2016 by: Kaylee Dugan, Svetlana Legetic & Brandon Wetherbee. Shout-outs to Shauna, Stephanie and Logan who helped with the 2012 and 2013 lists.
We ran our first Least Douchey Bars in D.C. list in 2012. It was done in response to COMPLEX’s The 25 Douchiest Bars in DC which we felt was “for the most part an inoffensive, agreeable list that inspired little but reaffirmation of stereotypes: Adams Morgan is a shithouse zoo, Georgetown is too preppy and too Republican, and oh-yeah-screw-hipsters.” We felt it was better to focus on the miracle of positive thinking (how about that? ON THE INTERNET?) and asked:
So what makes a non-douchey bar? Ones that don’t sponsor 7 kickball teams or have an iPod port in place of a DJ, ones that DO have staff that are chill and rarely on edge or too affected with enthusiasm. ‘The less remixed top 40 the better’ is a maxim passed down from the time of my great, great, great grandfather.
Everyone has their own idea of a douchestination, no doubt with terms narrower than our own. And no matter what bars we came up with, I’m sure there would be at least five eager volunteers to tell us why we’re wrong.
Good news is: we have some SOLID additions to the 2012 LIST and the 2013 LIST and 2014 LIST and 2015 LIST which we discuss further below, meaning your realms of non-douchebaggery are forever expanding, plus scroll to the bottom of the list for the ALL-STAR ALUMS and obviously, comment with your favorites.
Atlas was on this list last year but they’re back again because their new tap room is actually new. You no longer have to deal with the strong smells of beer production (the strong stench of hops shouldn’t bother you if you’re going to drink in a brewery but whatever) to enjoy the delicious taste of Atlas beers. The clean, no frills Atlas Tap Room is great for the beer aficionado, casual drinker and local business supporter. Atlas is our favorite brewery and the new tap room makes visits to pick up Rowdy a lot more attractive.
Okay, I know this doesn’t sound good, but I’m going to need you to hold your thoughts while I explain. Buckeye looks like the douchiest bar. I’ve never seen so many bad design choices crammed into one location. It’s like someone took a Hard Rock Cafe and made it even worse, which I really didn’t think was possible. Despite these shortcomings, it’s really not a douchey bar. The staff are some of the nicest I’ve met, it’s incredibly easy to get a seat, and as long as there isn’t an event happening, it’s pretty quiet and empty (which is my favorite kind of bar). Not to mention, happy hour is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. (and that’s really the only time you should go, since their beer list is at least $1-$2 too expensive). I like to imagine all the decorations, the stuffy chandeliers and the boring band posters are a front to hide the good stuff that’s inside, and while I know in my heart of hearts that’s not true, it gets a pass from me anyways.
The oldest bar included in this year’s edition, Cafe Mozart is great if you want to drink out of a glass boot without fanfare. Their beer and food selection is small for good reason. You’re there to drink German beer and eat sausage and potato pancakes and talk loudly with friends. You don’t go to Cafe Mozart to impress anyone, you go there to be happy and drink German beer and eat sausage and potato pancakes.
If you’ve never heard of or even seen Cafe Mozart, it may be because in the front of the establishment is a small German market, it’s next to a parking garage and their signage isn’t new or hip in any way. It’s a true gem that probably doesn’t like being called a true gem.
I don’t drink coffee, so I can’t tell you anything about the quality of Colony Club’s stuff, but what I can tell you is that when it comes to alcohol they’re on point. The beer list is small, but just interesting enough there will probably be a handful of things you’ve never tried and the space is really lovely. The inside is bright and white, with tall ceilings that stop the narrow space from feeling claustrophobic. It’s well designed without looking like they had Instagram in mind the entire time. Plus the bartenders are attentive, and the back patio is heaven on earth. Grab yourself something cold and boozy and park it out back there with a good book. You will not be disappointed.
The old Zoo Bar is the new Duke’s Counter. RIP, Zoo Bar. You served a noble purpose. Sure, you were smelly and overpriced and kind of rude to non-regulars, but you gave the neighborhood a real bar. Duke’s Counter is not smelly or overpriced and not rude to new people. It looks clean and bright and serves the stuff that’s made Duke’s Grocery in Dupont a success.
We recommend the specialty drinks, they’re massive in both size and punch. One of those and a sandwich should be enough for 2.
This could have easily been a douchey bar. It’s in a burgeoning area across the street from the Washington Convention Center. It’s a prime douche time and location. But the owners and staff make it not douchey. Espita Mezcaleria has the best mezcal selection in the city but that doesn’t make it great. What made it land on this list is Beverage Director Megan Barnes. She’s a knowledgeable and approachable expert on a liquor that’s in vogue and not well known. With her, Espita Mezcaleria becomes a place to learn while getting happy drunk.
I don’t know who decided grocery stores should start serving craft beer, but whoever it is I want to kiss them on the face. Glen’s is one of the best places in the city to try out new brews. Their draft list is small, but well curated, constantly changing, and cheap as fuck. Where else in this goddamn city can you get a good craft beer (whether it be an IPA, a Saison, or a Sour) for $4? Anytime of day? The answer is nowhere. Pair that with their great sandwiches (or pizzas at the Dupont location) and you have all the ingredients you need for a winner. It is my go-to bar before I hit up a 9:30 Club show because nothing in the area beats it in terms of quality and price. I don’t know what I’d do without it.
Getting to Ivy City may be a pain, but if you find yourself in the area and are in need of a good drink, the Ivy Room won’t steer you wrong. Despite the fact there’s not much in the neighborhood, many signs point to douchey. The Hecht apartments are a rich hipster monstrosity and the few retail locations that are around include a yoga place, a CrossFit gym, and a nice pet store. We’re only in the infancy of Ivy City’s popularity and it’s already reached parody levels. What saves Republic Restoratives (and their bar / tasting room, Ivy Room) is that it’s 100% quality. While the only liquor they’ve released is their Civic vodka, they’ve focused on churning out very simple and very good vodka based drinks. Their Moscow Mule is a crowd favorite, and while they’ve deviated from the traditional recipe when it comes to the garnish (candied ginger) everything else about it is as clean and elegant as it gets. It doesn’t hurt that the bar is very small, beautiful, and features some lovely floor to ceiling windows. As soon as their whiskey is done, I’m going to be all over this place. As a side note, it’s also one of the few distilleries owned by a woman. Which is always good in our books.
Horrible location, quality bar. You don’t want to find yourself near 14th and P late at night. It’s super douchey. But Kingfisher is not making matters worse. Their beer menu is solid, they offer everyone free popcorn and they’re a basement beer. Basement bars can’t have much pretension, that’s for basement clubs.
Larry’s Lounge has been there FOREVER. And we hope it stays there forever more. To quote our Gay Date Guide (though we do recommend this place FOR EVERYONE) which explains its non-douche appeal to a T: “Larry’s…is a thread-bare, run down dive bar (and, we love it for it). There is no pretension here where the drinks are strong and cheap. What makes it such a great first date spot is the reaction it solicits from your date. If your date gets it and finds it chill, adoringly-tacky, and charming – that is a good sign. That means that you’re going out with a pretty well-rounded, open-minded person. However, if your date turns up their nose and suggests next time you go somewhere “more trendy,” then you need to run. They probably have more drama than an episode of Scandal.
A lot of things about Left Door seem like they may lead to doucheNESSness – the almost-14th-and-U-location, the “speakeasy” aesthetic, the fanciness of the cocktails. But, in reality, it is a great place. Tucked away by Garden’s City’s beer bonanza, in a barely marked door it is a quiet, lovely, quality place to, you know, just hang out and enjoy a quality cocktail delivered RIGHT TO YOUR TABLE. Which is something we, as a city, need to start appreciating more. Also, blissfully uncrowded during the work week. Blissfully.
Passenger is dead, long live the Passenger. Still on 7th street, only a little closer to the Shaw (Vs Convention Center action), the NEW Passenger is sprinkled with remnants of all sorts of undouchey destinations of yore: the staff which has served you at some of your previous bars, the Steve McQueen bathroom mural, the faux leopard chairs salvaged from Millie & Al’s (RIP), the no-nonsense cocktail list that still challenges you to love chartreuse (it is Tom Brown’s bar after all), and plenty of room to exercise your non-douchy rights to drink in relative peace.
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 and gross 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. Slash Run isn’t a perfect fit. It’s food is too good and it’s 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 so big and juicy they melt in your mouth, and the staff are very nice. The only downfall may be there are too many children any given evening, but sometimes it’s fun to watch someone experience their first bar.
I’m going to make this short and sweet, The Sovereign is the only bar I will willing go to in Georgetown. The basement bar / restaurant focusing on Belgian beers feels like an bastion of quality and serenity in a sea of touristy, overpriced, and mediocre restaurants. It’s dark and quiet compared to the madness on M Street and the bar stools are so comfortable it feels like you could sink in and spend an entire evening napping in between rounds of beers. If you have to be in Georgetown, or accidentally find yourself trapped there, Sovereign has got your back and the booze should make the ride home feel much better.
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.
Tail-Up Goat is great, which is something you’ve heard from many people and many publications since it opened. But the bar at the Tail-Up Goat is maybe even greater. Seating about a dozen or so, it is by no means big, but it is a section of the restaurant clearly built by people who LOVE sitting down to drink AND EAT at a bar (Vs a table). The staff really knows what they’re doing, the offerings are uncomplicated but still somehow inspired, and the (decidedly undouchey, neighborhood-y) people watching seals the deal. Think of this place next time you’re craving a great, unfussy glass of beer of wine, not just when you’re wanting to splurge on that lamb dish on a special occasion.
RIP: Argonaut, Blackbyrd, Cashion’s Eat Place, HOGO, Red Palace, Stetson’s and Toledo Lounge
- All Souls
- Bar Charley
- Bedrock Billiards
- Beuchert’s Saloon
- The Bier Baron Tavern
- Birreria Paradiso
- Black Cat Red Room
- Boundary Road
- Boundary Stone
- Brookland’s Finest
- Comet Pizza & Ping Pong
- Compass Rose
- Copycat Co.
- DC Reynolds
- DC9 Rooftop
- Dew Drop Inn
- Dito’s Bar
- Dodge City/Velvet Lounge
- Duke’s Grocery
- El Chucho
- Hank’s Oyster Bar – Dupont
- Ivy and Coney
- Jimmy Valentine’s Lonely Hearts Club
- The Looking Glass Lounge
- Lost and Found
- Lyman’s Tavern
- Marx Cafe
- McClellan’s Retreat
- Meridian Pint
- Mockingbird Hill / Eat The Rich / Southern Efficiency Trifecta
- 9:30 Back Bar
- Petworth Citizen
- The Pinch
- Pop’s Seabar
- The Pug
- The Raven Grill
- Red Derby
- Right Proper
- RNR Hotel
- Roofers Union (not the roof)
- Room 11
- Rosemary’s Thyme
- The Royal
- The Saloon
- Saint-Ex/Bar Pilar
- The Satellite Room
- Showtime Lounge
- The Tune Inn
ALSO, please feel free to dig into us in the comments and inform us of all the bars WE MISSED. 2017 edition will be here super soon.
And… FOOTBALL SEASON BONUS: