inconvenience me while taking my money. My waitress was busy serving while two other waitresses just stood by the register dicking around, not even acknowledging me. Customer Service rule #1: never, EVER pretend not to see a customer. These same waitresses were also nudging and jostling their patrons around on their way to and from the kitchen, instead of just saying “excuse me” like normal people.

Final thoughts: nicely designed, great patio with a nice view of the street, hookah, overpriced, service started out alright but quickly fell to “meh” and then “blows.”

Bar #16 Irish Channel


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


  • $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


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


Time: Saturday 9-11


  • $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


Time: Friday midnight-close


  • 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


Time: Friday 11:15


  • $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


Time: Friday at 9


  • $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.

Bar #10 Finn & Porter


time: Friday 7:45

$4.50 Bud

$6+ decent beer

$7-9 rail

Clientele: lonely professionals (hotel guests) and interns

This particular evening of shenanigans kicked off at Finn & Porter. We were coming from a nearby reception and we had plenty of drinking with friends and colleagues on the agenda for the night. Because the only vegetarian-friendly food at the aforementioned reception was crackers (seriously), I suggested we stop at F&P for a snack, if for no other reason than to cross another venue off of our to-visit list.

Finn & Porter is a typical hotel bar. The selection is at best okay, and the decor is unobtrusive, maybe a step below a swanky hotel bar. They do have good happy hour specials, from what I remember from my days as an intern at a nearby organization. The bar/snack menu has a lot of good options on it. Nothing is super-cheap, but then everything seems to be of good quality too. I ordered the margherita flatbread, and it was scrumptious.

One thing that I’ve always remembered about this place was the time the waiter told me that they have “the best sushi in DC.” I don’t remember whether or not the sushi was any good, which is proof enough that guy was a big fat liar.

While Finn & Porter may not be a destination bar, it is a good place to do happy hour or grab a snack if you work in the neighborhood (it’s located on K and 10th).

Bar #9 Wonderland Ballroom


Time of visit: Sunday, shortly before last call.

Price: $4 millers, $4 rails, $6 decent beer

Clientèle: pseudo-hipsters and locals

It had been a long night for us, but we managed to hit all the Columbia Heights bars on the list before last call. By the time we’d arrived at Wonderland, we were all admittedly pretty cock-eyed. We’d picked up a couple of new buddies from Looking Glass, both of whom were gay and I’m pretty sure were trying to get Samedi to go to bat for their team, so to speak. But anyway, as we walked in the door, all the patrons inside were lined up and applauding us. At first I thought they were all just awe-struck by the kick-ass cowboy hat I was peacocking with that night, because it’s MAD fly and totally AWESOME, but then I realized that they were just applauding everyone who walked through the door. Sycophants.

Wonderland’s beer selection is alright, but nothing special compared to the Red Derby. They have a minimum for credit/debit card transactions, which J found out when he tried to order two PBRs (he solved this problem not by buying two more expensive drinks, but by buying four PBRs and giving two away to random people – what a nice guy).

Wonderland’s interior is dark, and my memory of the place is that there’s a lot of wood paneling, although I may be completely wrong. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever been sober enough at Wonderland to really pay attention to the details. Given its central neighborhood location, coupled with the fact that it has the only dance floor in CoHi, Wonderland is definitely an end-of-the-night, on-my-way-home destination.

In fact, I’d venture to guess that the second-level dance floor is the bar’s biggest (or only) draw for the weekend crowd. If it’s close to the end of the night, and you don’t want to hoof it all the way to Chief Ike’s or 18th street, then the Wonderland Ballroom is your destination. The dance floor is tiny, and every time I’ve been there, it’s been full of geeky white boys who can’t dance, but are too drunk to realize this, so instead they just kinda bounce, flail, and pump their fists, presumably relying on their drunkenness to relieve them of the awkward memory of their attempt at dancing. Or in the case of our guest blogger, they just bop their heads while double-fisting PBR.

Wonderland is a quaint little not-quite-neighborhood bar. It doesn’t seem to have the same character or cast as the Derby, but as far as neighborhood bars go, you could do a lot worse. I’ve usually had a pretty good time whenever I’ve been there. If bar trivia is your thing, they host it every Monday night. And if you’re in the mood to dance, but don’t want walk very far, this is the place to go (just watch out for the independently-swaying limbs of the other “dancers”). One warning though – it may take you a while to catch a cab on 11th and Kenyon at 3 AM.

Final Thoughts:

Samedi: “Used to be an okay local bar but now its full of fucking hipsters. Makes me wanna start hitting people with bar stools.”

Cupcakes: “I also have several issues with this place. Luckily in the summertime the porch makes it ok.”

J: “I think I creeped some girls out.”

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