The Great Outdoors Of Clyde's
By Fritz Hahn
Washington Post Weekend Section
Friday, September 15, 2006
Labor Day is over, beach season is a fading memory and, earlier this week, an autumnal chill had people reaching for warm jackets for the first time in months. My thoughts should be turning from
late nights of drinks al fresco to Oktoberfest beers and happy hours indoors.
Clyde's of Chevy Chase closed in February 2004 for extensive renovation and reopened in what feels like an all-new building on June 30, 2005. Peek in the dining room -- modeled after the Orient Express -- but head for the automobile-themed Race Bar on the lower level, where a curvaceous red Jaguar is perched at the bottom of the stairwell and vintage Le Mans posters and car advertisements cover the wood-paneled walls. Booths hug the sides, and a large island bar sits in the center; at the far end is a stage occupied by rock and blues bands Fridays and Saturdays and quieter acoustic acts Wednesdays. The overall effect is very much country-club-meets-supper-club, and the bartenders mix excellent martinis.
But because I'd rather hold on to the fading summer, I'm going to forget about the hot rods and talk about the outdoor bar. You didn't know Clyde's had an outdoor bar? Neither did I until recently.
A friend and I stumbled across it a few weeks ago after a hard day of shopping. We were making our way toward Gifford's Ice Cream when we spied a sloping glass canopy on the rear of Clyde's, just off a broad pedestrian walkway between buildings and separated from the sidewalk by a bed of beach grass and trees.
It's a cozy, sheltered little bar that hints of the islands -- a large potted palm tree, plants in ornate vases mounted on the walls -- and the atmosphere is helped by its separation from busy Wisconsin Avenue. Thanks to a nearby fountain, you can't hear the cars roaring by. Fans overhead keep the air circulating, though breezes frequently blow through the wall-less sides of the patio.
Open since July, this is the first al fresco bar in the Clyde's chain, manager Jeff Johnson says. "There are other Clyde's that have outdoor seating, like Columbia and Reston, but this is the first to have a bar. It's something different."
Happy hour specials are available outside, though the lack of draft lines means the selection is limited to the usual suspects in bottles, from Budweiser and Bud Light to Heineken and Heineken Light, and you'll find the standard Clyde's cocktails and wine list. A bonus is that the 16 seats at the outdoor bar are open as late as the inside: 12:45 on weeknights, 1:45 on weekends.