American Ice Company is a no-frills bar. No covers, no host stand, no dress code: that wouldn't fit with the old-school wooden booths or the weathered industrial decor: rough-hewn plaster, exposed brick walls and pipes hanging overhead. It's just a big, comfortable room for hanging out, perfect for meeting friends before or after a show at the 9:30 club, which is barely a block away. Dimly lit and low-key, it reminds me in spirit of U Street Music Hall, which makes sense, since since Eric and Ian Hilton -- the brothers behind that nightspot -- are some of the partners in this venture, too.
Order a draft beer -- the six taps include Goose Island 316, Czechvar and Racer 5 -- and it arrives on the marble counter in either a pint glass or a mason jar, depending on the bartender's whim. Or, order a can from the chalkboard menu behind the bar: your options include a PBR tallboy, a 21st Amendment Back in Black and a pint-sized can of Strongbow cider. There's no cocktail menu, but given that the bartenders' resumes include stints at Bourbon, the Gibson, Saint-Ex and Pharmacy Bar, you should be in good hands. (Patrick Owens, one of my favorite bartenders in town, is in the process of upgrading the bourbon selection, and the man knows his stuff.)
The eats are good, too. At the barbecue counter, cooks prep piles of smoky pork shoulder or turkey, served with cole slaw and bread-and-butter pickles.
-- Fritz Hahn (Dec. 16, 2010)