Goodnight, Goodbye, and Good Luck, Old Friend

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.


p.s. Thanks to U Street Girl for alerting me to this news, and to Prince of Petworth for alerting her.


11 Responses to Goodnight, Goodbye, and Good Luck, Old Friend

  1. Lisa says:

    I’m sorry about that. I liked Polly’s, even though I haven’t been in a long time.

    For a good stretch of the mid 90s, Polly’s was my standard first date spot. I wish that I had never changed that.

  2. brad says:

    Sorry to hear that, too. Any chance the owners are looking at another venture? Or was it just time to move on?

    Grapevine has it that they are looking for something else… however the grapevine is rarely accurate. When I have more information I will write about it.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts, I didn’t have the perspective you did as I moved to DC in 2003 and didn’t start hanging out around U street till 2006 or so. Let’s hope that as these pioneers of the U street area go away (Polly’s, Go Mama Go) good, locally owned businesses with an awareness of the past take their place.

    I just hope that U Street doesn’t get more like Columbia Heights with all of its chain restaurants and a smattering of (mostly struggling to pay rent without over-charging) local joints.

  4. dan-E says:

    i remember when i first moved to miami and managed to find a second home at a local bar that felt like home to me. i remember the sadness i felt and oddly, pangs of guilt, when they closed. ( guilt coming from thoughts like, “maybe if i went there for the playoffs instead of that other place?”).

    this post reminded me of that place. if it makes you feel any better, i found a great replacement (if not a successor) here and since it seems you know your way around your neighborhood, you probably found a few substitutes.

    still, i feel your pain.

    There isn’t a single other place in DC where you can sit in front of a fire and drink reasonably priced beers and play that good of a jukebox. There is obviously a market for it, but the greed of landowners/developers make it very difficult to open.

  5. Ohhh, I’m so sad to hear Polly’s closed. I was a big fan of that place when I first moved to D.C., especially the juke box! I wonder why they decided to shutter their windows…

    From what I have heard through the grapevine, it was simply a question of rising rents that choked off the profit margins.

  6. Vie says:

    I’m sad I missed out. It sounds like it was a great place.

    Its greatness was in its character, its fireplace, its ethos and attitude. Polly’s was just special.

  7. Foggy Dew says:

    This news just makes me sad. I was about to say Polly’s was a default place to go, but that would underrate it. Polly’s was the place to go for all the reasons you stated and, above all else, it was just comfortable.

    In fact, thinking back, I believe I met you there in the company of the Scanner Jockey and another (Q). We spent a hot D.C. night on the micro-patio drinking pitchers, watching the world go by and discussing my completely rational hatred of, and your insane fondness for, Dook.

    Hopefully, somewhere in this city, there’s another Polly’s.

    There will surely be other places, and probably are already, that have a similar spirit… I just can’t seem to think of any right now.

    By the by, given the season your squad is having, are you sure this is the best time to mock us?

  8. magnolia says:

    only went there once or twice, but such a cool place. sad to see it go…

    There are too many stories from that place. It will be missed.

  9. LiLu says:

    Now I have “Another One Bites the Dust” in my head.

    Inappropriate? Sorry. I’ll buy you a drink in a minute.

    Actually, the longtime owner would have really liked that joke, so not really inappropriate.

  10. […] dish? Try The Garden Apartment’s roasted portabella with quinoa.     Restaurant Refugee mourns the loss of Polly’s on U […]

  11. Foggy Dew says:

    The time is always right to mock Dook.


    I can see your keys moving, but can’t quite read anything that comes out.

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