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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 12/23/2005

Fritz's 2005 Bests on the Bar Scene

By Fritz Hahn

Top New Arrivals (Alphabetically)
Just in time for summer, a rooftop happy hour with sweeping vistas, DJs, a pool, freshly grilled burgers and frozen drinks.

The Argonaut
A neighborhood pub with house-infused rum drinks and solid bar food in a building chock-full of personality. It's just what the folks near 14th and H St. NE needed.

Busboys and Poets
It's a radical bookstore, smoke-free restaurant-bar-coffeeshop, performance space and neighborhood gathering spot all under one roof, just up from 14th and V. If only there were more places like this instead of the Ellington.

Dogfish Head Alehouse
The cult brewer, known for beers with quirky recipes and killer hops, opened its first location outside of Delaware. Beer lovers rejoiced -- and so did Gaithersburg residents looking for a new happy hour hangout.

Pricepoints are high -- cocktails hover around $10 and go up to $16, and reserving a table requires a minimum of $300 to $500, depending on the night -- but the cocktails are generally excellent

Juste Lounge
Priced out of the up-and-coming neighborhood near the convention center, Juste Pehoua brought his combination of martinis, hip-hop DJs and live neo-soul and R&B bands to downtown Bethesda.

Hip-hop artist Bilal, rising neo-soul star Raheem Devaughn, "Wrong Songs" DJ Sixth Sense and veteran R&B band Atlantic Starr were among the performers at this new club near North Capitol Street and New York Ave. NE. The location is in the middle of no man's land, unfortunately.

Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar
Capitol Hill's newest wine bar offers three dozen by the glasses, but is often Standing Room Only at happy hour. Escape the crowded bar for the classy modern lounge upstairs, outfitted with arty furniture and a working fireplace.

Top 5 Cocktails, A to Z
Cocktail menus change with the seasons, but some of these may still be available -- it can't hurt to ask.

1944 at Firefly
The original Mai Tai, the way Trader Vic intended, with almond syrup and no orange or pineapple juices. The name is General Manager Derek Brown's sly reference to the year the drink appeared in a Trader Vic's cocktail guide.

Blood and Sand at Dino
Another pre-prohibition recipe makes a comeback, but Dino's high-quality ingredients (Compass Box's Asyla Scotch and Quady Vya Vermouth) make for a rich, satisfying pre-dinner tipple.

Cactus Margarita at Blue Gin
Light years beyond what you'll find at the local Tex-Mex place, Blue Gin's Sacha Carter took advantage of fresh cactus fruit puree to make a sweet, intriguingly fruity summertime cocktail with quite a bit of kick. (Note: Carter's new cocktail menu arrives next month.)

Holy Basil at IndeBleu
So simple, yet so deliciously balanced: Veuve Cliquot champagne with basil-infused simple syrup, garnished with a single basil leaf.

Pickled Martini at Restaurant Eve
I'm more apt to order Jose's Yin and Tonic, which features tonic water made from scratch by mad scientist-cum-mixologist Todd Thrasher, but this is one of the most unique cocktails I've tried all year: a tart mixture of pickle juice and vodka, tamed by infused fennel, topped by a frothy mound of "pickle foam" with the consistency of soap suds.

Biggest Pre-Opening Hype
Joe Englert's H Street Revival
Englert, the man behind Capitol Lounge, Lucky Bar, Politiki, the Big Hunt and a good number of other popular Washington bars, plans to open eight bars and restaurants in a three-block stretch of dilapidated H Street NE. A one-man neighborhood revival or one-man gentrification project? Neighbors got their first look at the homey Argonaut pub in late summer. Two more venues -- a boxing-themed sports bar and a medium-sized live music venue -- are scheduled to open early in the new year.

The buzz was deafening before the bottle-service lounge made its public debut, leading to overflow crowds in early weeks.

Permitting delays and neighborhood protests led DJ Dredd's vegetarian restaurant and DJ lounge to postpone its opening date time after time and for Dredd's many fans to pester the Going Out Gurus for more information. (It's open, but only serving booze as part of its New Year's Eve dinner and party.)

Open City
Over a year in the making, Woodley Park residents (and tourists) were thrilled with the idea of a new Tryst-Diner hybrid in their neighborhood. The endless wait for construction to start? Not so much.

"Like nothing else on U Street" was the refrain before this lounge opened. The rooftop deck sports a retractable glass canopy, views are impressive and cocktails are tasty. Service and a lack of space near the bar remain a problem.

2005 By the Numbers:

New Bars in Adams Morgan This Year: 7
New Bars Worth A Return Visit: 3 (Bourbon, an offshoot of the Glover Park whiskey bar; Chloe, the neighborhood's dance club; Pharaoh's Rock N' Blues Bar & Grill, the new home of classic rock)

Bottles of Beer at the Brickskeller: 1,000 (give or take)
Number of draft lines added in 2005: 12

Months Capitol Lounge Closed After a Devistating Fire: 3
Months Spy Lounge Closed After a Devistating Fire: 8
Months Fasika's Closed After a Devistating Fire: 1 (and counting)
Months Kingpin Closed After a Devistating Fire: 12 (and counting)


By Fritz Hahn  | December 23, 2005; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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Next: Erin's Food Finds of '05

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Ok, so I'm actually staying around the DC area, and unable to visit family. I'd rather be out enjoying some camraderie on Xmas than staying at home alone, especially since it's an NFL Sunday, but lots of the regular places seem closed -- could you please have run some information for the rest of us about what's open on the 25th?

Posted by: Football fanatic | December 24, 2005 11:16 AM | Report abuse

anybody been to busboys yet? one of the things keeping me away from the place is the fact that it's in the bottom of a building that's even more ellington-esque....

Posted by: freshdipt | December 27, 2005 3:26 PM | Report abuse

um, devastating?

Posted by: t. | December 27, 2005 7:21 PM | Report abuse

How "devistating" not to know how to spell "devastating"!

Posted by: tom | December 29, 2005 9:47 AM | Report abuse

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