2015 list additions compiled by: Brandon Wetherbee, Svetlana Legetic & Kaylee Dugan. 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 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 and 2014 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.
Atlas Brew Works Tasting Room (2052 West Virginia Avenue NE) – The first brewery tasting room on the list and we’re not sure about including it. We’re not worried about it’s douche status (it’s obviously not douchey and it’s hard to be a douche magnet when you’re only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday and close by 8 p.m.), we just don’t want it packed. But we want to acknowledge how great Atlas is so it’s time we bit the bullet and recommended it to the masses. Go for the Rowdy, stay for the delicious hops smell.
Brookland’s Finest (3162 12th Street NE)- Brookland is becoming hipper and hipper. There are new bars and restaurants popping up on 12th street all the time. Sometimes that’s a bad thing. Since this slow, but steady, gentrification has begun, the neighborhood has lost local establishments like Brookland Cafe (RIP), Little Rickey’s, and Optimism Bar. It has also gained a Busboys and Poets. The upside to all of this change is, of course, Brookland’s Finest. It is hands down one of the best places to get cocktails and food in the neighborhood. Their draft cocktail is always out of this world (so is their cocktail list, but seriously, go for what they have on draft). I would eat the blackened chicken club everyday for the rest of my life if it would not kill me. But, more than that, Brookland’s Finest has a very inviting atmosphere. During the day they’re filled with families and at night, it’s clear that the bar is packed with locals. I have ended many a drunken night (maybe even too many…) at Brookland’s Finest and I have not once regretted it. That’s true love right there.
Copycat Co. (1110 H St NE) – There are a lot of bars on H Street. Most of them are douchey. There isn’t anything necessarily douchey about the bars themselves, but the crowd is 100% douche. There is no getting around that. There are more or less two exceptions. Those are The Pug (which we have already written about because it’s great!) and one of the new kids on the block, Copycat Co. I have never had a bad time at Copycat. I have never had a problem getting a seat at Copycat (even though their bar is suuuuper small). I have never had a bad drink at Copycat. This bar is a safe port in the storm that is H Street and if that ever changes then I will probably give up on that place all together (except when I want pie…). If you’re not convinced, go there with a couple of friends, order the Roman Highball, and get some super spicy skewers. Rinse and repeat. You can thank me later.
Dew Drop Inn (2801 8th St NE) – The Dew Drop Inn manages to do what most bars cannot, it is never (and I mean never) too crowded. There is always a great balance between having enough people to make friends and being able to comfortably and without hassle find a seat at the bar and chat. Unlike many of the new bars opening in Brookland / Edgewood, Dew Drop is not trying to be fancy in any way. It’s just a good bar. It is succeeding.
Dito’s Bar – (1602 17th Street NW, Basement) – Dito’s Bar is the kind of place you actually don’t believe exists in D.C. anymore and you wish every neighborhood had, but of course, 17th street does. Located in the basement of an Italian Eatery (Floriana, for whom it provides imbibement as well), it is named after its bartender (as are a lot of cocktails), features a wall of photos of said bartender with assorted celebrities that he served a drink, pours drinks that are very strong and sometimes a tad too fruity, and does it all to a delightful combination of neighborhood types and people who someone brought in. The bar seats 7 people (maybe). The window area seats 4 (maybe). As far as we can tell it doesn’t have a website which is fine because it really doesn’t need one. The 14th street corner that houses Le Diplomate and Pearl Dive is 2.5 blocks away but it may as well be on another planet. It is also technically a gay bar, but that’s sort of the last thing you need to know about it.
Ghibellina (1610 14th Street NW) – So, I am not going to lie: I mostly go to bars these days before I even thought bars were open back in the day. Which means happy hour. And happy hour is often inherently douchey. Especially on 14th street (I, for example, LOVE Pearl Dive, but during happy hour it makes me want to deep dive into a sea of razor sharp oyster shells). Well, welcome Ghibellina (a bar I frequent and frequently write about for BYT) and its perfect happy hour. Key ingredients here: not too much street exposure so people watching (and being seen by people watchers) seizes to be the priority unless you’re in those few seats by the window, terrific specials (I challenge you to find better beers for $4, better wines for $5 or better cocktails for $6), great food (all pizzas under $10), a long, winding bar that you actually can sit at, a staff that is both helpful and minds their own business and a steady rotation of regulars (something no bar aside from Bar Pilar and St. Ex on 14th street can boast) that keep those seats occupied.
Hank’s Oyster Bar – Dupont (1624 Q Street NW) – When people mention “neighborhood bar”, my brain automatically goes to Hank’s. The front end sometimes gets kind of busy, but the upstairs doesn’t really, the oyster deals are great, the goldfish bowls make you almost forget that there are oyster deals, the drinks are strong and made without any bullshit (and they carry Narangassett as a happy hour special and general life special), the cheeseburger is a total three napkin delight and the music is always a steady stream of David Bowie, Belle & Sebastian, and other music that makes your life better. They are also always open during snowstorms because they understand that a neighborhood needs their bar no matter the weather, goddammit.
Lost and Found (1240 9th Street NW) -Let’s face it, Shaw is becoming almost as bad as 14th street these days. Lost & Found is keeping things pretty real with a bar that is long (long bars help the non-douchiness factor in popular neighborhoods because they spread the human factor out), a solid 24-beers-on-tap-but-we’re-not-going-to-call-ourselves-a-craft-beer-bar energy, PLENTY of whiskey on tastefully fluorescently lit shelves and a three hour long happy hour. Go in, get lost.
McClellan’s Retreat (2031 Florida Ave NW) -Now, saying that a bar in that ungodly intersection of Connecticut and Florida (you know, the corner with Russia House and whatnot) is non-douchey feels sort of counterintuitive but it is. Nestled in the nook next to a drycleaners (and in the former Veritas location) McClellans is a dark (but friendly), cocktail driven (but not pretentious) operation that doesn’t try to do anything aside from simply be itself. And being itself is the #1 bar on this list we’d recommend you take a first date. The impression you’ll leave is: I am not douchey. This was an equal gender opportunity note, BTW.
Menomale (2711 12th St NE) – Do not believe people who tell you that you can not get good pizza in D.C. They are liars. They are the kind of people you need to cut out of your life ASAP. Instead of fraternizing with the enemy, go to Menomale and make some friends who actually have taste. Yes, the bar is very small (but lets be real, small bars are the best when it comes to making new friends). Yes, the drinks are kind of expensive. Shhh. Don’t worry about that. You are going to have a great time. You are going to be surrounded by their excellent staff and lovely customers. You are going to be full of pizza, and liquor, and beer. Order the Brooklandissma. Order an Old Rasputin. Use the pizza scissors to your hearts content. But more importantly, kickback and enjoy watching a sport thing with your new best friends.
Right Proper (624 T Street NW) – This is on the list with conditions. Most of the time this bar/restaurant/brewery is not douchey. Sometimes there are birthday parties on weekends that get a little douchey. The place is large enough and craft beer enough to keep the douche to a minimum. We’ve never had a bad time sitting at the bar, drinking whatever the bartender is recommending (we’ve had good luck with the French farmhouse and porter), eating fries and complaining that the Brussels sprouts are currently out of season.
The Royal (501 Florida Avenue NW) – The newest entry to the list, this summers 2015 addition to LeDroit Park is part coffee shop and breakfast spot and part bar and dinner destination. It’s the kind of place you want to go on a date, not hang out with douchebags. The area isn’t surrounded by douchebags so there’s no reason The Royal should be overrun with bad people anytime soon. Sit at the bar, enjoy a cocktail made from shaved ice and come back the next morning for an espresso.
Stetson’s (1610 U Street NW) – When discussing this year’s list we were somewhat surprised this hadn’t been included in year’s past. The neighborhood bar is a neighborhood bar that has an outdoor patio, beer in cans, beer on tap and places to sit. It’s a no frills bar that posts their regulars birthdays on its Facebook page. That’s the sign of a good neighborhood, non-douchey bar.
Trusty’s (1420 Pennsylvania Ave SE) – Similar to Stetson’s, this is another bar we thought we covered. Our bad. There’s not enough love for SE, especially when it comes to good, no frills bars. Go for the greasy food (100% not making fun of this, it suits the place) and stay for the three beers on draft. Don’t like it? You don’t like no frills bars. There are a lot of frills nearly everyone else on the Hill.
And… FOOTBALL SEASON BONUS:
(click on the link above to read full captions) RIP TO: RED PALACE, BLACKBYRD, HOGO, PASSENGER and TOLEDO LOUNGE
- All Souls
- Bedrock Billiards
- Birreria Paradiso
- Black Cat Red Room
- Compass Rose
- Duke’s Grocery
- El Chucho
- Ivy and Coney
- Lyman’s Tavern
- Marx Cafe
- Mockingbird Hill / Eat The Rich / Southern Efficiency Trifecta
- Pop’s Seabar
- Red Derby
- Roofers Union (not the roof)
- Room 11
- Rosemary’s Thyme
- The Saloon
- Saint-Ex/Bar Pilar
- Showtime Lounge
- The Tune Inn
- DC9 Rooftop
- 9:30 Back Bar
- Dodge City/Velvet Lounge
- Boundary Road
- RNR Hotel
- 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. 2016 edition will be here super soon.