Three cheers for this U Street lounge
By Fritz Hahn
Friday, December 11, 2009
The buzz: U Street has more than its share of nightspots competing for your night life dollar, from dance clubs to lounges with dress codes to dive bars. And so what's most attractive about Lounge of Three is its laid-back simplicity: A two-story bar and restaurant with cozy leather chairs, tables stocked with board games and DJs who stick to a steady diet of old-school and underground hip-hop and vintage soul and funk. All this, plus you can wear sneakers -- and it's usually without a cover. No wonder the place is packed on weekends.
"This is one of the best-kept secrets," says William Perry, who works for the Department of Commerce and was hanging out with friends at the first-floor bar last Friday. "It's got great music and good drinks -- the best music on U Street. It's definitely cool."
"It's got a good energy," explains Carl Young, who works as a manager and bartender at the nearby Bohemian Caverns and Liv. "It's chill and relaxed. The music is good, but the people here aren't pretentious. A good song comes on and people dance."
The first floor is dominated by a long bar, which seems to fill half the space. Works by local artists hang on the walls. Squeeze through the crowd -- seriously, there's not a lot of room between the bar stools and the wall -- and head upstairs for a lounge area filled with low tables and modern round chairs. Scrabble, Connect Four, Uno and other board games are tucked under the tables for anyone interested in some competition.
Blue Telusma, Joi Mason and Grayse Victor were gathered around a table laughing and sipping mixed drinks. "You feel like you're going to a friend's house," says Telusma, a 29-year-old writer. "This is good for divas on a dime."
"The drinks are reasonably priced, and the $4 margaritas are to die for," adds Victor, 28, who works in PR.
"It's a little small," says Mason, a 30-year-old project manager, "but it's a good first-date spot."
"Ordinarily we're screaming over the music," Telusma adds. "But not here."
The scene: Beyond just being a cool place to hang out, LOIII, as its fans call it, is making a name for itself with a number of weekly and monthly events.
Wednesday's Hip-Hop Happy Hour finds DJ "Nick tha 1da" and guests spinning a selection of classic and underground hip-hop that you won't hear on the radio or at bigger U Street venues, plus plenty of drink specials between 6 and 9 p.m., including $3.50 draft beers and $5 glasses of wine.
Last Friday, an all-Jay-Z party celebrated the span of Hova's career, from album cuts to remixes. There are plans to throw a similar party honoring a different hip-hop great on the first Friday of every month.
At the monthly Hip-Hop Trivia Night, teams score points for knowing music facts (the movie "House Party" wasn't originally written with Kid N' Play in mind, but for DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince) or identifying which artists sampled the old-school funk and R&B records.
And a new series called "The Classics" invites DJs to hang their favorite record covers on the wall like art for guests to peruse; most recently, DJ YZO of WPFW mounted 50 of his favorite soul and R&B titles, including Ramsey Lewis, the Undisputed Truth and Millie Jackson, while he spun funky cuts from those albums.
Megan Moore, 28, a self-described "U Street rat" who graduated from Howard, says Lounge of Three has become one of her favorite spots. "It has a rowhouse feel," she says, ticking off the pros. "It's cozy without feeling small. The DJ is awesome. There are good drinks and good company. It's the kind of place where a bartender would get to know you."
In your glass: Draft beer includes Heineken and Newcastle Brown Ale, but the bartenders do a roaring business in fruity martinis and margaritas. Tuesday is "Tequila Tuesday," with all tequila drinks for $5, unless you want top-shelf, which is $7, 8 to 11 p.m.
On your plate: There's a pretty basic menu of bar food -- really tasty wings, chicken tenders, sliders and quesadillas.
Price points: Drinks are in the $5 range for beers and about $5 to $7 for basic mixed drinks.
Need to know: Karaoke happens on Tuesday nights upstairs.