2.26.2006

Ramblings: The Weeknight Joint

I've been growing concerned with a new designation creeping into my going-out lexicon that to me indicates a.) I'm becoming antisocial, b.) I ain't getting any younger, c.) D.C. needs more cool hangouts to disperse the crowds, or d.) all of the above. I keep finding myself saying that a bar is great but "only on a weeknight."

Someone asked me about Bar Pilar the other day. I said, "I love it...on a weeknight." On weekends, the narrow space can become a bottle neck and moving anywhere away from your seat (if you get one) can be a challenge. "What do you think of Local 16?" asked another friend. Same deal: grab a seat at the dark, moody bar on a weeknight and it's great. Come on the weekend, and it'll be you and every stiletto-clad 20-something waiting in line to get in and become a human pinball. Chi Cha? Same thing. And while we're at it, let's just throw the entirety of Adams Morgan into this category.

Don't get me wrong. I still enjoy a shoulder-bumping, martini-sloshing night out every now and then. But more often, when it comes to heading out for a drink on the weekends, I'm at a loss for someplace laid back. Even more challenging is thinking of a shall we say "trendy" place where you'll want to don your cool jeans and drink $15 martinis without a mob of people.

The few places that do jump to mind for low-key weekend drinks include my couch, The Saloon (fancy pants not required), a few restaurant/hotel bars like The Tabard Inn and Firefly and ... um ... *crickets chirping*

Am I an antisocial scrooge or onto something here? Is your favorite hangout too crowded on the weekend? Where do you go when fighting crowds isn't on your weekend agenda? Or would you rather keep it a secret so the rest of us don't ruin it?

34 comments:

boonelsj said...

I'll add Wonderland to your list.

j o h n said...

I hear you. I'm at a complete loss for where to grab a drink at a place that's not completely mobbed on the weekends. The Pharmacy Bar has been ok a few nights, but the Wonderland & sometimes DC9 at times can get mobbed too. Where did all these people come from?

Melissa said...

I felt that way when I lived in NY,too, where there's no shortage of bars. I think it's just the weekend crush that seems to happen in alot of cities or even college towns. Saturday, in particular seems like amateur night: a mini version of New Years or St. Patty's Day. I'd rather go out during the week just to avoid the jackass factor. Good topic for a post.

GreenLiner said...

Dude - Temperance Hall up on 3634 Georgia Ave NW by the Ga Ave-Petworth Metro (green line) is the spot. It looks nicer than Bar Pilar, they got two bars, leather banquettes with table service and a rockin' internet jukebox. Get there before the throng of non-District residents descend upon it!

Anonymous said...

Wonderland is way too crowded on the weekend. I love going on weeknights but I just can't get into being pushed off my bar stool by overeager, overly made up girls wearing slutty tank tops in the middle of winter (sorry to rant, had a bad experience this weekend).

I second Pharmacy bar, and Toledo Lounge is usually more laid back than the rest of Adams Morgan. Maybe we can find what we're looking for at Temperance Hall? I haven't been yet...

Twoste said...

No, you've not become antisocial. In fact, you are completely correct in your opinon! D.C. weekend going-out culture -- i.e. bars and clubs -- has evolved very singuarly. That is to say, there is a plethora of mob scene locations and virtually no true lounges or bars that allow for conversation.
Bar Rouge is nice, quiet, and cosy -- but they close at 11 p.m. on weekends.
The Quarry House in Silver Spring is nice -- but they only serve beer and it's a bit of a trek for you District-types.
Twins Jazz is fantastic (the Colorado Ave. location, not U Street) -- but if you go with a group, then they all really should enjoy jazz because trying to talk while there's a good set going on can cause problems.
And there's a really nice little place at 15th and I, just up the street from WaPo, the name of which I can't remember.
Other than that, where else can one go to avoid the riff-raff?!?!? People who enjoy conversation want to know!

Amanda said...

I took some friends to Bar Rouge one Saturday for the reasons listed above and we were the only people there. And like twoste mentioned, they closed down early. So while too many people are bad, being the only people can be worse. Wow, I'm picky. ;)

Anonymous said...

18th and U on saturday night is surprising comfortable. Never go there on a friday, but not bad at all on saturdays

Dave said...

So true. I think the same of 18th Street Lounge -- it is a great place on weeknights, but too crowded on weekends. (And that's coming from someone who doesn't mind a bar filled with stiletto-clad twenty-somethings.) Lines to get in and barely being able to find a place to stand, let alone sit down, are never fun. Can't think of good "weekend" bars to add to your list ....

aurelgrooves said...

i live in adams morgan and know the saturday night stumble parade all too well...which is why i mostly host weekend dinner parties now. i'm not one to keep a good secret...but asylum and chief ike's mambo room are the best all-week spots. ok, so they're kinda dirty, but they've got character. most importantly, i like the option of switching floors to order a drink with my voice as opposed to frantic hand motions, and to be able to sit on a stool, carry on a conversation or hear my phone ring.

Tim Foley said...

Ok, this "Saturday is amateur night" thing is ridiculous. Actually, Sat. might be considered "professional night" as people who stay in during the week so that they can perform their job capably the next day have an opportunity to go out and have some fun. If you are a "pro" barfly, enjoy your bar on Wednesday while I enjoy my 8 hour sleep, and when I am out partying at the bar on Sat. you can have a house party.

KyleEast said...

This Friday at Tallula in Clarendon, I expected to get drinks with a group at the bar, but my date was a bit hungry so we grabbed a table and bottle around 10PM while waiting for another couple. 30 minutes and another Sauvignon later we had a group around the table, who had pulled up chairs and occupied an adjacent table for drinks and conversation. Rounds of fabulous cheese plates, hors d'oeuvre style apps, and drinks later... one of the owners and the waiter joined in on the fun. Essentially leveraging more of the restaurant space while I’m sure the waiter had no complaints about the extended evening considering the check; maybe the bartender did. So make your own lounge environment! If you haven’t been to Tallula, it’s worth a shot.... spot on about Tabard & Firefly... great feel.

Kate said...

Quick note:

Someone mentioned the Quarry House in Silver Spring as only having wine and beer. They came under new management in January and now they have better food and a full liquor license.

jenster8 said...

I'll second Temperance Hall -- great beer, great food, great decor, and stays pretty sane, crowd-wise. Probably partly a function of the location...

PalacePool said...

I will have to check Temperance Hall. DC9 is great on weeknights, or early before shows start. If you life on the Hill, Trusty's is a good laid back place with good cheap burgers.

Anonymous said...

Oh c'mon Tim Foley, lighten up. Just because someone doesn't like a meat market atmosphere doesn't mean they're not every bit as hard-working as anyone else. Just because I would prefer to spend my precious few minutes away from (all-consuming) work in a slightly calmer environment where I can actually hear my friends talking and I don't have to worry about being hit on by an aging frat-boy in a striped button down, doesn't mean I'm a drunk who doesn't deserve a place to hang out.

And just because I go to a bar on a weeknight doesn't mean I can't 'function' at work the following day. Most of the time I've brought my work with and am only having 1 or 2 beers. Likewise on the weekend I don't feel a tremendous need to 'party', rather to unwind with friends and neighbors over a drink or two. My dismay is at the fact that there are few places where I can do that, as most bars tend to turn into a zoo. Just as you ought to be able to have a bar that's crazy and jam-packed, I'd like to have a slightly different atmosphere.

Scott said...

This reminds me of a great bar in NYC which emulates just what everyone here is asking for. Angels Share sits above a beat up chiniese restaurant, where 3 stone faced men whip up the best cocktails I have ever had. All with an asian flare they include ingredients like Lychee, sisho, and thai basil. To top it off, there is a great rule scheme. You can only come if your group is 4 or less. Come in with 5 you're kicked out. Come in and can't find a seat?...kicked out. Yell, laugh out loud, act drunk or act like an ass?...kicked out. The owners are all about creating a calm cool atmosphere. It's like a game to see how long you can last there. Looking sleepy?.....NO SISHO FOR YOU!

Amanda said...

That's hilarious. And the beauty of it is, you don't like it? Go somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

The new Science Club 1136 19th St. NW wasn't pretty low key early in January on a Saturday night. Like the 18th St. Lounge with room to stand and be heard.

DF said...

Generally speaking, most bars make all their money on weekends. As such, most places do everything they can to ensure that they are packed on weekends. If they are not packed by choice, for example The Reef usually limits the number of people they let, then you - the consumer - will usually "pay" for this in the form of higher drink/food prices.

If you want a place that is not packed on a weekend, I would suggest going to bars that are not in close proximity to other bars. What do Wonderland, Temperance Hall, Trusty's and Quarry House all have in common? They are not located next too - or basically next too - other bars. Bars in Adams Morgan, U Street/14th Street and Georgetown are always going to be crowded on weekends (barring the odd exception here and there). Want to get away from the crowd? Then go where there is not a crowd of bars.

Amanda said...

Right. And that means you have to commit to the bar when it's not near others, which usually means you're interested in the crowd you came with and not "finding" a scene.

Anonymous said...

What about Royal Palace in Dupont? It's just about the seediest strip joint ever, but, consequently, it's pretty empty---and conveniently located right near all the other bars!

Spiral Stairs said...

Scott, I used to live a couple blocks from Angel's Share in NYC. Don't they have a "no standing" rule too?

I freely admit that as I've gotten older (a ripe 33 now), I've gravitated away from "bars" and more to "places where there is no doubt about whether there will be seats, with a comfortable, conversation-friendly volume level." Some people call them "restaurants."

I also find that as I get older, I like to get in and out earlier than before. So, while going out drinking used to mean hours of 10PM to 1AM, now it's 8PM to 10PM. Helps with the seating too.

Spiral Stairs said...

(Scott, I just noticed you already cited Angel's Share's no-standing rule. Sorry for poor reading comprehension. And for the double post.)

The Party Girl said...

Great call on The Saloon. It's been one of my favorites since I moved into that neighborhood 2 years ago.

I've had some great weekend nights at Polly's. Never seen it so crowded that you can't grab a seat at the bar, they have a decent jukebox and in the winter they usually have the fireplace going.

Anonymous said...

Nah, I'm on the same page when you mention the jackass factor. I don't really like going out to bars on weekends. Too many drunk people, too little space between them-- a recipe for jostling, misunderstandings and getting groped by some doofus. Weekends are for house parties.

Anonymous said...

Was that you in the Washingtonian??

(oh yeah, I like the bars on the Hill for mellowness)

Anonymous said...

The Continental in Rosslyn is never packed on the weekends. With pool, board games, and plenty of tables, it's becoming a favorite with my group of friends when we're looking for low-key nights.

Amanda said...

Maybe...

Anonymous said...

I'd add the "new" Bourbon in Adams Morgan to your list... just don't tell anyone.

Anonymous said...

Saturday nights on the Hill are pretty quiet. Try Lounge 201 on the Senate side or Sonoma or Finn MacCool's on the House side. If you don't mind cigar smoke Shelly's across from the National Press Club is always a comfy spot.

VirulentSmurf said...

Is Stoney's still around on L, or has it been turned into a parking lot by now? We used to finish off MANY a late night there, weekends too.

Flying Scotsman on the Hill (next to My Brother's Place) has never had more than five people in it when I've been there.

Love The Saloon and The Continental. (Continental is HUGE, always has space, but can't hear the juke, ever.)

But my favorite three bars in DC are Mickey's Patio on 8th SE, Colonel Brooks' Tavern by Catholic, and The Tune Inn on Pennsylvania SE.

Mickey's may be gone now, haven't been there in a couple years, but it is, or was, a regular hangout for Gallaudet students. You can't get quieter than that. Try your hand at pool in the back room, but you'll probably get sharked by a local. Best damn burger in town.

Colonel Brooks' is, sadly, known to most of DC as the place where those three employees got shot, but it's a phenomenal atmosphere, and gorgeous inside -- wood everywhere. Nowhere else will you see Fransiscan monks drinking with yuppies and neighborhood street kids. Best and most comfortably integrated bar in town. Open late. Great brunch.

But if you want dingy, junky, and pure oldstyle DC, head for the Tune. The Tune is an afterthought behind Cap Lounge/PourHouse/HawkNDove, but it outclasses those by miles. Awesome burgers, and oh so cheap. No one will ever disturb you there.

Yeah, so my places ain't classy. So what? To me, a bar is a place to grab a bite, chug a few, and share life with your friends. Enjoy.

Amanda said...

Last I heard, Flying Scotsman got evicted, furniture on the sidewalk and all, but I haven't been able to get the whole story. Mickey's Patio is now the Old Siam, a Thai restaurant. Looks like the world might be out to get all your favorite spots... =(
Tune Inn's hanging tough though, with 50 years in the Nardelli family's hands.

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