Chinatown’s newest bar isn’t attached to a hotel. It doesn’t have a killer rooftop view or a below ground ‘speakeasy’ or a theme that’s targeting the nostalgia center of your brain. It’s just a bar. It’s going to have to work that much harder to capture the attention of the neighborhood, but considering its owner’s past success, I think it’ll be up to the challenge.
Brought to you by the folks behind D.C.’s ultimate regular bar, The Pub & The People, Present Company Public House is a boozy beacon on Massachusetts Avenue. The red brick building once housed one of D.C.’s oldest fire stations and nods to its past life are everywhere, from the bright red doors to the giant mural of a fireman and a Dalmatian on the bar’s second floor.
But before you climb up the stairs (which has a vintage-y curved bar tucked in the corner), the long bar right at the front of Present Company and the booth seats in the back are probably where you’ll spend the most of your time.
If you’re looking for a drink (and you definitely are) our favorite drinks were the ones we least expected. The Stolen Old Fashioned (made with smoked rum) and the smoky pineapple margarita (featuring mezcal instead of tequila) were solid, but it was the fruity, light and refreshing drinks that made us want to double down and order more. The tart and addicting Blueberry Shrub (rye, blueberry, champagne vinegar and lemon) was our favorite cocktail of the night hands down, followed by the pleasing Cucumber Smash (gin, cucumber, mint and lemon). I’ll be back to try the Neon Negroni, which comes with a mysterious and intriguing sounding ‘electrolyte reduction’.
And while you’re drinking, ordering something to eat is a good call. Present Company’s food menu is just as varied as their cocktail list. There’s a solid amount of vegetarian (and very non-vegetarian options), plus the menu jumps from sandwiches to gnocchi to curry bowls to bao buns. We kept it simple and tried the Nashville hot chicken wings, the tuna burger and their house-smoked pastrami sandwich.
The wings, while succulent, didn’t have enough spice to live up to the name Nashville and the tuna burger leaned a little on the dry side, but the pastrami sandwich was definitely a keeper. Stacked high with smoky meat and melty cheese, this is a sandwich that can be easily shared, or hoarded and consumed entirely on your own while your friends watch on in horror and envy. I thoroughly regret not ordering the eggplant chip nachos. I have a lot of questions about them.
More than anything, it’s clear that Present Company wants to be reliable. They want to be your boozy lunch spot, your boozy dinner spot and your boozy after dinner spot. As the weeks go on, their goal is to be open everyday from 11 a.m. to 2/3 a.m. For right now, their open from 4 p.m. to 2/3 a.m. everyday except Tuesdays. We’ll be back.
Present Company Public House is located at 438 Massachusetts Avenue NW.