2013 list additions compiled by: Brandon Wetherbee, Svetlana Legetic & Stephanie Breijo. Shout-outs to Shauna and Logan who helped with the 2012 list.
Last year we ran our first ever LEAST DOUCHEY BARS IN DC list. It was done in response to COMPLEX’s The 25 Douchiest Bars in DC which we felt was “for the most part it was 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, on the other hand 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, which we discuss further below, meaning your realms of non-douchebaggery are forever expanding, and while we were sad to see some of our 2012 FAVORITES close their doors (bye Red Palace! we miss you Blackbyrd!), scroll to the bottom of the list for the ALL-STAR ALUMS and obviously, comment with your favorites.
HAPPY NON-ANNOYING DRINKING AHEAD. P.S. The order is alphabetical, in case you were wondering about that.
- 1314 9th St NW
Full disclosure: BYT offices are located right next door to A&D. And while we would have been excited to have any bar next door to us, the fact that THIS BAR was brought to us by the combined forces of the people who make Sundevich and Seasonal Pantry awesome (and then just add booze) made us extra thrilled. The place is relaxed, sane, fancy-but-not-really-fancy and always feels like a way better alternative than elbowing our way through the hot mess that lies ahead just a few blocks west. Make yourself at home.
- 1825 18th street NW
We all know it, 18th street is a nightmare. Lauriol Plaza block maybe even more so. But, the addition of Bar Charley is a great one. It occupies the English Basement space which use to be taken up by that New Orleans joint which was never quite as good as you wanted it to be and is owned by the folks behind El Chucho, and I love it. First of all: these people know their drinks and any bar that serves you a gin rickey with a giant column of gin infused ice in the middle which both cools and boozifies your DC Classic as you consume it is a-ok by us. Second of all: the food is good. Not great, but way better than a place with this strong of a cocktail list really needed. Third of all: the staff is nice and hard working and full of useful info and warnings. The only thing is: the bar area is pretty small, so we recommend easing yourself into this situation on school nights before taking on a weekend.
- 623 Pennsylvania Ave SE
The food at Beuchert’s is DELICIOUS (check out our day at the farm we spent with their team) but the front part is one of DC’s best bars to simply hang out at. Both a relatively new kid on the block AND the oldest one, it is a restoration of the original Beuchert’s which after 1880 became a Prohibition-era speakeasy fronted with the pretense of a gramaphone and sewing shoppe. Over time, the space petered out, and fell into a state of disrepair. Now, strong, delicious, seasonal, no-nonsense drinks and food are served to you in a setting that both evokes the original, and still feel thoroughly modern. And the two the humongous taxidermy buffalo heads (fondly names Mike and Ike) hovering over you? They’re simply there to keep the douchebaggery away, naturally.
- 1523 22nd St NW
It’s rare to find a beer-heavy bar in a trendy neighborhood without the frats and the so-packed-you-can’t-move levels of crowded but somehow Bier Baron, with over 600 beers, manages to avoid both and bring an incredible drink selection to Dupont (with nary a douche in sight). Maybe it’s the vague appearance of a dive bar–low light, neon, walls lines by empty beer cans on display–or maybe it’s the quirky programming (burlesque and live theatre, anyone?) but whatever Bier Baron is doing, it’s doing right when it comes to keeping this gem of a watering hole weird and wonderful.
- 1410 14th St NW
Fun fact: our first look story on Black Whiskey is the 15th most read story on BYT ALL YEAR, and the comments did feature the head bartender’s hipster mustache being called out, AND it is on 14th street, which is the new U Street, which is the new Adams Morgan, and lets face it-all sorts of stuff could have gone wrong. But instead-what we got was a nice, dark, old-fashioned bar where to drink drinks you have always known existed, and hang out with people who you have always known or wanted to know. The downstairs programming hosts some awesome old-school dance parties, and fun events like Topaz & Arrow’s DIY days and is in general, an oasis in a sea of madness that surrounds it.
- 116 Rhode Island Ave NW
There’s a reason Boundary Stone continues its grip on Neighborhood Bar title, despite the influx of new spots popping up all over Bloomingdale, and we suspect it’s due in large part to why it’s on this list: when you do something right and without a lot of kitsch, it’s honest and appreciated. Boundary Stone’s simple concept of great American food and a large beer and whiskey selection makes this spot one of our favorite D.C. standbys for a drink after work, a solid brunch, or a great place to meet up with friends and watch a game. It’s unpretentious, it’s cozy and it just feels natural. Never change, Boundary Stone.
- 5037 Connecticut Ave NW
The Comet block is one of our favorite blocks in D.C. in general: Politics & Prose, Buck’s, and then yes, the pizza place/bar/show venue we all wish was located right around the corner from us. The crowd is a mix of upper NW and Maryland cool Moms and Dads, NPR music staff, local band heroes and anyone who wants to hear Mikal Cronin or Prince Rama play their first DC show ever in a room that forgives and allows all. Plus, free movie nights, art parties and more. And pretty damn good pizza too.
- 3628 Georgia Ave NW
DC Reynolds is the kind of bar that Petworth needs more of. Laid back, great happy hour, great bottomless brunch, great trivia nights, great outdoor space, it basically covers all your basic bar needs but does it well. The best thing about DC Reynolds is that in a sea of new bars in desperate search of a gimmick, it is perfectly content to just be.
- 2317 Calvert Street NW
The tiny bar nestled beneath the New Heights restaurant in Woodley Park is one of DC’s best kept secrets (did we just blow this one for you? Sorry, feel free to yell at us in the comments). Celebrating Julia Childs’ (and mine) favorite liquor, it is a masterclass on how to do a tight little concept well and not be exclusive or snobby or well, douchey about it. Whether you go for a classic gimlet, a stirred martini or a singapore sling, when you’re in the mood to just sit back and relax with a quality cocktail in this town, and say goodbye to all the noise that surrounds you and your going out normally, this MUST be the place you want to be.
- 1017 7th St NW
When HOGO opened, next door to Passenger, as DC’s first proper (enough) Tiki Bar, we were a little worried that all that rum was going to attract well, the kind of people who THINK they like rum (and drink it exclusively with a Coke, and enjoy pouring it all over themselves while they walk) but things worked out. A great, strong cocktail list, a capable staff, and one of the more inventive bar menus in town consistently attract the exact opposite kind of clientele and for that, Hogo, we congratulate you. Now, make ours a blue one. BONUS: great coffee during daytime.
- 1103 Bladensburg Rd NE
What makes Jimmy V’s a great non-douchey destination is this: it is a bar that requires FULL commitment. You don’t go to 1103 Bladensburg road to slam a few beers, insult someone else’s girlfriend at a bar and leave. Oh no, you go and you sit down, and enjoy the strong drinks, and the weird dance parties, and the Lindsay Lohan bathroom and the other people who decided to share this full-bar-commitment evening with you and you STAY. FOR A WHILE. Time and space continuum doesn’t necessarily apply here and neither does douchebaggery.
- 3634 Georgia Ave NW
Full disclosure: I host a show at the Looking Glass. One of the reasons I host a show at the Looking Glass is because it’s not a douchey bar. When I came to DC I scoured the city looking for places that have events that aren’t sad or overpriced or full of weirdos and do what they can to prevent douchiness. At the time, the Looking Glass was the only bar in Petworth that had everything I needed. A few years later, the LGL is no longer a beacon of hope in a gentrifying neighborhood, it’s become the anchor. It’s still not sad or overpriced or full of weirdos or douches. This probably has something to do with the owners being locals in their early 30s and not part of a chain disguising itself as a homegrown operation. Or they just care. It’s why I still have a show at the Looking Glass.
- 3400 11th St NW
We’d be lying if we said Meridian Pint wasn’t one of our favorite go-to restaurant-and-bar combos. Not only is their brunch killer (killer!), their beer selection and local tastings, keg tappings and beer-centric parties keep us in the know when it comes to American craft brews. We understand that a bar advertising environmental sustainability and reclaimed wood furniture sounds like it could be a tad douchey but the team behind Meridian Pint means every word (and they do it with grace and without snobbery). Into sports? They’ve even got a new basement with countless flat screens and pool tables, all for your viewing-and-drinking enjoyment. Not into sports? Stick upstairs and take a seat and order one (or four) of their 150+ beers.
- 829 Upshur St NW
To quote our first look story: “the second we stepped into Petworth Citizen, the new bar from Room 11, The Passenger and Hogo co-proprietor Paul Ruppert, a sense of calm washed over us and we couldn’t get rid of it, no matter how much our stressed-out selves tried to do so. The space is spare, just dim enough to be flattering even in broad daylight and copper accents add a soft glow of relaxation-to-come to every corner.” BONUS: Free library and literary events room in the back. BONUS BONUS: drinks names KILL BILL VOL. 1 and BOO RADLEY.
- 2337 18th St NW
A beacon of sanity in a sea of douchery, Pharmacy could easily slip into shittiness if it ever starts comparing itself to its neighbors. Adams Morgan, I’m talking about Adams Morgan, which sucks because there are good bars in Adams Morgan, they’re just full of horrible people on most weekends. Pharmacy is not. Whether it’s the quality jukebox, good selection, or pilly decor keeping the douche away, it’s hard to know why this spot remains OK.
- 3548 14th St NW
Decidedly one of D.C.’s most endearingly unique venues, The Pinch serves as both a restaurant (upstairs), a venue (the delightfully small basement) and dive bar (both floors, thankfully). It’s one of the only spots in the District where you can wander in off the street and find yourself at a punk show or a poker night and they’ve got a stellar happy hour special: $2 draft beer and premium liquor.
- 1234 H St NE
The only dive bar on H Street that’s a real dive bar but not scary or super expensive*. There’s a good view of H in one booth and that’s about it for perks. The bartenders are nice, the owners are nice and the clientele is nice. The Pug is nice. (Stephanie’s note: you can also find fun food like pop-ups from Taco Impala and some great sausage sandwiches, not to mention a game or two of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.)
*I realize that non-douchey bars can and do have good craft beer for $6, $7 and $8, but dive bars should have cheap beer, not just look run down.
- 3125 Mt Pleasant St NW
A dark, old, cash only space that’s able to feel unlike any other bar in DC, which is a very good thing. If you don’t like the person you’re with, you’re out of luck. Raven is one of those old timey bars that doesn’t feature a TV every 5 feet or loud music. At the Raven, you have to talk to the other people at The Raven. No specialty cocktails or an extensive beer list, just the basics and the company you keep.
- 2047 9th St NW
Remember the band P.O.D.? They had a hit with the song “Satellite.” It’s a very bad song, full cliche lyrics and guitar riffs that remind you anyone can pick up an instrument at Guitar Center. Satellite Room is the opposite of that song, mostly because it’s not a song, has reasonably priced good beer and attached to the 9:30 Club.
- 113 Rhode Island Ave NW
Showtime Lounge offers a very strong showing of things to look for in a non-douchey bar (in fact, during our first look story on it, we made an early prediction this place was a shoe-in for this list, and the last few months has only proven us right). Let us just name a few of them: a GREAT jukebox (the jukebox book is called “The Treasure Chest”), some seriously no-nonsense drinking (no cocktail menu), the bar staff that is an all-star round-up of 14th street veterans from Black Cat and Saint-Ex (and if anyone knows how to serve a beer-and-a-whiskey in town, it is them), free rock’n’roll shows on Sunday afternoons (why don’t MORE neighborhood bars do this?) and probably the best bathroom in DC if you’re a long-suffering Redskins fan. Which we know you are.
- 1432 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Cocktails can be douchey. With an endless combination of bitters, liquors and mixers, it’s no wonder mixology’s been spoofed to no end. Somehow, against all odds, Southeast’s cocktail-centric bar Wisdom manages to serve up craft cocktails with complete earnestness, even if they do use an “Essence/Texture/Clarity/Subtlety/Finish” menu guide. It’s also home to one of D.C.’s few dog-friendly happy hours, which is conceptually almost the exact opposite of douchey. (Even if you don’t have a dog, go pet someone else’s. You can’t lose.)
(click on the link above to read full captions) RIP TO: RED PALACE, BLACKBYRD and TOLEDO LOUNGE
- Black Cat Red Room
- Red Derby
- The Saloon
- Saint-Ex/Bar Pilar
- Marx Cafe
- The Tune Inn
- Room 11
- DC9 Rooftop
- 9:30 Back Bar
- Dodge City/Velvet Lounge
- Boundary Road
- RNR Hotel
ALSO, please feel free to dig into us in the comments and inform us of all the bars WE MISSED. 2014 edition will be here super soon.