My affection for the recently shuttered Polly’s Bar & Grill is at least fifteen years old. It was never a place for fine dining, or quaffing sublime wines. If you asked for some frilly nonsensical cocktail, odds were six-to-five-and-pick-em’ that you would be unceremoniously given a PBR or asked to leave.
Nostalgia was easily found when my first visit was in the winter and sat by a wood burning fireplace with a good beer and one of the best chicken sandwiches I‘d ever had. It was even more ingrained the first time I was considered a sufficiently good regular that I was entrusted/commanded to maintain said fireplace.
As I write this, I am trying to determine my favorite memory of the venerable English Basement joint on U Street.
· There was the insanely good jukebox – for a longtime among the best in the city.
· There were the handful of New Year’s Day brunches I attended with as many people still wearing the clothes form the prior evening as those wearing pajamas.
· There was one day I was obviously on a date with an author I had just met at a signing at a bookstore upstairs. I, young and relatively broke at the time, had to cut things short because I could only afford to have a couple of drinks. I asked for the tab when my date went to the ladies room. The unobtrusively attentive and keenly aware bartender asked me where I was going to take her next. When I replied “nowhere, I can’t afford to,” she gave me another round and told me to order whatever and worry about it later.
· There was the night a friend and I started with one table but by the end of the night, had pushed together five tables to accommodate the strangers, and friends who joined over the course of several hours. There may have been a game of “I Never” played that evening. There may have been a “I have never had sex today” question. There may have been a couple for whom only one party to a drink.
There are too many memories of Polly’s, too many friendships formed or cemented in that bar. There were too many lovely evenings, too many first date stories, and a couple of break-up stories too. Polly’s opened when U street had become a place where people didn’t venture at night. They gambled on a revitalizing and ultimately gentrifying neighborhood and for many years the return was as high for the owners as it was for the patrons who were the bedrock of the bar’s community that made it such a loveably quirky place. I suspect that the people who loved it for all of those reasons lost touch with it because of all commercialized for commercialization’s sake that came to surround it.
Polly’s, I thank you for all of the good times. I will miss you.