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Posted at 2:13 PM ET, 12/29/2006

U Street's New Axis

By Fritz Hahn

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.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | December 29, 2006; 2:13 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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U Street has become one long row of liquor license establishments. This is economic development? On weekend nights the streets fill up almost exclusively with cars from Maryland; it's not locals who play on U. This does not make for a fun or healty urban neighborhood to live in or play in.

Posted by: spijker | December 31, 2006 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Get over yourself, spijker. Or move to Fairfax. Welcome to the neighborhood, Axis!

Posted by: Daniel | January 3, 2007 6:51 AM | Report abuse

Try to find a funky place with culture in Annapolis. I love U Street.. the food, the people. I can even deal with parking my Maryland tag car on the street. Welcome Axis!

Posted by: dwonder | January 4, 2007 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Since most of the income earned in DC is earned by folks from MD and VA and we can't tax that income, I would say that we want those folks coming in to the city to party and spend their paychecks. At the very least we can have their "sales" tax dollars.

Posted by: cin | January 4, 2007 5:23 PM | Report abuse

This place isn't as good as Chi-Cha and the manager is so rude.

Posted by: Raquel | January 5, 2007 1:20 AM | Report abuse

I do agree that it is too expensive compared to the other bars in the area..its a rip-off to consumers!! its not worth the money or time.. i went last week and it wasn't as good as i expected it to be...

Posted by: Heather | January 5, 2007 1:29 AM | Report abuse

I heard they have great gay nights too!!

Posted by: Mario | January 5, 2007 1:42 AM | Report abuse

If you are going to pay alot for drinks.. might as well go to FLY Lounge. better atmosphere and better looking people for sure

Posted by: Mary | January 5, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I was there the other day and it was fun. I enjoyed myself and the food was great. The location is great also. By the way my cosmo was only $5. That is great for DC standards. Anyways I would say, go and check it out before it gets really to crowded. This is going to be my next hang out spot for sure.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 5, 2007 8:47 PM | Report abuse

I tried it out like people have said. It was OK. But just ok. It took forever to get a drink and I did get overcharged as well. What's up with that.

Posted by: Josh | January 11, 2007 12:47 AM | Report abuse

I had a good night . You should check out their gay nights. Loads of fun. Its nice to have a place that caters to the gay/lesbian/transgendered community! Go AXIS! It's like Omega but even better

Posted by: Candy | January 11, 2007 10:16 AM | Report abuse

It is worth checking out their gay nights. Good times and good guys

Posted by: Gary | January 17, 2007 12:24 PM | Report abuse

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