2014 list additions compiled by: Brandon Wetherbee & Svetlana Legetic. Shout-outs to Shauna, Stephanie and Logan who helped with the 2012 and 2013 lists.
We ran our first ever LEAST DOUCHEY BARS IN DC 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 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 (that’s what the comments are there for, bubs).
Good news is: we have some SOLID additions to the 2012 LIST and the 2013 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.
HAPPY NON-ANNOYING DRINKING AHEAD. P.S. The order is alphabetical, in case you were wondering about that.
- All Souls (725 T Street NW) – This show relative newcomer is that early-in-the-game date spot AND catching-up-with-my-old-friend hybrid you’ve been looking for: small enough to not be too loud, with drinks nice enough that you don’t feel like you’re slumming it (bonus: affordable bottles of rose delivered right to your table) and somehow, SOMEHOW never too crowded with anyone, but especially not douchey people.
- Argonaut (1433 H Street NE)- In both 2012 and 2013 we got comment flack for not including the Argonaut. We know, we know. You DO deserve to be here.
- Bardo (1200 Bladensburg Road NE) – to quote our BeerYT column: “Bardo Beer Garden feels less like a bar, and more like the cool guy down the street has had everyone over to drink in his post-apocalyptic backyard. Also, this cool guy may or may not be Mad Max. Shipping containers, stacked and rusted, serve as backdrop for nightly movies, tree stumps make for tables and stools. An epically random assortment of chairs surround the sun-warped picnic tables, dogs roam freely amongst brewery equipment, cornhole games, and a gigantic skull made out of beer cans. And re: beer: there’s plenty of it.”
- Bedrock Billiards but not Rocket – this is why location matters (1841 Columbia RD NW)- Bedrock Billiards in Adams Morgan sounds like it would be horrible. The location screams douche, the idea of a pool hall bar sounds douchey and, once again, Adams Morgan. But it’s not. Maybe it’s because it’s in a basement it doesn’t attract the kind of clientele that frequents most Adams Morgan rooftops. Maybe it’s the lack of windows and ample space. But Rocket has no windows and ample space and it’s a very douchey bar. Location matters. For some reason, this location works.
- Birreria Paradiso (3282 M Street NW) – Speaking of beer – somehow, years of existence later, the basement of Pizzeria Paradiso is still a much needed hideaway from both the chaos of Georgetown streets and overpriced, low quality beers that seem to somehow sneak their way into most bars somehow. The half-off drafts happy hour before 7 is probably the best beer happy hour in town too.
- Cashions (1819 Columbia RD NW) – Remember how we had way too many snow days last winter? Thanks to those days off I discovered the excellent happy hour and excellent staff at Cashion’s Eat Palace. The food is fantastic and the bar is
welcoming. The only problem is it’s popular. People want to be there, which not the usual case for a lot of bars and restaurants near Cashion’s. Seats fill up fast for good reason. If we’re lucky enough to get more snow days this winter, I’ll be there when they open.
- Compass Rose (1346 T Street NW) – 14th street is starting to feel more and more like a jungle so this new place next to Saint-Ex is like a breath of fresh air. The drinks are good, strong, and with a sense of humor. The bar is just big enough and the chairs occupying it comfortable enough that you can feel like you ARE supposed to linger, and the neighborhood family vibe is the exact opposite of what you’d run into a mere block away, so much so that it almost feels like a vacation. Some of the best bar snacks in town too.
- DGS (1317 Connecticutt Ave) – Go to the small and well lit back bar area. A lovely little meeting place for happy hour. After a few minutes you’ll forget you’re in Dupont Circle, which may or may not be a good thing.
- Duke’s Grocery (1513 17th Street NW) – 17th street has always been a great place to hide from 18th (and now 14th street) and do some low key drinks. Now that Duke’s is here, there’s no reason to not make it one of your primary destinations too. The ground floor bar gets busy, but maintains a neighborhood-y vibe at all times. The sandwiches are some of the most intense in town. The bar snacks are good enough for a full meal. The staff is both nice and not overbearing. The beer list is good, the bottles of wine are half off on Mondays, and NO ONE is ever rushing you.
- El Chucho (3313 11th Street NW)- This is a tricky one. It gets douchey on weekend nights. Most places on 11th in Columbia Heights get douchey on weekend nights. It’s also good for all ages and all types of drinkers. Whether you want a Mexican beer or a taco, you’re covered. Great place if you get a table, good place if you’re standing.
- Ivy and Coney (1537 7th Street NW) – If you think Chicago and Detroit neighborhood bars are douchey, this is the douchiest bar in D.C. If you think no frills neighborhood bars with cheap beer (Old Style), medium priced beer (Goose Island) and hot dogs (Chicago and Coney style) are the opposite of douche, we agree.
- Lyman’s Tavern (3720 14th Street NW)- Or The Red Derby part 2. Or the new place with the good jukebox. Or the new place with the pinball. Or the neighborhood bar that IS, IN FACT, just a neighborhood bar.
- Mockingbird Hill / Eat The Rich / Southern Efficiency Trifecta (7th street between S & T NW) – the key here is nicheness: nicheness can be inherently douchey since it sometimes implies pretension, yes, but here it simply eliminates anyone and everyone who is looking to get wasted in the simplest, most predictable/annoying way and leaves you sharing the narrow, identical-yet-totally-different rooms with other people looking to catch up, eat and drink the way adults in bars are meant to.
- Partisan (709 D Street NW)- Lets face it, things could have gone really south here in terms of douchiness really easily – the proximity to Verizon center, the bro-date friendly menu, etc. But, fear not Neighborhood Restaurant Group and Nathan Anda knew exactly what they were doing and the back area bar remains a blissfully adult, low stress zone, with amazing bar snacks (come early for their mid-afternoon specials), real cocktails by Jeff Faile (who heads up one of the more experienced, awesome bar staffs in town), wines you never knew were about to become your favorite ones and, of course, a pretty amazing beer list. Never change.
- Roofers Union (2446 18th Street NW) – not the roof – The first floor of Roofers Union is a great place to have a cocktail
with someone whose conversation you enjoy. The second floor of Roofers Union is ideal for groups of four or more, comfortable for both drinks and dinner. There’s also a roof. 2/3 of this building belongs on this list.
- Rosemary’s Thyme (1801 18th Street NW)- One of our favorite things to do these days is to revisit some old mainstays on the 18th street strip and get all sorts of excited about how, despite DC changing seemingly constantly, they stay the same. The Mediterranean spot on the corner of Swann keeps their tiny bar open after dinner service, the locals line up for strong gin & tonics and martinis, and the general vibe is well, very Cheers (and we say that wit all the love in our hearts).
- Republic (6939 Laurel Ave, Takoma) – the only problem we have with Jeff Black’s bar/venue/restaurant/etc? The fact that we don’t live in Takoma so we can’t go there at least every other night.
And… may be too early to tell, but we’re feeling pretty good about:
- Pop’s Seabar – check out our full first look here. “If you read our Bars & Restaurants to Look Forward to in Fall 2014 story, you know that we’ve been VERY excited for POP’S Seabar to open. The fact that that happened last week just as we were all starting to (prematurely?) be nostalgic for the summer is just an added bonus.” Radler + shot combos, great seafood, open from lunch to dinner and beyond with no breaks, drinks with a great sense of humor (like ice cream alcoholic luges etc) and the fact that it is brought to us by the team behind one of our OTHER least douchey bars on this list (Cashion’s) all spell PROMISE to us. Fingers crossed.
And… FOOTBALL SEASON BONUS:
(click on the link above to read full captions) RIP TO: RED PALACE, BLACKBYRD, HOGO, 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
- Showtime Lounge
- Bar Charley
- Beuchert’s Saloon
- The Bier Baron Tavern
- Boundary Stone
- Comet Pizza & Ping Pong
- DC Reynolds
- The Gin Joint
- Jimmy Valentine’s Lonely Hearts Club
- The Looking Glass Lounge
- Meridian Pint
- Petworth Citizen
- The Pinch
- The Pug
- The Raven Grill
- The Satellite Room
ALSO, please feel free to dig into us in the comments and inform us of all the bars WE MISSED. 2015 edition will be here super soon.