New Reasons to Meet Before the Big Game
By Fritz Hahn
Washington Post Weekend Section
Friday, October 26, 2007
With the Capitals' season underway and the Wizards about to tip off, the bars and restaurants around Verizon Center will be buzzing more than usual. Fans who haven't been to the neighborhood since April will notice a couple of new places competing for their pre- and postgame time.
This summer two chains moved into prime spots adjacent to the Phone Booth. The Greene Turtle sports bar is familiar to Maryland residents, as branches have spread across the state in the past 30 years and can be found from Ocean City to Fells Point to Laurel. Bar Louie, meanwhile, has grown from its Chicago base to operate restaurants in more than 30 locations.
F Street's Greene Turtle has beige walls and an olive carpet that give the building all the atmosphere of a corporate Italian restaurant, albeit one with framed jerseys from athletes. There are large flat-screen TVs all over, including sets in some of the booths. Too bad TVs over the bar are positioned so high that anyone perched on a stool risks neck strain trying to watch. At least there's plenty of room to stand, as this place gets busy right before game time.
If you're meeting friends before a game, get there early. The Greene Turtle is among bars that have begun shifting happy hour deals from the traditional 4 to 7 p.m. window to 3 to 6 p.m. The prices aren't bad: $2.99 domestic drafts and bottles, with similar discounts from 9 to close Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, as well as during football on Monday nights. If you've got season tickets, you might want to try the Turtle's Mug Club. For $35, you get a numbered ceramic mug hanging behind the bar ("for life," the bartender stresses) and $1 off every pint.
Outside of game night, the Turtle has little to recommend it, as evidenced by near-empty midweek visits.
Bar Louie seems to be having an easier time luring customers, given that it's in the heavily trafficked Gallery Place building on Seventh Street NW. Going for a safe, art deco steakhouse look with a lot of wood, the focus is an enormous island bar crowned by a dozen flat-screen TVs.
In a place like this, you need a good traditional dirty martini, which arrives (with vodka, not gin) in a stemless glass with three blue-cheese-stuffed olives speared on a plastic stirrer. It's well-mixed, a highlight among the orange mojitos, peach cosmos and chocolate-covered, cherry-flavored cocktails that fill the long specialty drink list. (The bartender advised me to order the "Dirty CEO" martini, saying that "most of the other [cocktails] are really sweet.")
Twenty wines come by the glass, and 20 beers are on tap, though what you see on the menu isn't always what you can get. Bar Louie uses the same menu for most locations, which is why the draft list includes some beers unavailable in this region.
Bar Louie is a good place to meet before a game. Get there between 4 and 7 on weeknights for happy hour, which includes $6 martinis.