All that's old is new and cool again as bar owners and guests clink to a bygone DC.
Throw it back: Radiator’s must-try cocktails include (from left) the Ricotta Situation, made with ricotta, honey, and the fig spirit Mahia, and Folk Art, made with rum, mint, and pineapple.
In today’s age of craft cocktails, the Prohibition era—with its speakeasies, gangsters, and smartly dressed bar patrons—looms in the imagination as an alluring American idyll. So it’s little wonder that nostalgia for the bad-old days is giving rise to a clutch of hot new bars in DC.
Take Logan Circle’s Radiator, where the checkerboard floors cast a backward glance to humbler times. “In the early-to mid-20th century, the intersection of 14th and P Streets was home to car dealerships and auto repair shops,” says Daniel Bortnick, Kimpton’s VP of restaurant concept development. Rougher patches in the city’s history are a rich source of inspiration.
Red Light’s patio seating may be sunny, but the name nods to the 14th Street corridor’s shady reputation in the 1980s and ’90s. Then there’s Dodge City, whose moniker is a hat tip to the 1988 Go Go Posse song “D.C. Don’t Stand for Dodge City.” The song slams the sky-high homicide rate of the era. Today, the dive is a must for late-night dancing and craft beer.
Debuting in Adams Morgan later this year, Marble Alley—a deli and cocktail den from Trevor Frye—was inspired by a stretch of higher-end bars and brothels within the mid-1800s “Murder Bay” slum, where Federal Triangle is today. Waxes Frye, “I like that idea of an elevated experience in a neighborhood that has some grit.”