When I want to go to a bar/lounge 9 times out of 10 I want to sip, and sup, someplace swank. Oh, but that 10th time, I want to go to an old fashioned dive bar – a good jukebox, faded vinyl booths, and crusty bartenders that usually call everyone champ or hon. my favorites, in no particular order…
The Tune-Inn, 3rd and Penn., Capitol Hill – this place is the perfect anti-dote to bars packed with hill staffers who can’t seem to talk about anything but politics. The drinks are stiff but the regulars aren’t. During one visit here I found myself at a table with a notable playwright, a PhD holding bike messenger, and a VP for a national bank chain – I wish I had tape recorder going that night.
The Raven, 3100 block of Mount Pleasant Street, mount pleasant – great jukebox with an eclectic range of rock’n'roll and old motown, and no credit cards accepted. The Raven in specific and Mount P. in general have gotten a tad bit too popular for my tastes on the weekends, but it is still the Dean amongst DC Dives.
Fox & Hound, 1527 17th NW, Dupont Circle – you have to love a place where a Vodka-Tonic is a large glass of booze and a small bottle of tonic.
Lil’ Pub, 7th and Penn., Capitol Hill – fashioned from an old Little Tavern (anyone else have fond memories of those grease palaces?) this place is always dark even if you are drinking with the hard-cores at 2pm on a bright Tuesday afternoon. A horrible pool table dominates the back room – don’t ever play One Handed Tony for money.
Toledo Lounge, 18th between Belmont and Columbia, Adams Morgan – with a burger that is better than it has to be, a decent beer list, a spectacular juke box, and socio-economically diverse clientele I have long been a fan of this place. Add-in the rainy day discounted drinks (“When It Rains We Pour” a sign declares) and this place is a clearly a Joint.
Polly’s Café, U Street between 13th and 14th NW – This place is at its best when the weather is cold enough for the fireplace to be going. The underground hipness (the kind of hip that would never call itself hip) of this place has waned since it opened in the early 90s but it remains a great place to wrap yourself in exposed brick walls, a good jukebox, and a proper pint of Guinness.
The Argonaut, 1433 H Street, NE, Atlas District – it is difficult to include a place with food this good on a list of dive bars, but the feel of the place dives as well as a glass jawed fighter who has a gambling problem.
Jimmy Valentine’s Lonely Hearts Club, Bladensburg Road NE, Atlas District – this places earns its spot on this list, if for no other reason, because of their self-description: “[O]ur bar’s not for everyone but we’re pretty friendly despite not liking most people.”