This Boxcar is cozy and inviting
By Fritz Hahn
Friday, Feb. 10, 2012
There aren't many bar and restaurant owners who rule a neighborhood the way Xavier Cervera dominates Capitol Hill. In the space of two blocks along Barracks Row, he runs Molly Malone's, Lola's, Senart's Oyster and Chop House and the Chesapeake Room. Directly across from Eastern Market is Boxcar Tavern, which opened Dec. 30, and he has plans for three more nearby bars to open this year.
All of his bars share signature elements, so after you've been to a few of them, they start to feel the same. Each one is covered from floor to ceiling in gleaming hardwood and decorated with elaborate millwork. The wide bar stools and cushioned booths invite you to settle in for a while and enjoy the menus long on comfort food. The beers are priced just high enough to ward off the interns.
Boxcar Tavern fits Cervera's elements easily. But it's my favorite of the group, perhaps because of its intimacy. The name, Cervera says, comes from the narrow rectangular shape of the building, which formerly housed the shop Petite Gourmet. Antique pub signs from Britain hang on the walls, and the retro-pub theme is accentuated by the arts-and-crafts lanterns hanging over tables, the soft patterned carpet and even a couple of metal lampposts lit with flickering flames. Across from the wide bar counter are a row of booths for two; long communal tables sit in the back. If the weather's nice - especially after an afternoon shopping at Eastern Market - the sidewalk tables are an appealing place to hang out.
The menu keeps the pub atmosphere going: You'll find Welsh rarebit, charcuterie, pat and wild boar stew among the dinner options, and there's also spicy beef tartar, quesadillas, seafood lasagna and a selection of burgers. A dozen beers on draft span from Miller Lite and Yuengling at the low end to Southern Tier and Flying Dog at the top; a glass costs $5 to $6. The wine-by-the-glass selection is decent, even if it's a little pricier ($8 to $10 for the "name" vintages, $6 for the house selections.)
From 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, happy hour brings $4 glasses of house wines (choose from three red and three white) and $1 off all beers. But there are also all-night deals to be had, such as $4 pints of Fat Tire on Wednesdays from 7 to close, and $4 Svedka vodka drinks Monday nights. Check out the bar's Facebook page for updates.
It can get a little tight on weekends, when Boxcar feels more like a cattle car, but it's rarely uncomfortable - just a busy neighborhood pub.
Watch for Cervera's next opening, coming in a few months: a reboot of the Hawk and Dove, the legendary Pennsylvania Avenue watering hole that he purchased last fall and promptly closed for renovations.