Lovable but schizophrenic, back in February the Momo’s scene could have been chalked up to a bar still “finding itself,” but after six months this often-overlooked, second-floor U St. watering hole continues to cater simultaneously to scuzzy sports fans and black gay DC.
Momo’s was born in November, when the glaring need for a local sports bar (with an apology to the “sports-themed gay bar” that is Nellie’s) and consistently light registers forced the owners to get creative. This latest incarnation of the converted rowhouse at 1334 U St. finds the loungey Cafe Nema reduced to the ground level and Momo’s occupying the top three, including two bar floors, a top-level lounge-cum-Wii/PS3 gaming center-cum-VIP room, 25 flat screen televisions and an updated kitchen. Though the audio tends towards the uncomfortably loud, this is still a great spot to catch a game or, even better, a few of them at once.
The walls are littered with a loosely DC-centric assortment of sporting bric-a-brac, ranging from iconic sports photos to one of the most heinous pieces of fan art I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Despite the artwork, the bartenders sling drafts as ably as they do a kaleidoscope of shooters, and on either floor you’ll find battered Nats hats at one table and some toned arms in a notched sleeveless tee at the next. Besides the Wednesday night Wii tournaments, exactly what happens in the upstairs lounges is a bit of a mystery. It is available both for weekend “bottle service” and “private events”; I was once invited to “play spades” up there (seriously), and I am still not sure if that was some sort of euphemism.
The lack of sports bar competition certainly helps Momo’s pull this thing off. So does the food. The thick, juicy burgers ($8+) hit their temperature (mostly) and are served on a dense ciabatta-ish bun with a side of fries, which recently changed (for the better) from accordion to something closer to Burger King-style. Topped with sauteed mushrooms that are better than most and a double layer of swiss cheese, this is a good burger.
The wings ($8 for 10) are big and meaty, though hot wing fans might be disappointed by the sweet barbecue coating. They certainly don’t need that ramekin of blue cheese to cool them down. The BBQ Chicken Salad ($8) is surprisingly tasty and includes a full sliced chicken breast, so don’t be surprised if you ask for the second half to go. Though they haven’t quite figured out how to layer the toppings effectively, the nacho plate’s ($8) combination of beef chili and diced chicken breast (+$3) is both better than the average bar food and large enough to share with friends.
Unsurprisingly, Momo’s puts out some genuine train wrecks, too. The Philly Cheese Steak ($9), aside from being an affront to Gino’s with the red peppers and the provolone cheese, is a greasy falling-apart mess. Worse still, the Polish Boy ($9) comes on an oversized roll with a too-small sausage, smothered and covered with creamy coleslaw and french fries. I’ve never actually eaten it, but I’ve never seen anyone finish one either. On the two occasions that I attempted to order an oyster po’ boy, the waiter calmly replied that the oysters were “not up to par” that day. Stick with the burger.
Polish Boy aside, the beer selection is Momo’s biggest failure. A pitcher of Dogfishhead 60 Minute or Magic Hat #9 will run you a staggeringly outrageous $28, while a pitcher of Stella costs an equally outrageous $24. Pitchers of Coors Light dip down to $12 on special, as do buckets of Coronas and Miller Lites. The Blue Moon and Hoegarten are probably more affordable as well. Still, if you aren’t up for drinking light domestic, be prepared to shell out.
All told, Momo’s is a reliable spot to catch a casual sporting event and grab some better-than-average bar food. Plus, once Walter pours a few of his gratis shooters down your throat, those party lines might start to blur, a game of spades could erupt and you might wind up up enjoying bottle service at a sports bar on U St.
1334 U St
Open for Lunch & Dinner