Bar #46 – Chief Ike’s Mambo Room

Chief Ike’s Mambo Room is by far my favorite dance club in Adams Morgan.  To be fair it is really a cross between a dive-bar and a dance club.  Who can complain? $3 PBRs, rarely a cover and music you can’t help but dance to.

My favorite thing about Chief Ike’s is the clientele.  This particular night included:

  • Our crowd – drunks with glow-in-the-dark bracelets (it was my b-day and glow-in-the-dark bracelets were a must)
  • A bachelorette party – in standard Adam’s Morgan wear, dresses and heels
  • The guy who thinks he can dance – teaching me several new moves that I’m excited to use
  • The group of nerdy white boys who know they can’t dance
  • And the more general crowd of folks looking to get down in a relaxing environment

We arrived around 10 on a Saturday night and things were just picking up.  Upstairs people were playing pool and a lonely DJ was spinning some beats.  Several shots and drinks later the music downstairs had us grooving.  The music was a mix of top 40 and 90’s and 2000’s hip hop/R&B jams (the DJ will not take requests).

Chief Ike’s is named after President Eisenhower.  The murals throughout the bar portray Ike as an Indian war chief.  This was the first time I really noticed these clever murals.

Side note: It is worth checking out Chief Ike’s during the week.  The bartenders are friendly and you’ll have the opportunity to check out the fish tank behind the bar.

Bar #45 – Pour House

ImageWe went to The Pour House on a Tuesday night to check out the happy hour crowd.  The crowd was fairly small on this particular Tuesday.  There was a family at the table next to us, a handful of hill interns and locals.  We left shortly after trivia started.  There were maybe four teams playing.  If you are looking for an easy trivia win this might be the place to play.

Service was alright, but it really should have been a whole hell of a lot better given how many people were at the bar.  Beers stayed full, but when we wanted to order food or get the check our server was nowhere to be found.  The beer list is filled with some tasteful delights: Bells, Flying Dog, Victory, and more.  They also stock regular beer flavored water like Bud and Miller.  Happy hour goes till 7 and features $4 rail drinks and $2.75 Yuengling.

Based on the decor, the Pour House appears to be an east coast sports bar favoring the Red Sox, Yankees, Steelers, Gators, etc.

I decided to write up our rather uneventful and average review of this place since I was previously there during a crazy event.  In February I found myself hanging out in my underwear in the Pour House.  It was the Cupid Undie Run and things got a little crazy.  There was body paint, a man giving piggy back rides and lots of glitter.  Given the crowd it Imagewasn’t too difficult to get a drink, but the one bathroom always had a line.

The Pour House was extremely fun this day, but it probably had more to do with all the people in their underwear rather than the bar.

Bar #44 – Stan’s Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge

Yes, oh yes.  Upon walking into Stan’s we noticed the smell of fried catfish wafting through the basement.  The smell demanded that we order catfish so we waited the 30 minutes to get seated.  This was a Thursday night after work.

Stan’s is not obvious from the street except for the stairs and sign in a small corner of the Vermont & L st. block.  Upon entering stan’s there is a bar to the right and a maze of dinner seating to the left.  It’s dark, cushy and has mirrors giving it a very 1970’s jazz-club feel.

Here’s what Stan’s says on the website:

Stan started a tradition over thirty years ago, the “Best Damn Drink in Town,” and the tastiest food – both at reasonable prices. Today, our commitment to you is to give the best service possible. We really mean that!

I would not say I had the “Best Damn Drink in Town,” but I do enjoy drinking at Stan’s.  Mixed drinks are served in their parts.  For example my vodka soda came as a glass of ice filled with vodka and an 8 oz. carafe of soda water.  I imagine cocktails are actually mixed (for those who don’t know what qualifies as a cocktail, it is a drink that has three or more ingredients).

The food was solid.  I ordered the house burger, which was satisfactory.  The catfish lived up to it’s smell.  In fact just writing about it makes me want to eat some now.  Gin kitten ordered the tuna melt which came out in a delicious mess of tuna and cheese.

Stan’s is the place to go to for a drink, fried catfish and the atmosphere.

#43 – Old Dominion Brewhouse

Old Dominion Brewhouse is not a particularly unique bar but it is solid.  Highlights include beer towers, skee-ball and sushi.  If you’re a sports fan it’s an ideal bar for watching a game.  It’s not overly crowded and the people are friendly even if you are cheering for opposite teams.  

It’s located in the convention space and for some reason they seem to have more space then they need.  The backroom (which used to be a separate sushi restaurant) can be reserved for parties.  Just be careful of any red liquid.  In fact I would say just avoid any liquids that come to you in that color, are called birthday shots or anything that ends in ‘tini’ unless it starts with ‘mar’.

The food is good.  They also have a nice variety of beer:  From cheap beer to mid-quality beers including those from the Old Dominion Brewery.

The staff is friendly and there are several regulars almost providing it a Cheers type of atmosphere.  A group of drinkers with divergent ideas of what makes a good bar can all agree to drink at ODB.  This bar will not offend anyone.

Bar #42 – American Ice Company

American Ice Company serves all their drinks in mason jars (with the exception of your canned beers, like PBR tallboys)  beers, mixed drinks, shots and even wine.  The bar serves a good list of beers.  With little of the crap served in most bars (I’m looking at your Miller Light and Bud Light).  They also have a few things I haven’t seen before: Siamese Twin Spiced Belgian 2x and Sixpoint Bengali Tiger IPA.

Original Look

New Look

The place is tucked away off of U-street and near the 9:30 Club.  The building is a renovated garage, with a front driveway filled with picnic tables and a garage door that stays open in the warm months.  Inside, the place is decorated in what I will call “dark-bar”.  Dark-bar is the standard for dives, because it hides the stains on the walls caused by smokers and makes it difficult to see the guy hitting on you.  The walls are exposed brick and booths line the wall opposite the bar.

A major plus-side of AmICo is the bbq.  Now it isn’t the best bbq I’ve had, but there is a dearth of bbq options in the DC area (my fav being the smoker off Jefferson Davis Hwy 1 by Quantico).  If you are looking to get your bbq fix then this bar can help.  They have pork, turkey and brisket with slaw.

The crowd is a decent lot though it gets crowded and there is always a line for the bathroom.  Last time I was there I met some guy who used to work for a reality tv show based in Jersey and he now works for the Smithsonian.  Now whether or not this is true is irrelevant, at least the guy had something interesting to say.

Overall, AmICo is a fun place to drink out of mason jars, enjoy some food and embrace DC weather.

Bar #41 – Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar

A friend of mine once described Little Miss Whiskey’s on H street in such a way that I can’t possibly improve upon it (though I’m taking liberties with the paraphrasing):

You walk in, and it’s like, chill, and dark, and kinda lounge-y, with all this purple mood lighting. It’s narrow and small, and the music isn’t that loud. There’s this glass door – it looks like a convenience store door – that goes upstairs, and oh man, you have no idea what’s in store for you. I like to call it the “Fun Door.” When you open the “Fun Door,” it’s like fun comes rushing through and punches you in the face. It’s the most amazing thing ever.

What my inebriated, anonymous friend is referring to is the 2nd floor of the bar, where the music is loud and the entire dance floor undulates with the swaying bump-n-grind of a crowd of intoxicated DCists in the 20s-to-30s age cohort. It’s not unlike Wonderland’s second floor, but far fewer  sweaty hipsters – the rents on H street have already climbed high enough to price out anyone trying to earn a living with an MFA. The beer list is respectable, and although I scoff at the notion of paying $5 for a Pabst or Miller Lite (not that we would ever drink any of that low-rent crap, of course), paying $6 for a Bell’s Two-Hearted seems reasonable. I guess you’ve got to make your margins somewhere. The lowlife swill includes $3 Strohs and $4 Colt 45 tallboys.

Little Miss Whiskey’s is a fun place to be when you find yourself on H street after the sun goes down, particularly if you’re already a little hammered. I’d give it 37 whiskey shots on a scale of 49.

Bar #40 – Shaw’s Tavern

Although Shaw’s Tavern isn’t strictly a bar, we here at EBDC have been following and supporting the establishment through its struggles with the local liquor control fascists board. We were happy to hear that Shaw’s owners ultimately prevailed, and because it brings some much-needed hospitality to the neighborhood, we felt it earned a spot on our blog.

Shaw’s has a rustic, roomy interior with a spacious bar and lots of woodwork, as well as outdoor seating on the sidewalk. We initially had a table outside, but when it started to rain, we had to run in, where there was plenty of room to absorb the 20 or so people behind us. Fortunately, we were able to claim the leather couches. There is a large flatscreen TV above the bar that was playing the basketball game, and Cupcakes noted a Bose speaker in the ceiling of the (single, though clean) restroom. On warm days, the windows along the street are all opened, making Shaw’s an idyllic place to take your laptop and get some work done remotely on those days when you need to get away from the office.

Shaw’s beer list (pictured) doesn’t bullshit around with PBR or Yeungling (If you want to swill that crap, go to Wonderland, hipster). Instead, the list features several popular middle-brow selections in the $6-7 dollar range. Additionally, Shaw’s has a cocktail menu that’s consistent with the restaurant’s Civil War theme. Where the restaurant really shines is its menu. Although we didn’t order full meals – I had a so-so flatbread (Rustik has better pizza, by far) and Cupcakes and Samedi each got the porkbelly – everybody I know who’s eaten there has raved about it. I’ve heard particularly great things about the brunch menu, as well.

Shaw’s Tavern is only about 4 blocks from the Shaw metro station, a sub-10-minute walk from the U Street station, but far enough from the U Street corridor to be a nice refuge from the drunks and flea markets. Samedi recommends Shaw’s as a great neighborhood date spot, and I plan to return soon for brunch.

If I were rating Shaw’s Tavern as a bar, I would have to give it only three shots of Jim Beam on a scale of five (which, incidentally, is exactly how many Samedi drank that night). But Shaw’s is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, and we are happy to give it some good press.

Bar #39 – Boundary Stone

Time of Visit: Friday night
Cost: $3- $7
Clientele: Hipsters

Boundary Stone is the newest addition to the Bloomingdale neighborhood, which still has an unmet demand for hipster bars.  I presume this is because every other neighborhood in the city “is over.”

As I approached the bar I noticed a sign telling me to enter through the barn-door.  After standing too long I found the handle, helping in another person who walked right by it.  We sat in the alley-way portion, which I guess is outside, but completely enclosed.  This was one of the beautiful evenings in January so it was fairly warm.  They do have space heaters set up for the cold nights.  The inside decor is the dark dive-type bar I’m a big fan of.  With old-fashioned light-bulbs, tin-ceilings and fancy wallpaper.

The nice thing about this bar is that like Rustik, it is managed by people who have decided to have a unique food menu.  On the night I was there the deviled eggs were the most refreshing deviled eggs I’ve ever eaten – the style changes regularly.  In fact several of the items on the menu change.  The mac ‘n’ cheese was nothing to write home about.  My drinking buddies for the night informed me that the salad, the bleu cheese burger and the quesadilla were delicious.  The chipotle type mayo that came with the quesadilla had the type of flavor that is best described as evolving.  Starting with a sweet, sort of smoky flavor and ending with an unexpected spiciness.

Boundary Stone also gets props for their drink list.  Their liquors are separated by type but only identified by brand.  This made it a little difficult ordering bourbon as I needed to ask which kind was available and the waitress did not know.  The prices are very reasonable.  Being able to get a $3 beer wouldn’t be anything special in Baltimore, but it’s more rare in the District than principled politicians.

This place would be a great weeknight bar to hangout at and chill with some friends or the bartender.  On the weekend it’s crowded like most other bars around the district but allows for fun conversations with strangers.

Bar #38 – Lou’s City Bar

Time of Visit: Saturday night
Cost: $5-$8
Clientele: locals who love sports

Unfortunately Lou’s City Bar was fairly empty on Saturday in December.  To get in the holiday spirit they were playing the holiday music channel.  For those sport lovers that like to hear the game it sounds like they play music instead of any specific game.  The TV’s are abundant, so you shouldn’t have a problem being able to see the game or multiple games you want.

The food menu has a decent array of bar food, which looks tasty and reasonably priced.  If there was any reason I might go back to Lou’s it would be for a lazy bar meal.  The beer selection is above average.  I was excited to see Chicago’s 312 on tap.  They also had a variety of seasonal beers.

The outside of Lou’s is normally a decent sized patio.  This time of year they have a tent set up, the purpose which seems to be to disguise how few people are inside rather than house the overflow of people.

It’s not my type of bar.  Even if I want to watch a game, I prefer a smaller space and if possible a way to hear the game.  As my friend put it: I like Lou’s because it sucks all the terrible people out of the good bars in the area.

Bar #37 – Rustik Tavern

Time of Visit: Sunday night
Cost: $7-ish for a draft, $12 pizzas
Clientele: Residents of the surrounding neighborhoods (Bloomingdale, Eckington, Shaw, LeDroit)

I realize this review is coming a little late. Rustik has been open for several months now, and if you live in one of the surrounding neighborhoods, chances are you’ve probably already checked it out. If you don’t live nearby, then you’re probably not going to trek out to Bloomingdale to visit a single bar. However, if you’re a pizza enthusiast, I hope I can change your mind.

Rustik Tavern has the most amazing pizza I’ve had in DC. It’s thin and crispy, slathered with olive oil, baked in a real fire-brick oven, and goes a step above the typical Pizza/Sausage/Cheese offerings at most other places. I’ve sampled the Christina (pears, goat cheese, prosciutto and rosemary) and the shrimp pizza (chili-basil-lime shrimp with mozz and peppers). Both are fan-freaking-tastic, and I look forward to returning to try the pesto and the Pep Pep.

Rustik has two Great Lakes brews on tap (Dortmunder Gold and Edmund Fitzgerald), a handful of other micros, and of course the ubiquitous Yuengling. The bar also has a modest wine list that represents a good sampling of varietals without being redundant. I’ve not had brunch at Rustik yet, but it looks like they serve fritatas styled similarly to their pizzas, as well as bottomless mimosas, bellinis and Kir royals.

The only drawbacks to the bar are the low lighting inside (hard to read the menus) and its unfortunate location. While it’s an absolute gem for the neighborhood (and any locals wanting to avoid the mustachioed hipster crowd at Big Bear), I can’t recommend Rustik as a Saturday night destination spot for travelers. It’s just too far away from anything else, is likely to be crowded, and finding a cab late at night on Rhode Island isn’t exactly a cakewalk. If the Yelp reviews are any indication, brunch is a hectic time to visit as well. However, for pizza snobs, the journey is definitely worthwhile for a weeknight dinner date.

Rustik Tavern menu

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