U Street's New Axis
For months now, we've been wondering about the Axis Bar and Grill, a new business next to Polly's on U Street. Formerly the hair salon Braids Unlimited, the building's large, paper-covered windows had been peppered with building permits and alcohol license applications. From what we could see through the glass, it had a huge bar. And that was about it.
Axis finally opened less than a week ago, and from what I can tell after one visit, it was worth the wait. The owners have made the most of the airy building, playing up its exposed brick walls and taking advantage of the extra-high ceilings to add a table-filled mezzanine level in the rear of the room. Soaring windows facing U Street allow lots of light to flow in.
While the building is narrow, the main bar is comfortable, leaving plenty of room for the customers -- black and white; singles, couples and groups -- to hang out and chat, whether watching football on flatscreen TVs or gathering around high bar tables. The mezzanine, though, looks like the place to be; last night, folks were packed up against its metal railings, sipping wine and watching people in the crowd below.
Rob Bermeo, formerly of Chi-Cha Lounge, is pouring drinks most days, and he's brought several veteran servers with him. Cocktail prices seem high -- the guy at the bar next to me paid $10 for a Tanqueray 10 and tonic.
Let's stick to beer, then. Drafts are around $6, but the selection is outstanding: Southampton's malty Secret Ale; Avery's Old Jubilation, a strong, dark winter seasonal; Blackthorn Dry Cider, which is much better than Strongbow; Stone's Smoked Porter; traditional German Hofbrau -- among more than a dozen taps, the only "conventional" pick is Guinness. Fans of Bud, Miller Lite, etc. can grab domestic bottles for $4.
Since the name is "Bar and Grill," I was expecting items from the fried food group, but that isn't the case. Most of the menu entrees are in the $16-$22 range, focusing on fish and steaks, and the appetizers lean toward Mediterranean salads and calamari. The chicken sandwich was pretty tasty: seasoned chunks of chicken breast topped with peppers and a creamy, tangy olive mayonnaise between two thick pieces of bread. Too bad it came with fries that, while crispy, tasted right out of the bag.
Axis obviously needs time to settle in, but you might want to check the place out before it starts getting too crowded. Note for procrastinators: They'll be open for dinner and drinks on New Year's Eve with no cover.
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