One of our most successful features is our somewhat annual Least Douchey Bars in D.C. We’ve highlighted some of our favorites over the last decade and some hold up as the least bad in the District. Since we’re ending the 2010s, here are our top 10.
1. Slash Run – From our 2016 edition
Do you remember your first bar? Not the first bar you ever legally drank at. Or the first bar you illegally drank at. The first bar you ever went to. The one your parents took you to when you were little and they couldn’t get a babysitter. The place that was kind of family friendly (they had a kids menu!) but was still divey enough (I mean that in a good way) that there were hardcore alcoholics camping in the corner day in and day out. That’s exactly what Slash Run reminds me of… But they aren’t a perfect fit. The food is too good and the draft list is too long to be the dive bar of my memories, but it’s so close I can taste it. Instead, this is the kind of place you go to when you can’t be in a rustic inspired, tasting menu restaurant one second longer. The draft lines are plentiful, the burgers are big and the staff is very nice. The only downfall may be that there are too many children on any given evening, but sometimes it’s fun to watch someone experience their first bar.
2. Jackie Lee’s – From our 2018 edition
This Brightwood bar is so good, sometimes it feels like it shouldn’t exist. Originally opened sometime between the early 1950’s and the late 1960’s, Jackie Lee’s became known as a place where you could see killer music every night of the week. It closed down for a casual 10 years in the early 2000s, but it’s been open since 2017, and I’ve been going far more than I should ever since. Their menu is perfection, with a long beer list for those who like to jump around and try a couple different things, a solid showing of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian bar food and a cocktail list that includes all the basics. The real gem is their beer and a shot deals. For $6 you can sit back with a PBR and a shot of Overholt or you can follow my lead and get a Tecate and tequila. They even have a beer / shot du jour, which mostly seems to be whatever the bartender is feeling like that night. It’s one of those bars that’s so good, I don’t want to tell people about it. As of right now, I can get a seat at the bar no matter what time I show up. Let’s see how long that lasts.
3. Showtime – From our 2013 edition
Showtime Lounge offers a very strong showing of things to look for in a non-douchey bar (in fact, during our first look story on it, we made an early prediction this place was a shoe-in for this list, and the last few months has only proven us right). Let us just name a few of them: a GREAT jukebox (the jukebox book is called “The Treasure Chest”), some seriously no-nonsense drinking (no cocktail menu), the bar staff that is an all-star round-up of 14th street veterans from Black Cat and Saint-Ex (and if anyone knows how to serve a beer-and-a-whiskey in town, it is them), free rock’n’roll shows on Sunday afternoons (why don’t MORE neighborhood bars do this?) and probably the best bathroom in DC if you’re a long-suffering Redskins fan. Which we know you are.
4. Red Derby – From our 2012 edition
Red Derby is possibly my favorite DiveBar in DC solely because it has Apples to Apples (you know, the kid’s game where you match adjectives to nouns that got turned into a hilarious adult drinking game). Or if you’d rather not sit back and enjoy a great selection of can beer or dangerously priced King Combo ($7 tallboy w/ a shot of whiskey) with a slate of games at your disposal, there’s always a breeze to catch on Red Derby’s rooftop.
5. Ivy and Coney – From our 2014 edition
If you think Chicago and Detroit neighborhood bars are douchey, this is the douchiest bar in D.C. If you think no frills neighborhood bars with cheap beer (Old Style), medium priced beer (Goose Island) and hot dogs (Chicago and Coney style) are the opposite of douchey, we agree.
6. Looking Glass Lounge – From our 2013 edition
Full disclosure: I host a show at the Looking Glass. One of the reasons I host a show at the Looking Glass is because it’s not a douchey bar. When I came to DC I scoured the city looking for places that have events that aren’t sad or overpriced or full of weirdos and do what they can to prevent douchiness. At the time, the Looking Glass was the only bar in Park View that had everything I needed. A few years later, the LGL is an anchor. It’s still not sad or overpriced or full of weirdos or douches. This probably has something to do with the owners being locals in their early 30s and not part of a chain disguising itself as a homegrown operation. Or they just care. It’s why I still have a show at the Looking Glass.
7. DC9 Rooftop – From our 2012 edition
A rare venue rooftop that operates just as well, if not better, as a bar on its own. DC9 is now surrounded by much flashier establishments (including the dueling Nellie’s and Brixton 24/7 party rooftops) but it is always chill, always affordable (added bonus: even though happy hour drinks are as low as $3, they WILL take your credit card and happily open a tab without any minimum or cash-only posturing), and there is always a place to rest your drink in peace there, without someone offering to: a. buy it for you or b. spill it (all over you) for you. And every once in a while, that’s really all you want from a bar rooftop. The shows below are just a bonus.
8. Dodge City – From our 2012 edition
Coupled together only due to their proximity (and the fact that you probably bounce back and forth between both of them throughout your night), Dodge City and Velvet Lounge are staples of the U Street Corridor. Dodge City, the younger, much more attractive bar of the two, is sleek and clean with a courteous bar staff and sometimes even a DJ on the top level if you feel like dancing. Velvet Lounge, the older, grittier rock-club, boasts cheap drinks and cheaper thrills, with a mixture of bands and DJs to keep your body moving. Both bars play host to some of the best outdoor patio spots in the city, which even on a good weather night tend not to be too overcrowded.
9. Bier Baron – From our 2013 edition
It’s rare to find a beer-heavy bar in a trendy neighborhood without the frats and the so-packed-you-can’t-move levels of crowded but somehow Bier Baron, with over 600 beers, manages to avoid both and bring an incredible drink selection to Dupont (with nary a douche in sight). Maybe it’s the vague appearance of a dive bar–low light, neon, walls lines by empty beer cans on display–or maybe it’s the quirky programming (burlesque and live theatre, anyone?) but whatever Bier Baron is doing, it’s doing right when it comes to keeping this gem of a watering hole weird and wonderful.
10. Lyman’s Tavern – From our 2014 edition
Or The Red Derby part 2. Or the new place with the good jukebox. Or the new place with the pinball. Or the neighborhood bar that IS, IN FACT, just a neighborhood bar.
And since we’re ending 2019, here are 9 honorable mentions, listed in alphabetical order, giving us an appropriate 19 picks to end both 2019 and the 2010s.
Comet Ping Pong – From our 2013 edition
The Comet block is one of our favorite blocks in D.C. in general: Politics & Prose, Buck’s, and then yes, the pizza place/bar/show venue we all wish was located right around the corner from us. The crowd is a mix of upper NW and Maryland cool Moms and Dads, NPR music staff, local band heroes and anyone who wants to hear Mikal Cronin or Prince Rama play their first DC show ever in a room that forgives and allows all. Plus, free movie nights, art parties and more. And pretty damn good pizza too.
Dew Drop Inn – From our 2015 edition
The Dew Drop Inn manages to do what most bars cannot, it is never (and I mean never) too crowded. There is always a great balance between having enough people to make friends and being able to comfortably, and without hassle, find a seat at the bar and chat. Unlike many of the new bars opening in Brookland / Edgewood, Dew Drop is not trying to be fancy in any way. It’s just a good bar. It is succeeding.
Dito’s Bar – From our 2015 edition
Dito’s Bar is the kind of place you actually don’t believe exists in D.C. anymore and you wish every neighborhood had, but of course, 17th street does. Located in the basement of an Italian Eatery (Floriana, for whom it provides imbibement as well), it is named after its bartender (as are a lot of cocktails), features a wall of photos of said bartender with assorted celebrities that he served a drink, pours drinks that are very strong and sometimes a tad too fruity, and does it all to a delightful combination of neighborhood types and people who someone brought in. The bar seats 7 people (maybe). The window area seats 4 (maybe). As far as we can tell it doesn’t have a website which is fine because it really doesn’t need one. The 14th street corner that houses Le Diplomate and Pearl Dive is 2.5 blocks away but it may as well be on another planet. It is also technically a gay bar, but that’s sort of the last thing you need to know about it.
Haydee’s – From our 2018 edition
Yes, we know that Haydee’s is theoretically a restaurant, but since you can sit at any table and just drink (vs be forced to order a dinner), and it is open later than most bars, and Christmas decorations reign supreme year round, we are calling it a bar as well. The random vinyl-only dance parties, karaoke break-outs and other entertainment only add to the celebratory vibe, and its proximity to several other establishments on this list (Raven, Suns, Marx, Eat At Elle) make for a great douche-free night any night of the week. Thank you, Haydee!
The Raven Grill – From our 2013 edition
A dark, old, cash only space that’s able to feel unlike any other bar in DC, which is a very good thing. If you don’t like the person you’re with, you’re out of luck. Raven is one of those old timey bars that doesn’t feature a TV every 5 feet or loud music. At the Raven, you have to talk to the other people at The Raven. No specialty cocktails or an extensive beer list, just the basics and the company you keep.
Reliable Tavern – From our 2017 edition
There are plenty of unpretentious drinking spots on Georgia Avenue, but when it comes to good bars, we’re definitely a more the merrier type. Reliable Tavern doesn’t look like much from the outside, but once you step in, it’s clear that this bar is exactly what it claims to be. The Texas tavern has a solid menu of beers and cocktails, not to mention a summer wine list that goes above and beyond what you’d expect. Their food is all in collaboration with Republic Kolache’s, so you can expect a diverse menu of sweet and savory pastries as well as bar snacks like guacamole and queso. I was here for less than an hour, and the laid back vibe already has me sold. If you need a place to cool off and hide away from the world during this fake autumn, Reliable Tavern has you covered.
Room 11 – From our 2012 edition
Room 11 is so small, and so perfect it does not have any room for douchebaggery to take place there.
The Royal – From our 2015 edition
The newest entry to the list, this summer’s 2015 addition to LeDroit Park is part coffee shop and breakfast spot and part bar and dinner destination. It’s the kind of place you want to go on a date, not hang out with douchebags. The area isn’t surrounded by douchebags so there’s no reason The Royal should be overrun with bad people anytime soon. Sit at the bar, enjoy a cocktail made from shaved ice and come back the next morning for an espresso.
Suns Cinema – From our 2016 edition
Suns Cinema feels like the kind of bar that was handcrafted for me. As if it shot out of my head and into real life. From The Shining carpet, to the movie calendar, to the simple and small bar menu, it’s a great place to grab a drink if you want to see a good classic film, or just chat with the people next to you about Czech New Wave. You really can’t go wrong.