Thomas Foolery: Every kickballer’s dream bar

July 19, 2013

Until last night, I had never been to a bar with a Bedazzler. I can't ever recall visiting a bar that had a Nerf basketball hoop on the wall. Or one that determines the cost of a Smirnoff Ice with a Plinko board. (And obviously, once you've bought a bottle of the foul stuff, you must promptly ice your bros, because no one in their right mind wants to drink it themselves.)


A DC Bocce team Bedazzled its shirts at Thomas Foolery last night. (Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

Thankfully, I got all of these out of the way at Thomas Foolery, the new, aptly named Dupont Circle bar from Mr. Yogato owner Steven Davis. It's paradise for this city's legions of kickballers and dodgeballers, adding booze to the low-cost rec center where the 8-year-old you hung out.

You can check out board games by handing over your ID; a hopscotch grid is painted on the floor; there's one of those darts-for-kids games, where you throw Velcro-covered plastic balls at a fabric target on the wall; jars behind the bar hold Gummi worms, Pop Rocks, Sour Patch Kids and other candy for purchase. I kept looking for the table with construction paper and Crayola markers. Didn't see one, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was there somewhere.

Like Mr. Yogato, Thomas Foolery is built on gimmick upon gimmick. Ask the staff to take the limbo stick from behind the bar, limbo lower than your "thigh midpoint" and you get free candy; dress like Carlton from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and perform the Running Man dance, and you'll get 10 percent off; tie a cherry stem in a knot with your tongue and you get a $1 Cheerwine.

Finally, the infantilization of Washington is complete.

The menu is basically a restaurant's kids' menu without the chicken nuggets. There's grilled cheese from the Big Cheese food truck and a couple of soups provided by the Soupergirl truck. For dessert, choose from snickerdoodle or chocolate chip cookies from Captain Cookie. You can use any of the cookies to make a custom ice cream sandwich ($4) or pick a soda (including Ale-8-One, Cheerwine, Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer) or a beer and make it into an ice cream float.

All 40 bottled or canned beers on the menu ($4 to $7) were selected by locals: journalists, bloggers, owners of small businesses, government wonks and founders of intramural sports leagues. Each drink on the menu is attributed to the person who chose it, providing a little window into their soul: "She could have picked any beverage in the world and she chose Woodchuck Granny Smith Apple Cider?!??"

A mixed drink is an airplane bottle of your spirit served with a bottle of soda, which you combine yourself. There's wine by the glass, and if you order a flight of four and can identify the least- and most-expensive wines, you pay $12 instead of $14.

There's obviously a target market for this place -- they're the ones wearing matching T-shirts on the Mall -- but after a while, Thomas Foolery began to feel like a big inside joke. Take everything experts have written about millennials refusing to leave childhood behind and just run with it. But the combination of activities and promotions and drinks just comes off as so gimmicky that I'm not sure it bears repeat visits, or whether it will outlast its short-lived predecessor.

Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes.
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