Words by Kaylee Dugan
Photos by Clarissa Villondo
Best if: You want to pretend you’re in Ocean City, you want your cocktail to taste like it came from a gas station and you like fried chicken.
I have a problem where I tell people about my favorite bars too often. For years I would confidently tell people they should check out Copy Cat, and now I can never get a seat at the bar. I don’t want Service Bar to become more crowded than it already is, but I feel obligated to let you know that if you’re sleeping on this bar, you’re messing up. Not only is it the perfect pre-9:30 Club, post-9:30 Club spot, but it’s a great place to stop by any old time because of their constant $7 cocktail menu. I can’t think of a single place on U Street where I can get an amazing Old Fashioned or a Mint Julep for $7. That’s less expensive than a beer at Takoda! That’s less expensive than a half smoke and fries at Ben’s! I feel like I’m actively cheating them whenever I order off of it.
While most of my Service Bar visits take place a night, they’re giving you (and me) a new reason to get boozy during the day. Service Bar has just unveiled a new late boozy, beachy brunch featuring all of the tropical cocktails you can handle. Grab a delicious frozen Piña Colada or Daquiri for $13 or go for a shareable double for $20. Maybe you want to embrace those gross Ocean City vibes? Do a classic (and pretty damn refreshing) orange crush or grapefruit crush. Regardless, you’re going to be drunk and happy, which is a perfect opportunity to dive straight into Chef Jerry Zawacki’s new brunch menu.
Service Bar is already known for their A+ fried chicken, and while Chef Zawacki has no interesting in changing that, he has concocted some inventive twists on the basics. If you’re looking to soak up some of last nights booze, look no further than the Chilaquiles. Featuring guajillo and tomatillo stewed tortillas with queso fresco, salsa verde and a fried egg perched on top, they taste like something a deeply high person would make, which is to say they’re incredible.
Are you the weird healthy friend who always makes good choices? The Farmers Market salad is bright, refreshing and has just the right amount of dressing. The combination of market greens and kale give you a little variation, while the radishes pumpkin seeds pop in your mouth. If you have to be boring and order a salad, you could do much worse.
Let’s say your a few grapefruit crushes in and you need something a little heartier, go for the duck confit sandwich. Made with pulled confit, gruyere and dijon on a baguette, it’s decadent and addicting. It comes with a cute little side salad, but ignore that and pair it with the chicken liver mousse, which comes with cute little slices of bread and a hearty seasonal fruit jam. It might be a meat overload but you’re already drunk so you might as well go all the way.
When it comes to menu length, Service Bar is the opposite of what I usually like. I want small menus. Minimal options. It makes me feel like I definitely know what I’m getting into and, no matter what, I can’t pick wrong. Service Bar’s menu isn’t only huge, but it’s constantly evolving. We took a break from beach brunch and dove headfirst into their regional French menu and their hyper seasonal menu, and while they were are carefully crafted, here were the stars.
By now, you’ve probably already heard about the Au Pistou, the herbaceous, savory drink that’s served in the worlds most delicate teacup. Yes, it’s good and yes, it’s interesting, but that’s not what I’m ordering when I go back. It’s the Adult Cherry Cola that calls to me and haunts my dreams. Made with sweet and sour cherries, lemon and Armangac, it’s an easy drink that reminds me of a syrupy suicide I’d make at a gas station soda machine. It’s amazing. I love it. I could drink it forever. There’s also the very basic and very refreshing Rosé All Day, which is so easy to drink it will change any of your gin hating friend’s minds, but my moneys still on that Cherry Cola.
Or you could take a break from the French and grab a glass of the ‘Like a Vodka Soda, But Not’. It’s mix of vodka (surprise!), rose, rhubarb and lemon make it perfect for hot weather drinking. Or as my notes say, it’s tart, bright, sour and lovely.
The more I write, the more I realize that above all, it’s Service Bar’s more simple drinks that really do it for me. They’re a highly creative team with incredible skill, but when I sit down at their bar, I don’t care about the weird stuff. Give me an orange crush and I’m good to go.
Service Bar is located at 928 U St NW. Hours are 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday thru Thursday. 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sunday.