all photos: Shauna Alexander
You have a new favorite bar, you just don’t know it yet. It’s called Dodge City and it opened this week.
You can find Dodge City on U Street, next door to Velvet. It even shares a common owner named Haile Berhane. It’s name comes from a song by the Go Go Posse from 1988. You’re going to want to spend time here.
What’s it like? From the outside you’ll notice that formerly boarded up windows are now open. The first floor has a wide open area with plenty of seating and newly finished wood floors that lead to an elevated bar in the back. A set of built-in banquettes sits in front of the bar. You’ll stand on that to order drinks when the bar is crowded, even though you probably aren’t supposed to.
Head upstairs and you’ll find yourself on the dance floor, with a DJ booth housed in a nook in the corner. Turn around and you see another bar overlooking U Street with a gorgeous deco glass chandelier lighting the space. Small tables offer seating by the bar.
What do they serve? The bar is straightforward. No mixology, just booze. But the beer, that’s something special. Dodge City offers 12 taps, serving: Dry Blackthorn Cider ($5), Founder’s Porter ($7), Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold ($6), Bell’s Oberon ($6), Victory Golden Monkey ($6), Green Flash Hodhead ($8), Speakeasy Prohibition Ale ($6), B.R. Racer 5 IPA ($7), Guinness ($6). Not on tap while I visited, they also plan on serving Hell or High Watermelon wheat beer, Scrimshaw Pilsner and Troegs.
Dodge City has the ubiquitous Tavern license, which means they need to serve something. That something comes in the form of pepperoni rolls, which frankly sound delicious. Patrick Mucklow, partner and bartender, said the pepperoni roll is indicative of his West Virginia roots and he’s excited to introduce them to DC. Basically a roll stuffed with pepperoni, they started as a cheap and easy way for Italian miners to eat while they were in the mines. Patrick’s parents have been trying bakeries in West Virginia for the best rolls and he guarantees that they taste just as good when you’re sober – a challenge I say!
Why does it feel so familiar? You’ll recognize a lot of faces when you walk in. Abdul Kayoumy from Velvet and Angie Hopson from the Black Cat are also partners in the venture and serving you drinks, just like they have for years. The night I went, Benjy Faree was at the door, something I always like to see. The crowd felt familiar and reminded me of years past.
The Kingpin connection! Maybe the biggest reason Dodge City feels so familiar is that many of us have already been there. It used to be Kingpin. Remember Kingpin? It was on U Street before anything else was on U Street.
They made a movie about it called “Dive” that played at Visions in 2003. Matt Burger had the role of “Junkie,” Ceasar Fort played the role of “Caesar.”
Kingpin wasn’t fancy, but it didn’t need to be because it was dark, loud and we were all drunk. If you stayed late enough you’d get locked in and listen to people pound on the door outside, just trying to get one more beer. If you used the bathroom you needed a spotter since the doors were always about to fall off or get knocked in. The u-shaped bar (where the dancefloor is now) ensured that you either had the best, or worst, service imaginable. It was the kind of place you could talk to strangers, kiss someone who wasn’t your boyfriend and go home smelling like an ashtray and bar mat. I loved Kingpin.
When it burned down a few years ago it was a real loss and for years many of us wondered what would happen to the space. With Dodge City, that question is answered. And they did an amazing job of restoring the space without taking away from what Kingpin was. A little slice of home on the best corner in town.
Congratulations to everyone involved. Can’t wait to give you my time and money!
Other Dodge City coverage: