Editors' pick

Jay's Saloon & Grille

Billiards Bar, Patio/Rooftop, Bar, Low-key
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Editorial Review

I love Jay's Saloon & Grille so much that I don't want to tell you about it. I don't want you to discover it. I don't want it to be crowded and popular. I really love this bar. I would not write in the first person otherwise.

The first night I went to Jay's was a balmy summer night, and there were only three other people in the place. Our waitress, kind of spacy but very friendly, shook salt onto the drink napkins when she delivered our beers. It was a great tip - the napkins no longer stuck to frosty beer mugs. It's such a fitting example of the way Jay's makes its patrons feel like they have entered their own private Cheers.

Off the beaten path of the hopping Wilson Boulevard, Jay's customers are mostly local blue-collar workers in their upper thirties on up. Some nights, the place is the kind where moms and kids feast on crab cakes; other nights, it's strictly the leather-and-T-shirt-clad motorcycle crowd. While many neighborhood bars are littered with downtrodden townies staring into their beers, Jay's customers smile and joke around with each other and the wait staff.

Before the freezing nights of winter set in, you can sit in an enclosed patio area with astroturf on the floor, geraniums and Christmas lights hanging above them. Amateur oil paintings of pine forests grace the walls.

Inside, antique advertisements and beer signs cover the walls and flat carpet covers the floor. There are about a dozen tables, a long oak bar, a makeshift dance area for Friday's oldies night and Saturday's live classic rock bands. A pool table, a jukebox with mostly classic rock and country tunes, a video and pinball game further enhance the entertainment options at Jay's.

But fancy entertainment is not what Jay's is about. Jay's is about down-home atmosphere -- and better yet, cheap beer. Black-and-tans and Fosters are $2 a mug and Bud and Miller Lite are $1.75 a mug -- absurdly inexpensive prices compared with anything in the D.C. metro area.

The menu, which includes entrees mostly between $4 and $10 (but closer to $5), is rather prolific at three pages, and the food is generally well prepared with just the right amount of grease and spice. The thick Wisconsin beer cheese soup (deemed "darn good" by Jay himself in the menu copy) at $2.95 is a must-have. And while you're there, be sure to say hello. I'll be the woman at the next table with the relaxed smile on her face.

-- Shayla Thiel