A true locals bar in Bloomingdale
By Fritz Hahn
Friday, Nov 18, 2011
Bloomingdale has been considered the next hot D.C. neighborhood for at least a few years. I’ve watched friends buy houses there, but when I’d go visit them, there was always something missing: a neighborhood bar.
Bloomingdale has Big Bear Cafe for coffee and perusing the Sunday paper, or Rustik Tavern for pizza and kicking back on the patio. But neither of those is a real local watering hole.
Boundary Stone, thankfully, is.
The narrow barroom looks as if it has been in the 'hood for years, with acres of exposed, weathered bricks, a pressed tin ceiling, slats of reclaimed wood, a long, heavy oak bar, a polished concrete floor, exposed light bulbs in metal fixtures - it's like a checklist of hip bar trends, but skillfully combined.
Don't miss the stained-glass rendering of the D.C. flag hanging over the door or the lovingly collated CD jukebox, which includes the Clash, the Roots, the Band, the Boss, old blues, vintage reggae, Golden Age hip-hop, punk and indie rock. (The collection rotates frequently; the staff already pulled AC/DC and Jay-Z albums after hearing the same songs too many times.) Feel free to punch in songs that catch your eye, since the juke is free.
A small room next door is actually an alley that was slated to be the bar's outdoor seating but was enclosed with walls and a ceiling to make a rough-around-the-edges dining room that reminds me of a stable with multiple nooks for seating.
Bartenders serve up beers for every taste: Taps include rotating selections from Dogfish Head and DC Brau as well as Guinness and Yuengling. (Prices range from $5 to $7.) A larger can selection includes $3 Stroh's and PBR and $5-$6 microbrews by Avery and 21st Amendment.
There's a burgeoning whiskey and bourbon selection, which bartenders are eager to talk about; they prefer smaller distillers such as Catoctin Creek and High West to the usual names. The kitchen deserves just as many plaudits: Its deviled eggs have a citrus tang on one visit, and plenty of spice on the next. Fried pickles are a perfect bar snack. Crunchy fried rice balls with seasonal veggies are as good as the Bleu Burger, which features beets hidden under the beef.
This is a true locals bar, down to the owners: Brothers Gareth and Matt Croke and their friend Colin McDonough have lived in the neighborhood for years. When they got tired of bartending at pubs downtown, they decided to open their own spot in their underserved neighborhood.
That is not to say Boundary Stone is perfect. The biggest problem is the narrowness of the room, which allows for maybe three feet of space between bar stools and the worn booths that line the opposite wall. When the joint got crowded on a recent Saturday night, my date was ready to leave after one beer. There were no seats, and there was nowhere to stand without getting bumped by servers or patrons.
But then I drop in on a Tuesday and find open seats at the bar. Over the course of the night, the people sitting on both sides say hi and ask if I live in the neighborhood. The bartender does likewise. People are reading books while sipping beers and nodding their heads to GZA and Curtis Mayfield. The burgers are great. I order a can of DC Brau, and the bartender hands it over with a killer Boundary Stone logo koozie.
Now I have one more reason to be jealous of my Bloomingdale-dwelling friends.