I do, on occasion, spend time in places that are not bars. For example, offices, stores, friends’ apartments and sometimes even my very own home. But I like bars, because the good ones combine my three favorite things: people, music and fried food.
The Buzzy is an incredibly prestigious imaginary award I give to places where no one has ticked me off lately. Or, on occasion, to places that are so awful you can only wonder and laugh.
Best Bartender: Café Mozart, downtown. Sure, service can be a little slow, and there are never enough waitresses to go around. But Greg always notices when I change my hair (even when my friends don’t). And sometimes the cheese fries come with a delicious extra-spicy Velveeta.
Best Jukebox: Stetson’s, U Street. A nice mix of frat boy classics.
Best Discount Martini: M Street Grille, downtown. Get a girly pastel Caboodle and unicorn martini for the amazing price of $4.50.
Best Karaoke: Recessions, downtown. After a few discount vats of Michelob, what’s better than belting out “Livin’ on a Prayer” with your five new best friends? Plus, this bar has a cool James Bond vibe. You go into the basement of a hotel, past the sales and catering office, and then step into a tattered velour cavern.
Best Bar Skanks: Anywhere in Adams Morgan will do if you want to observe male and female bar skanks in their natural habitat. But for a true skank experience, go with Madam’s Organ. Gen-Y mating rituals at their finest.
Best Waitress: What’s-her-name at Red Lion. She offered to check the ladies’ room for barf before I went in. Now that’s service!
Best Patio: Beacon Bar and Grille, downtown. When it’s warm outside, there’s plenty of room for you at Beacon. I recommend the $10 Bucket ‘o Bud. Plus, the service never makes any sense, which is fun if you go in with the right attitude.
Coziest Dive: Polly’s, U Street. A good fireplace, plenty of little close-together tables for me to trip over, and beer. Though, if you go, remember that it’s cash only.
Best Irish Bar: Duffy’s, near the 930 Club. They even have halfway edible fish and chips.
Nicest Bartender: Topaz, Dupont Circle. I don’t recall her name, but she was very pleasant under very trying circumstances.
Meanest Bartender: What’s-his-name at Eighteenth Street Lounge. Seriously, could you pause the personal phone call for two seconds to take a few orders? I understand you have a personal life, but there’s a line stacking up and our booze-o-meter is running low. What’s even better is when several ESL staff people stand around gabbing and ogling women. I see that enough from Metro platform employees, I don’t need it from you.
Upscale Joint that Doesn’t Make Me Want to Puke: If I absolutely MUST dress pretty and smile nice, I’ll do it at Sonoma in Capitol Hill. A close second is Russia House in Dupont Circle.
Alright for Fighting: Asylum, Adams Morgan. Once a random dude tried to beat up my sister, the guy got hauled out and they comped our Heinekens.
Tooliest Customers: Café St.-Ex. It’s kind of beautiful, really, that all of these appalling human beings can find a place where they fit in and belong. If you want to be jostled, stomped, insulted or sneered at, St.-Ex is the place for you. Honorable Mention: The Red Room at the Black Cat. It’s like that Wooderson line about dating high school girls, “I keep getting older, but they stay exactly the same.” I keep getting older, but the Black Cat crowd is just as annoying and pushy as ever.
Coolest Customers: There are a few contenders for this, but I always make new friends at Atomic in Cleveland Park.
Best Half-Price Cheeseburger: Whitlow’s on Wilson, Arlington. Just make sure they cook it first.
Best Eavesdropping: Off the Record, in the basement of the Hay-Adams. You can learn all about the latest megabucks D.C. divorce.
Best Pool Hall: Continental, Rosslyn. It’s never crowded, which is why nobody minds if you throw darts in the exact opposite direction than the one you intended.
RIP Award: The Common Share, Adams Morgan. You were gross and skeevy and loud, but who doesn’t love a $10 pitcher of Blue Moon? Oh, Common Share, I miss you. Honorable Mention: Childe Harold, Dupont Circle. And, far too soon, Dr. Dremo’s shall follow them into dive bar Valhalla.