A college bar with a wider appeal
By Fritz Hahn
Friday, Feb. 3, 2012
Until you walk through the door of Public Tenley, the nine-month-old sibling of downtown's popular Public Bar, you won't know who you're going to be sitting next to. Given its location near American University, the place attracts lots of college students ordering cheap drinks and wings, and there comes a time when you feel too old to go to a college bar. But the NCAA games playing on giant high-definition TVs also draw 30-somethings rooting for their alma mater, and no one ever ages out of all-night food and drink deals.
Either way, the place has things going for it, and you'd never recognize it as the former home of the Dancing Crab. It's visually similar to its sister bar with a rough-hewn warehouse-style decor of bare brick and reclaimed wood. The second-floor game room has pop-a-shot basketball, skee-ball, shuffleboard and Big Buck Hunter, plus a bar and a dozen more TVs. Great fried wings coated in Old Bay and a giant soft pretzel served with melted beer cheese are some highlights of the sports bar menu. But thinking of my health, I passed on the hot dogs that come both bacon-wrapped and deep-fried.
With service, as with the crowd, you take your chances. One night, my friends and I find a chatty bartender who tells laugh-out-loud stories about studying abroad in Australia. Another time, there's the disinterested server who doesn't come around when glasses are empty and we're looking for refills. Or the bartender who hands over an out-of-date list of happy-hour specials.
Because it's trying to appeal to neighborhood football and basketball fans as well as penny-pinching students, Public is swimming in specials. The one to have on your calendar: $2 PBR drafts, $3 domestic beers, $4 imports and $5 mixed drinks until 8 every weeknight, and all day and night on Wednesday. But most nights find deals on food, such as the Tuesday Tacos promotion for $3 taco platters, margaritas, tequila shots and Mexican beers; and Wednesday's half-price appetizers until closing time. During the Super Bowl, look for half-price wings, $5 burgers and $3 pints of Coors Light and Miller Lite.
Beyond sports and happy hour, the schedule finds time for a stand-up comedy open mike at 8 p.m. on Sundays (free to participate or watch), acoustic live music and the occasional rowdy beer-pong tournament. What was that I said about feeling too old?