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Posted at 5:06 PM ET, 06/13/2005

The Bar Also Rises

By Fritz Hahn

After a couple of weeks of false starts, Bar Pilar finally opened Thursday night. A sister restaurant and bar to the neighboring Cafe Saint-Ex, Bar Pilar takes its name from Ernest Hemingway's fishing boat, but its menu and motif are all over the map.

Pilar is a small, one-room saloon that won't draw crowds with DJs or dance parties -- it has neither -- but its location near the Black Cat, Saint-Ex and the rest of the bustling 14th and U Street corridor should ensure a steady stream of hipster foot traffic. A bonus: The kitchen stays open until 1 a.m., churning out everything from burgers to fish sandwiches to tacos.

What's most appealing about Pilar -- formerly known as El Camino Real II -- is the cozy atmosphere. Walls are faux-finished to approximate decades of tobacco smoke, and large patches of broken plaster expose the old brick underneath. Lights are kept relatively dim. Decorations include large marlins and a bizarre painting that depicts Hemingway fishing with owner Mike Benson.

The gorgeous wooden bar -- estimated to be from the 1940s or early '50s -- came from the grand old Washington Hilton via the now-closed Babe's Billiards, complete with frosted glass panels and elegant iron rails intact.

When you stop in, ask about the new Viking Beer, which Benson is now importing from Iceland, or order the awesome Small Craft Warning Pils, a bracing beer from Baltimore's Clipper City Brewing Company. Then post your own review in the comments field below or here.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | June 13, 2005; 5:06 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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Comments

I went there twice this week, and I love it overall.

Pros: (1) Great menu for the price. Tater tots are delicious on their own or in the lomos saltados. Mac and cheese could use a little more bite though. (2) They serve food late. (3) The bar is stunning. (4) It's a block from my house.

Cons: (1) Smaller than I thought - the bar itself takes up a huge amount of space. (2) Doesn't do enough to differentiate itself from St. Ex. (3) Still working out kinks - I went on Thursday evening, and they ran out of guacamole and the Viking beer.

Overall - great addition to 14th and U corridor. I just hope it can somehow distinguish itself as a destination in its own right rather than simply an extension of St. Ex.

Posted by: Ill-town | June 14, 2005 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Service is rude. The food is not very good either.

Posted by: Steve | August 11, 2005 11:31 AM | Report abuse

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