Help me find my perfect DC bar!
October 31, 2008 5:47 AM   Subscribe

Help me find my perfect bar in DC!

It is my birthday tomorrow and for my birthday I want to drink until I can't feel feelings. However, I am still somewhat new to the area so I don't know where the best place for this would be. Since it is my birthday, I am looking for my favorite type of bar: the shit hole.

I'm looking for cheap booze, dark and dirty bar, loud music (preferably metal or rock, although classic rock would also do) and did I mention it should be cheap? I'd rather it not be too incredibly crowded, I like to sit when I drink, but a decent amount of people is good.

Any ideas?
posted by Loto to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Recessions or Asylum.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:01 AM on October 31, 2008

Asylum is what I was gonna say. Where do you live?
I might also throw in Townhouse Tavern, but they're not necessarily cheap.

Depends where you are, too. I would go to, find the "going out gurus" blog, and within the past week or so they did a thing about dive bars. Probably find something in there.
posted by inigo2 at 6:11 AM on October 31, 2008

One more actually -- Dan's Cafe in Adams Morgan.
posted by inigo2 at 6:12 AM on October 31, 2008

Ayslum in Adams Morgen is probably your best bet. You'll know it by the motorcycles outside. Possibly the Raven in Mt. Pleasant. Wonderland in Columbia Heights might be a good one as well (although it does tend to get pretty packed later in the night, and not terribly cheap). The Red Derby just north of Columbia Heights is a pretty good bet, although it is quite out of the way.
posted by General Malaise at 6:35 AM on October 31, 2008

I agree with above, but will elaborate.

I'd say Dan's Cafe too, but it gets really crowded and is interestingly full of preppy kids (the ones who just want to get bombed). Sensing, that might not be your scene.
But they do let you drink a pint of liqour and mixer for $14.

Striking that, Recessions. Nobody goes there, it has a hilarious 70s decor, and has cheap(ish) big pints of beer. Recessions is on L and 18th. Away from the gigantic crowds you'll still see on the Day-After-Halloween.
posted by sandmanwv at 6:40 AM on October 31, 2008

Best old-school dive: the Malt Shop upstairs from the Dancing Crab in Tenleytown.
posted by headnsouth at 6:41 AM on October 31, 2008

Lucky Bar in NW
Galaxy Hut in Arlington
The Black Cat in NW (can be crowded later, though)
posted by December at 6:43 AM on October 31, 2008

Agree with Dan's Cafe in Adams Morgan. I'd also mention Tom Tom which is just up the street. Not as cheap but you can sit upstairs on old couches. It gets crowded later though.

The Raven Grill in Mount Pleasant is a cheap shit hole. The Red Derby north of Columbia Heights serves all their beer in cans.

I'd recommend looking up dive bars on and looking at the reviews for specifics on all these bars.
posted by hokie409 at 7:00 AM on October 31, 2008

I third the Raven.
posted by poppo at 7:12 AM on October 31, 2008

The Black Rooster, at 19th and L, fits almost all of the criteria (the music isn't especially loud).
posted by amarynth at 7:18 AM on October 31, 2008

The Rock and Roll Hotel!!!

I cant believe no one mentioned it yet.

The Red & the Black is also nearby, but it is honestly pretty lame.
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:52 AM on October 31, 2008

Wat. There's nothing wrong with Red and the Black. Those are both kinda bright and full of people though. On the same street the Pug is much divey-er. If you like metal/punk I hear Marx Cafe in Mt. Pleasant has good punk DJ nights but YMMV.

The Black Cat isn't the opposite of a Dive, but it certainly isn't very close to it.
And Lucky Bar is yuppie central. No megusta. Other than that I second all these suggestions.

I stay in SE so I very much enjoy the Tune Inn and Trusty's (eponobviously).
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:21 AM on October 31, 2008

Seconding Rock and Roll Hotel. Velvet Lounge is also good, the first floor's a bar and the second floor's usually got a show going on.
posted by azarbayejani at 8:22 AM on October 31, 2008

As long as we're on 18th street, Toledo Lounge. They have milkshakes. In my experience, Asylum smells funny, which I'd normally keep to myself, but maybe that's a plus for you. And another vote for the Raven. The last time I was there, everything came in plastic family-reunion style cups.

I've never been, and I suspect that this will in no way resemble a dive, but it's weird enough that maybe it'll appeal - the Palace of Wonder, in NE.
posted by averyoldworld at 8:54 AM on October 31, 2008

Whoa, I can't believe I didn't remember the Malt Shop in Tenleytown. If you live near there, definitely check it out.

The Black Rooster is also excellent. Problem is, there really isn't much around there (other than Recessions), so, if you don't like it, you're in the middle of nowhere (as much as nowhere can be in the middle of downtown). Thing with Rooster and Recessions, though: the music is nowhere near loud. And the Rooster never gets even remotely busy on the weekends.

When people ask about divey places, I never bring up the H St bars (R+R Hotel, R+B, Pug, Argonaut, etc.) mostly because these places do not specialize in cheap at all. Standard D.C. bar prices, and way out the middle of nowhere (this time, seriously nowhere) to boot. They're generally really fun, and I think the Argonaut has the best patio in the city (moot now that it's blustery and cold out), but yeah.

Velvet Lounge is great, and they expanded just a little bit so it's a little less stuffed. And, they have cheap beer. DC9, while not awesomely cheap, has the feel and and blasts loud rock and roll.

The following places are not dive bars: Lucky Bar.

With all that, I still hold that Asylum is the place.
posted by General Malaise at 9:33 AM on October 31, 2008

I'm pretty sure RNR has 3 dollar that cheap or expensive? I'm from here, so that seems cheap.

I just thought of another one, in Silver Spring MD: The Quarryhouse.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:38 AM on October 31, 2008

Sorry. Ignore mine. I've learned I view the term "dive bar" very differently than MeFites - and have learned some places to go to clarify what the term really means.
posted by December at 10:43 AM on October 31, 2008

I agree with the Tune Inn, although it is unfortunately far, far less divey than in the last century.

However, the Hawk and Dove, next door to the Tune, has gotten more divey in the last few years.

If you do go to Potomac Avenue, be very careful; I'd skip that area after drinking based upon recent news of attacks.

Mickey's Pub near the CVS on the 600 block of Pennsylvania, SE should do, also.
posted by jgirl at 11:05 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I had nothing to do with that it was a misunderstanding and the gun just went off.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:08 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]

Mickey's Pub near the CVS on the 600 block of Pennsylvania, SE should do, also.

Now that you mention it, if you bring a flask or a...cooler, pretty much any CVS in the city would be divier than most of the bars mentioned.
posted by averyoldworld at 11:11 AM on October 31, 2008

I don't know if the Kerry to Derry pub is still in Brookland, but, man, that'd be perfect.

It's probably long gone.
posted by jgirl at 12:02 PM on October 31, 2008

Is Kingpin still around? As I remember it was somewhere b/w the U st. corridor and the 930 club.
posted by mistsandrain at 1:18 PM on October 31, 2008

Potomac Ave- That's a pretty common price for PBR. I mean, you can't really charge more for it.. But, the Derby has $2 Schlitz and National Bohemian (Natty Boh, to those of us in the know), Velvet Lounge has $2 whatever-the-cheap-beer-is-this-week, and even the Black Cat does whole pints of PBR on tap for $3.50.

Oh, I love the Quarryhouse; it's one of my favorite bars in the area. However, cheap it is not. But, they have tons of beers and great whiskeys.

And, while the Hawk and Dove may be divey-ish, you can get $4 miller lites anywhere in the city, and not have to deal with the assholes that often flock there. And the music sucks. All the time.
posted by General Malaise at 1:40 PM on October 31, 2008

Kingpin? Not since like 2002. Good bar, though, along with the Metro, one of the unsung heroes(?) of U St gentrification.

GM: Hmm, I should recalibrate my cheapness detector. Totally agree about Hawk and Dove too, yeccchh.

Oh and I forgot Jimmy Valentine's. It's in the middle of nowhere, but it's often open all night. On Bladensburg Road, no sign.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:49 PM on October 31, 2008

hey, the Malt Shop is still fun, but it's IN the Dancing Crab now, not upstairs, so it's like drinking at picnic tables inside a restaurant. (It moved about two years ago).
posted by mercredi at 2:19 PM on October 31, 2008

aww mercredi you just made me cry :(
posted by headnsouth at 3:59 PM on October 31, 2008

In addition to the other good recommendations, consider the Pharmacy Bar. They have a nice range of cheap to good beers and a great jukebox. That's where I passed my last birthday, I like it because it's usually pretty low-key and no-frills fun.

The basement of Asylum is better than the upstairs (they used to serve the $0.25 Shiner Bock or High Life on Saturdays starting at 5 or 6pm with the price going up $0.50 every hour, don't know if they still do). Very loud music with a pool table.

Trusty's, aka Thirsties, can be good for a big party. There are usually some big tables available and they have board games like Connect-4 and Jenga to keep you amused. New York Pizza across the street with its tasty pizza, cheap pitchers of beer, and friendly service makes a good spot for a pre-party dinner (warning- it does have a pretty crummy atmosphere but after a pitcher of beer you will not notice).

But honestly, there is no shit-hole better than the Raven. Get there early to claim a booth and bring cash, they do not take plastic.
posted by peeedro at 7:45 PM on October 31, 2008

Where did you end up going?
posted by echo0720 at 11:44 AM on November 1, 2008

The basement of Asylum is better than the upstairs (they used to serve the $0.25 Shiner Bock or High Life on Saturdays starting at 5 or 6pm with the price going up $0.50 every hour, don't know if they still do)

Seconded on the basement comment. Pretty confident they do still have the Saturday special (with High Life...damn I miss the Shiner Bock days...)
posted by inigo2 at 1:51 PM on November 1, 2008

Response by poster: All right, so I just returned home after a most excellent night out. I ended up in Columbia Heights, at the Raven.

I'm sure all these bars would have been exactly what I was looking for, the Raven just ended up being the closest to the Metro. The bar was perfect; exactly what I was looking for. The jukebox was great, it was dark and the drinks were cheap and strong. I'm pretty sure the bartender was high the entire night, too. Great times.

I am definitely going to hit the rest of these bars up soon. Thanks all.
posted by Loto at 5:50 AM on November 2, 2008

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