On the outside this place looked a bit run down, but once we stepped in, the interior was much nicer than expected. Being as the place is named “Looking Glass,” I expected there to be mirrors and glass everywhere. Much to my disappointment, they don’t live up to their name. The place was incredibly well-lit (not necessarily a good thing), and there was a DJ spinning pounding techno. This was a huge surprise to me, considering that the bar sits in the middle of the Petworth neighborhood.
We quickly ducked downstairs and headed out to the deck. This is the highlight of this bar. They have a spacious patio that is a welcome sight on a nice spring night. Although it is a fairly intimate setting there are several picnic tables which offered seating and seemed to hold a good number of people. Although the deck was nice I couldn’t help but to feel that I was standing in a roach motel. The little buggers were everywhere. Creeping, crawling and freaking me out. Each patron who goes out there should be outfitted with a can of Raid.
This was probably the first bar where we really engaged the patrons and I must admit that the people we met helped to make the venue better. They were friendly and funny and kicked it with us for some time. One of our new friends informed Gin Kitten that she had DSL’s (dick sucking lips). Unable to hide her outrage at this comment she stormed off. Her anger was abated when one of the other guys informed her that they were gay.
This is where the night starts to head downhill. Someone had declared war and the shots started arriving in waves. Never one to back down from a fight we dug our heels in and tried to weather the storm. For what seemed like days the battle waged. I thought that J put it well; “I hate and love whoever started buying a round of shots every 10 fucking minutes while here.” After about an hour of this we were all well done. In fact we were drunk enough that J thought that he heard a guy with a Mississippi accent speaking German. I’d say that this memory is incorrect but I was in such bad shape that I couldn’t formulate a complete thought.
Any group of intelligent people would have called it quits at this point but we knew that we had one more bar to check out so, along with our new friends, we soldiered on.
Time: Saturday 11:30pm- Sunday 12:15am
Clientele: hipsters and alcoholic regulars who you’ve met many times but they still don’t remember your name (Hi Jerry!)
$4+ decent beers
For me this bar marked the beginning of my downturn for the night (maybe it was the mid-range tequila at Social). I was definately buzzed by the time we made it to the Red Derby and with 2 more bars to go we had to keep moving. Despite this I ordered their newest and most expensive beer at $7 the Gubna Imperial IPA at 10% ABV, which was definately worth it.
I have to admit, I’m partial to the Red Derby, since it was the second bar I fell for after moving to DC (it is a biker-bar after all…granted, they’re fixed-gear hipster-bikers). It reminds me of the low-key bars I’d venture to in Chicago (specifically the Continental for those of you that know). The Red Derby is a true neighborhood bar located on 14th st. on the northern edge of Columbia Heights, where gentrification is still in its beginning stages. It has a solid cast of regulars, friendly staff, and great food, prices, and decor.
In fact the place is so great that I’ve been able to wrangle up a game of Apples to Apples with the bartender, chef, bouncer and couple regulars. The Red Derby features films displayed on a wall without sound. The music selection is generally impeccable ( ask bartender Nick to sing for you sometime). Plus, they’ll take song requests with their grooveshark account, or even plug in your ipod for a while. The overall character of the place and their outdoor space makes it a very worthwhile stop.
The beer selection is pretty impressive, though they keep nothing on tap. If you can’t find something at the Derby to drink, you should just give up drinking altogether (Dale’s Pale Ale, Ten Fidy, Pork Slap, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, Iron City). And the prices! What can you say about the prices other than they are fan-fucking-tastic! The guy at the door remembered Samedi from his last visit over a month ago (apparently, Samedi did not make a scene the last time but I don’t believe that). However, despite the fact the door guy is always at the bar (not necessarily at the door) when I’m at the Derby he still checked my ID. Really dude? I swear you stare at me everytime I’m there.
All in all this is a excellent bar.
Time: Saturday 10:20 – 11:20
Clientèle: once a hipster upper-20′s mature locals
$5 Bud light
$6-12 decent beers
At this point in the night things were still going rather slowly. We had been to three places and were still trying to work up a good buzz.
As we approached Social we were delighted by the sight of available outdoor seating. We stepped into this oasis of aluminum and concrete and waited for our server to arrive. She promptly took our orders and quickly returned with our drinks. As I sat there sipping my smoke monster a feeling washed over me – taking me back to another time. That’s when I realized that there was a steady stream of great music. This was fantastic. It was all tunes that I grew up listening to (Isaac Hayes, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, you get the idea). At this point I’m starting to settle into a good place. I have a tasty drink in my hand, there is great soul music playing and I’m getting to enjoy the beautiful weather. As is my way while drinking I lit up. We were immediately told that we couldn’t smoke on the patio. We have to step to the curb. Excuse me? What does that mean? We are out-fucking-doors and we’re the only people on this side of the patio. Turns out that to allow smoking on an outdoor patio you need a special permit from the nannystate. They are in the process of getting one but since they have to deal with the DC govt I suspect that we all might be dead and gone by the time that happens.
After smoking, we made the five-step journey back to our table and continued to check out the scene. There was a small crowd on the other side of the patio but I really wasn’t sure what to make of them. They looked like a group in their late twenties or early to mid thirties. They seemed to be people who are gainfully employed and live in the neighborhood. Their style reminded me of hipsters but I didn’t feel that familiar sense of irritation. Is there such a thing as older hipsters? Who knows? Anyway, that not-quite-hipster group included several girls with partial-sleeve tats, and it reminded me of how much I love a woman with tattoos like those. Instantly increases the hotness factor by ten percent.
At this point we decided to kick things up a notch with shots of tequila. I thought that we ordered Cuervo, but were bought some smokey tasting mid-range tequila. We tossed those back and requested our tab. Looking at it I couldn’t help but to feel like I’d just been worked over by Fagin’s gang of pickpockets. Thirteen dollars for shots of mid-range tequila? Seems a little pricey to me. We cashed out and as we walked off to our next destination I can’t say that Social Bar left any kind of impression on me. It was like eating a bland meal. Not good, not bad, just there. In all fairness we didn’t spend much time at Social and Cupcakes was the only one of us who ventured inside. I do believe that another visit is in order before we can pass judgment on Social.
Time of Visit: Saturday 9:15 p.m.
Type of Skank found here: Quiet-night-out skank.
Type of Douche found here: “I don’t live around here” douche.
$6-9 pints ($1 more for a 20 oz English pint)
Our next stop was CommonWealth, located at 14th and Irving, just a few steps from the CoHi metro station. Somewhat disappointed by our level of sobriety after Room 11, we came here hoping a round of beers would help us get ourbuzzes going.
When we arrived, we learned that we wouldn’t be allowed to sit on the patio unless we ordered food (strike one). At the entrance, there are two unmarked doors right next to each other; one is the main guest entrance, the other is a service door for waitresses and busboys. The hostess was thoughtful enough to point out that we had come in through the wrong side, and greeted us with the smart-ass comment “We’ll just pretend you came in on the correct side.” (Well excuse us. How about you stfu and seat us – you’re the fucking hostess. Strike two). She then crudely pointed over to a couple of empty tables and told us we could push them together. This woman obviously couldn’t host her way out of a goddamn paper bag.
Anyway, after we had moved our tables and sat down, the waitress came to take our order. To her credit, she was very friendly and nice, although she was sporting a fauxhawk (see: Rocketbar), which we were not impressed with. I ordered a “Black Magic,” one of the CommonWealth “Beer Cocktails,” comprised of half Guiness and half Magic Hat – it wasn’t too bad. Cupcakes got a Magic Hat, while J and Samedi both ordered a Bellhaven Twisted Thistle IPA. We were all pretty satisfied with our drinks, so the bar gets points for having a good beer menu, although it took far too long for the beer to arrive. AND the waitress forgot to put in our food order. The bar wasn’t nearly busy enough for us to let this kind of service slide. She comp’ed us for the fries though, so that sort of makes up for the shitty service.
(Aside: I’d also like to take this opportunity to introduce myself as the lightweight of the group. I was the only one to order the 16-oz US pint, while everybody else opted for the 20-oz English pint. Yes, I am a pansy, thank you very much).
Our overall impression of the bar was that it is a generic, unassuming, chain-restaurant kind of bar. There’s no real character to the place other than corporate-owned chain restaurant. There’s no distinct clientele that drinks there, either. It’s a general, all-purpose “safe” pub that caters to several, but is “home” to no one.
The good: The basketball game was on, and during half-time they switched to the hockey game, then switched back soon after halftime was over; they have a few pretty solid beers on their list; patio is probably nice, if you order food.
The bad: lazy service; small beer selection; lacks character.
This review comes courtesy of J, our guest blogger during our adventure through CoHi.
Time: Saturday, May 1st 8:20 – 9
#1 type of skank: date skank
#1 type of douche: date douche
$6-10 decent beers
wine – about average price
Samedi summed it up pretty well as we walked in: “It’s a fucking wine bar.” So expect everything that comes with this motif—namely, some wine and a chill atmosphere. Room 11 knows what it is. and it does a decent job being just that.
The wine is decently priced (for a wine bar). We lined up at the bar and split a bottle of the Foxglove Cabernet Savignon ($36). Our waitress was nice and cute and smiled when she poured our wine. No complaints. Samedi was unimpressed by the draught beer selection. But, again: “It’s a fucking wine bar.”
Inside is small—I can only remember bar seating—but the space is well-utilized. Outside is an open patio area with some small tables. All in all, much more date night than bro night. On their website it promises a brunch menu soon. That might be something to check out, maybe when Red Rocks across the street is crowded.
Room 11 can provide a solid causal date night, or the trough in a night of binge drinking. Of course it was the latter for us. I think we all left more sober than when we came.
Final thought: if atmospheric décor and a nice patio section could get you fucked up, I would have been already dancing. But it doesn’t, and I wasn’t, and so we left with a collective “meh.” Save it for date night, not bro night.
Time: Saturday 7-8:15
#1 Type of skank: too-many-rolls-showing latin skank
#1 Type of douche: dude who may or may not work at bar, interrupting the entire entire table to ask if he can buy a girl a drink.
Acuario was our first stop at the beginning of a “long, adventurous night in Columbia Heights.” I arrived at Acuario late where I caught up with Samedi, without a sign of Gin Kitten and our GB (guest blogger). It was a tiny little hole in the wall, and I was hoping that it would be a secret gem, especially since on the door they advertised a live showing of the night’s fight (Mosely v. Mayweather). As we tried to enter we realized the door was locked, yet there were clearly people inside. After awhile they let us in, but it made me wonder who they were trying to keep out.
GB arrived shortly and we ordered drinks as an awesome large cutout of the Dos Equis guy stared on. We ordered Coronas in spite of him. It was going to be a long night and starting light was going to be my best bet for making it through all 7 bars. Especially since I was still dehydrated from my boxing practice earlier in the day, plus the previous night of drinking. We set out to order what promised to be delicious Mexican/Salvadorian and Dominican food, hopefully a perfect base for the night.
First complaint: What the hell was our waitress saying? No, Spanish is not the primary language where Samedi is from, and I know my hair and tanned skin make me look Latin, but no. Even when speaking English, what the hell was the waitress trying to say? “That they don’t have the plantains and fish? That I have to choose between plantains and fish? Do I want rice and beans? is it supposed to come with rice and beans? wait, what?” We ended up just saying yes and going with whatever came our way.
Gin Kitten finally arrived right after we put in our order, and she ordered shortly thereafter. Our food came out and she was still waiting for hers when some random guy approached her. Of course, we have no idea what this guy is trying to say either. Kitten hoped for some clarification “Was that guy making sure I’d put in my order, or trying to buy me a drink? Does he even work here? What is going on?”
This whole experience was accompanied by a strange mix of Latin music, from Mexican polka to reggeaton to Spanish rock. The music was inappropriately loud for a restaurant, and Samedi swore that if there was any bass to the music his fillings would come loose. Overall, the place is overpriced for being so damn hole-in-the-wall Mexican. I mean I love those sorts of places, but mostly because of the prices. And though it has a bar in it and may be open late, it’s probably more of a restaurant than a bar (though Yelp claimed it was a bar).
Time: Friday from 8 – what seemed like forever
Type of skank: Ex-Sorority skank
Type of douche: Frat boy douche who dresses like Kanye
$4 Miller Lite
$6.50+ for Dogfish
I arrived at Rocket Bar around eight and walked up to a nondescript door. The only thing that denoted this was Rocket Bar was a barely-noticeable neon sign. The steps leading down reminded me of the time that I had spend in Uzbekistan (and the events which led to incarceration and my eventual escape, but that’s a story for another day).
I pushed open the door at the bottom and my nostrils were immediately assaulted by a smell that brought me back to my younger days. I couldn’t place the aroma at first, but after a few minutes it came back to me – Tijuana: vomit, urine, and stale beer! I tried to shake off the noxious odor as my eyes adjusted to the garish decor. It’s obvious that the owners tried to achieve a unique look, but they ended up just shitting the bed (which could also explain the smell). As I walked through what felt more like a cave than a bar, I noticed pool tables, Big Buck Hunter and skeeball. My first thought was that the only reason someone should come here was to play one of these games. Then again, there are other bars in the District that offer those games, plus character. I stepped into the other room and found more pool tables, shuffleboard, an internet jukebox and dart boards in the far corner.
At the bar I spied Cupcakes and Gin Kitten. I slid up to the bar and ordered a Dogfish 60 Minute, by far the best beer the menu. Looking at the clientele I felt that I’d been transported back to my college days. There were douche bags imitating the style of Kanye West (and failing miserably) and ex-sorority girls hoping to land a husband, or at the very least, not get roofied that night. The more I took in the decor the more I felt like I was in a dirty Chuck-E-Cheese. But unlike Chuck-E-Cheese, they don’t serve food in this hellhole. The bartender mentioned that I could bring in food from the outside, and there were even some places nearby that deliver. I mulled this over but wondered who in the hell could eat with that overpowering stench permeating every fiber of your being. As I continued to check the scene, some random douchebag caught my attention and I and blurted out, “Does that dude have a faux-hawk?” Cupcakes responded with, “No its just a bad haircut.” Initially I thought the bar’s internet jukebox was fantastic. That is, until the sound went up to deafening levels, and I was subjected to a steady stream of Lady Gaga. My god, it was like the torture I was subjected when I was picked up in the Middle East so many years ago. I’ve since learned that some bars use this as part of their strategy to get you to drink more. One thing that I did appreciate was that they allow you to start a tab, then they give your card back and you are able to order at any bar.
We stayed there for what seemed like an eternity. Several drinks into the night, a misguided Cupcakes started challenging all the large men in our group to arm-wrestling matches, while Gin Kitten wandered off to flirt with some geek in an xkcd t-shirt. Having other friends out that night was probably what made an evening at Rocket Bar slightly better than a vigorous waterboarding. One of my friends had her wallet and keys stolen. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of shady business going down at Rocket Bar. Another friend had to pay for more than a few drinks that some asshat put on his tab. I stayed for a few more drinks and as I left I thought that I was going to have to burn my clothes and bathe in tomato juice to rid myself of this stench.
Iron Horse Tap Room
Time: Thursday 8-10
#1 type of skank found here: Tourist and suit skanques
#1 type of douche found here: douche who is going to buy a Harley upon hitting his midlife crisis
$6-8 decent beers (“*super strong beer = 10 oz. pours”)
Upon arrival Gin Kitten got her usual vodka soda, and Samedi and I (Cupcakes) ordered a Dogfish Head poured in a brandy snifter – elegant, right? Regarding the staff, Samedi said about the inattentive female bartender, “She thinks she’s cute, but she’s not. Now can I get a fucking drink?” At that point, it wasn’t nearly busy enough to justify the amount of time we waited for her acknowledgment, although when we arrived it was a bit crowded. This recent article in WaPo about skeeball may speak to the clientele best.
Beer selection left something to be desired. We’d heard that they had a good selection of craft beers (thus why we choose it for the first stop) but from what we saw its the same crap that you find at any bar in DC. Very disappointing.
My biggest complaint is that “Iron Horse” is not a biker bar. What is it doing calling itself “Iron Horse” and decorating with motorcycles (not to mention the douchey biker-mural)? Having at one point in my history fallen in with a biker gang, I lament the fact that there are no REAL biker bars in DC.
Iron Horse: It’s not terrible, but you could do better.