Roundtable Discussion: Your DC Bar of Choice

With the announcement this week that Brickskeller will be closing its doors in the next couple weeks, it seemed fitting to take inventory of what we still have in DC.  J Street Beer  has had a day or two to think it over and we added a bit of a twist.  The question is not just what our favorite DC bar is, but what we would change about it if given the chance.  Enjoy our thoughts and throw in your own picks, disagreement, or soul-crushing criticism in the comments section:


My favorite DC bar has to be RFD.  RFD was really my first step into the craft beer realm.  The huge selection got me to try things that I never would have tried, and it kept me coming back for more.  It’s tough to turn your back on your first.  Over the years of visiting, I’ve come to know the staff and have become quite a regular.  It’s difficult to go to other bars when you’re treated as a good friend, and the beers that are available are so varied and plentiful.  I enjoy going to RFD and never having to have the same beer I did last time.  I’m a big proponent of diversity.

The only thing I would change about RFD is the decor.  It’s in great need of a remodel.  As many have mentioned, it’s kind of like a cafeteria (which I think it originally was).  A remodel and the place would be perfect.


Since Tonzi took RFD, I’ll go with The Black Squirrel.  The most important thing about The Black Squirrel is that they have a great beer selection, they even had New Belgium when it isn’t distributed in the DC area. Knowledgeable and friendly bar staff serving solid bar fare – especially if they have their buffalo burger on special…it’s stuffed with brie and wrapped in ham….yum! The only downsides are that the bar is small (from being a row house) restricting TV space, and it’s in Adams Morgan.  Don’t forget to ask about picklebacks.


My favorite bar, at least for binge drinking, is Trusty’s in Southeast DC.  It’s stocked for drinking games, has a good dive feel, decent bar fare, and it is close to a metro.  I also love drinking out of a mason jar.  It reminds me of a simpler time in my life when some fine homemade moonshine from the boonies was easy to procure.

What I would change is the Arkansas fans crowding up the place.  I have nothing against Arkansas, but you people need to find a another venue.  A large collegiate sports bar where your drunken hollering and inane chants will not spoil an otherwise pristine dive atmosphere.  Also, the bartender Adam can be a bit of dick sometimes.  However, that is perfectly understandable when you have a bunch of demanding football fans from a state who’s most famous citizen is a Rhode Scholar that thought BJs don’t count and prided himself on taking the Arkansas education system from 50th to 49th.  What was the miracle?  Pencils and paper?  “Good news, Johnny, you won’t have to write in the dirt with that stick anymore. We’ve got paper!”.  Anyways, I believe they’re somewhere in the mid 40’s now, so good for you Arkansas.  And University of Arkansas is actually a decent school.


My favorite bar in DC is the Red Derby, but I like it a little less now.  I really like the Red Derby because people only go there to get toasted.  Nobody is there to impress anybody.  I like that in a bar.  The music is good, but I can still have a conversation while using my inside voice.  They have some board games, but they don’t advertise it.  The decor is simple, but cool.  I don’t like when places have elevnty-thousand license plates on the wall.  I hate wacky shit.  That shit is wack.  Red Derby is just comfortable.  I have even unselfconsciously enjoyed a few beers while wearing sweat pants.  I may have even walked home from there with no pants.  Also, the beer selection is pretty good too.  They carry a few thinks from Oskar Blues, Butternuts, Anderson Valley and so on.  They also have Schlitz and Natty Boh for $2 and PBR and Yuengling for $3.  All beer comes in cans, so the Red Derby always kind of feels like a laid back house party and the bar staff blends in with the crowd while managing to make me feel welcome in their house. I also hear that you can drink an unlimited amount of $5 combos (shot of Jameson and a Schiltz) and there will be absolutely no negative repercussions.

With all that said, I have one slight criticism against the Derb:  roof deck.  The roof deck is actually pretty sweet, but I think it will attract the wrong kind of crowd.  Less Bukowski and more Gladwell.  Both are fine authors, but when I’m getting my drink on give me Bukowski.


What makes a good bar for me is location, Location, LOCATION. Consequently, I have two because of my previous and current residence. First bar is The Looking Glass Lounge at GA Ave and Princeton St NW. It’s at the end of my street and is thus between my house and the metro making it the prime pit stop when commuting back from work. And while it is owned by the same people as Wonderland Ballroom, it does not have the same feel – meaning I can usually grab a stool. Only real problem is the slow rotation of their six taps at the main bar.

The second is Meridian Pint. While it started off kinda crappy with a lackluster beer selection, they have greatly improved over the past months. The food has improved and is good if you want slightly greasy bar food (actual food is pretty expensive). The main draw for me are their pool tables. They also have shuffle board. I can’t comment on the tap tables because I haven’t used them (then again not over interested in them).


I’m going to go with Iron Horse Tap Room on 7th St. NW.  There beers are always decent, not a huge selection but some quality picks, but the combination of location and games has made it a favorite of mine.  It’s near the Verizon Center, my work, and no more than a few blocks from every Metro line.  And of course the skee-ball lanes and shuffleboard downstairs are a great pre-game or post-work distraction.

If I could change a couple things about Iron Horse I would add a couple more TVs and food.  It’s nice that you can bring food in, but it’s tough to count a bar as your go-to place if you can’t easily sit, get wings, and watch football.


Rocket Bar – being the last one to choose didn’t leave me with much to choose from.  Look, the atmosphere sucks, the beer selection is weak, and you can’t really get food.  But the beer is dirt cheap, its a central location, and there’s darts, pool and shuffleboard to play: its a college basement party for slightly older people.  There will always be plenty of trashy yet attractive women – and probably men now that I think about it –  to oogle (but definitely not talk to), and if you are lucky Titanic will be on one of their big screens.

Well those are our picks.  Let us know what you think.


One response

  1. Frank the Tank

    All the bars you picked are great choices but I am gonna’ have throw the Big Hunt into the mix with the caveat that it is much better on weekdays as opposed to the douchebaggery of Fridays and Saturdays(but of course that is true for most places in the nation’s cap). Very solid craft beer selection on draft,suitably divey surroundings,good juke and a little cheaper than some similar places.Also, now that the Brick is closing, this place will have the longest tenure as a “beer bar” in the DC area.

    December 11, 2010 at 4:00 pm

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