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Posted at 4:59 PM ET, 07/ 1/2010

Prime Meridian: Meridian Pint opens in Columbia Heights

By Fritz Hahn

Meridian Pint, the new Columbia Heights beer bar opened by John Andrade (the owner of Asylum) makes its grand debut at 11th Street and Park Road tonight. Though it has tons of potential, it's obviously way too early to write a full review, but not too soon to tell you a few things you should know about the place.

It's huge. There are two floors, each with a large bar. The upstairs (at street level) has plenty of restaurant seating, as well as communal dining and bar tables. Sections of the wall roll up like garage doors to let evening breezes in. (Meridian Pint opens nightly at 5 unless there's a World Cup game on, in which case it's open early.)

Downstairs is incredibly open and airy. There's room to walk between tables and booths, meaning you don't feel like you're crushed, even when the place is crowded, as it was at last night's neighborhood open house. My friends -- Columbia Heights residents -- and I are convinced that it won't be long before this is one of the most popular bars in the neighborhood. There are two pool tables ($5 per person per hour) and shuffleboard.

But the real attraction is two semi-circular booths with tap handles set into the middle of the table. Yes, there are two tables where you can pour your own beer. Give a credit card to the server, choose your beer on a touchscreen on the tap, and pour away while the computer in the tap keeps track of your tab and how many ounces of beer you've served yourself. (There are no refunds if you spill or fill your glass with foam, so pay attention.) It's a very cool idea, and quicker than fighting your way to the bar, ordering a beer and waiting for a bartender to bring it to you. Just watch your tab, because the novelty can add up. Also, servers will periodically come over to make sure you're not pouring yourself into a drunken stupor or doing anything stupid.

No reservations can be made for these special booths, though that will happen in the future. If the tables are occupied, a server can put your name on a waiting list.

Meridian Pint's theme is that it offers an all-American beer list, watched over by Sam Fitz, formerly of Churchkey and the Reef. There are 24 drafts, ranging from top-flight microbrews (the Bruery, Allagash, Lagunitas, Stone) to Miller Lite and PBR. Most pints are in the $5 to $7 range. A limited selection of 750 mL bottles includes treats like the Green Peppercorn Tripel from Baltimore's Brewers Art for $18.

The bar also plans to have a full cask beer program. For the first week, they'll be tapping firkins from Baltimore's Oliver Brewery. Opening night brings a traditional English-style Extra Special Bitter that has been dry-hopped with English Kent Golding hops. A different cask-conditioned beer will be offered every night for the first week for $6 a pint.

Food will be served until 11 p.m. for the first few weeks, and eventually the kitchen will be open until an hour before last call. The menu is a hearty selection of burgers, half smokes and short ribs, though there are also numerous vegetarian and vegan offerings. (Asylum is known for its meatless menu and brunch.) Brunch service will start in two or three weeks, Andrade says, with a 10 a.m. opening on Saturday and Sunday.

-- Fritz Hahn

By Fritz Hahn  | July 1, 2010; 4:59 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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