Photos by Nicholas Karlin, Words by Jose Lopez-Sanchez
D.C.’s coziest bar doesn’t even have a name.
This isn’t a case of another speakeasy popping up – I’ve always felt that they’re usually too exclusive and pretentious for my taste, which wears out the novelty pretty fast. No; the bar in the basement of 600 T Street Northwest simply doesn’t have one beyond its address, filling the void of “extremely practically named bars that anyone can go to” in Shaw that has existed since 1905 closed its doors last month (RIP 1905). And I’m happy to report that although 600 T has only been open for a few weeks, it already feels lived in, welcoming, and settled into its rhythms.
Stephen Lawrence has owned the building for over a decade many years, and after the last of his tenants moved out in July, he decided to try his hand at creating his ideal bar: a place where quality ingredients and ingenuity go together, and a place where he could see his friends wanting to hang out at. So he did just that, converting the basement of the townhouse he owns and lives in into a bar with a focus on craft cocktails, designing and building the bar himself.
Tucked away just around the corner from the Howard Theatre, the bar is bathed in the warm glow of Edison lightbulbs and the light of a wood-burning fireplace, which fills the room with the lovely scent of firewood. There are dark cedar beams and exposed brick and interesting artwork, and the drinks are served in delicate, unusual antique glassware – completing millennial high-end establishment bingo – but there’s no pretentiousness. Seriously – I enjoyed myself so much when checking out the bar on Friday night for this story that I came back on Saturday with a friend, and we walked up to see Lawrence working the door and checking IDs, greeting each incoming patron with a smile and asking them for patience while they remained at capacity.
Also, the drinks are really damn good, and are created by the bar’s seasoned team of mixologists on a monthly rotating basis. In staying true to the theme of the bar, each drink is named after the small-batch spirit it’s made from: Rum, Cachaça, Amaro, Mezcal, etc. The Scotch, made with Highland Park 12 year old single malt, carrot juice, jalapeños, lemon, and egg white should not have worked but it really, really did.
The Bourbon had a smoky, spicy aftertaste, courtesy of house-made chipotle syrup; in fact, most cocktail elements are made in house and locally sourced whenever possible.
The only gripe I would have is that the drinks are slightly expensive, hovering around $14 per cocktail. While this might be the new normal in Shaw, and the drinks and ambiance are excellent, it still stings. I want to spend a lot of time at 600 T, but I’m not sure I can afford to make it more than a special occasion place while it’s at that price point.
All in all, it’s great to see such a solid first foray into hospitality from Lawrence, who has made the neighborhood home for over a decade. 600 T is a welcome addition to the craft cocktail scene, and the perfect bar to hole up during the winter/cuffing season.