District nightlife: Little Miss Whiskey's Golden Dollar on H Street
By Fritz Hahn
Friday, November 5, 2009
The buzz: Little Miss Whiskey's Golden Dollar wants to fly as low under the radar as possible. There's no sign outside the nondescript H Street building -- just a couple of purple lights that color the facade after dark. There's no phone at the bar. The Web site lists only the address and hours (5 p.m.-close). The bar doesn't advertise.
There are DJs spinning Wednesday through Saturday nights upstairs, but unless you've gotten a Facebook invite or an e-mail, you're in for a surprise -- could be old-school hip-hop, '80s alternative, bleeding-edge electro, dubstep. That's part of the fun.
It sounds like the latest quote-unquote speakeasy in town, and the decor is suitably hip: The purple walls are covered with flocked lions, and old silkscreened concert posters are hung inside vintage gilded frames. Gothic wrought-iron lamps hang over the bar. A cozy couch-filled room is upstairs, just away from the dance floor, with a Christmas tree as its centerpiece. And the back patio is one of the most interesting outdoor spaces in town: Lit by purple lanterns that hang from an overhead trellis, there are metal benches, a wall of tall green trees and flowering plants, and a fountain with water gushing from a lion's head.
"It's wonderful," says Courtney Clugston, 32, an art director for a marketing company. "There's no pretentious attitude at all. I come here a lot by myself and talk to random people."
"It's not too hip -- no one's going to judge you," adds her friend Jessica DeMaio, 30, a sociology graduate student at George Washington University.
Both visit Little Miss Whiskey's fairly regularly and say they like the unpredictability of the patrons. "There's no consistency to what kind of group is here at any time," Clugston says. "We can kind of glom on."
The house rules are simple: Be polite, tip your bartender and don't act like a fool. That's all it takes.
The scene: "It's a really comfortable place," says Michelle Lapin, 34, an IT product manager who admits she "felt super cool" when some early-adopter friends brought her in. "The staff is really down-to-earth. The music isn't too loud, so you can hang out with your friends. Somehow, the balance is just right."
Little Miss Whiskey's is owned by the same team that created Jimmy Valentine's Lonely Hearts Club, the unmarked Bladensburg Road hideout that draws one of the most interesting clientele around -- hipsters, neighborhood folks, dance music fiends, off-duty bartenders and club-hoppers all get together for a few drinks in the dimly lit lounge -- and the owners are hoping to attract a similar group here.
At Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a bimonthly party where DJs spin alternative '80s tracks, you'll find people such as Karen Powers, a technical writer, dressed in black and raving about the bar as well as the music. "It feels very exclusive," she says. "It has its own awesome unique charm. It feels like New York -- a lot of D.C. bars are Yuppieville. Not this one."
In your glass: The beer selection walks a fine line between divey and gourmet. On one hand, you can get Stroh's -- specially imported to D.C. because one of the bar's owners is from Detroit -- for $3 a can. There's an ad in the binder-size drink menu hawking 24 oz. cans of Steel Reserve malt liquor for $8. But the coolers behind the bar also contain a good selection of bottles from Bear Republic, Stone, Bell's and Founders, typically found at specialty beer bars.Liquor-wise, there are interesting finds like the smooth blackberry-infused whiskey from Denver's Leopold Bros. distillery.
On your plate: There's a menu coming eventually. Right now, your only option is a Jimmy Dean sausage, egg and cheese biscuit for $3. There are plenty of restaurants nearby.
Price points: Most bottled beers -- no drafts -- are around $5 or $6, while mixed drinks are a little higher. There is only a cover charge for special events, such as last weekend's Halloween party.
Need to know: The bar takes only cash and generally doesn't run tabs. An ATM is available.
Nice to know: The outdoor area closes at 11 p.m. during the week and midnight on weekends to keep the noise down for the neighbors.
Events: There are some fixed dates on the calendar: Kostume Karaoke, the amusing night where singers put on outfits to perform pop hits, takes place on the first and third Wednesdays, alternating with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
-- Fritz Hahn (Nov. 5, 2009)