Maybe you can't be all things to all people, but the folks at 319 Pennsylvania Ave. SE are giving it their all. There's a German beer hall in the basement and a sports bar on the main floor. Now, the upstairs "War Room" -- a World War II-themed space with a bar and large dance floor -- has been transformed into Top of the Hill, a wood-paneled, couch-filled space that offers martinis to crowds in "proper dress."
Yes, "proper dress" -- no T-shirts, shorts, flip-flops, sneakers or athletic wear -- at the Pour House.. (I'm not really sure whether there was a problem with Hill staffers and politicos wearing flip-flops and jogging clothes to happy hour, or whether this is an attempt to contain the Steeler-watching, Quizzo-playing masses to the lower floors.)
In other ways, too, this second-story room is separate from the two levels below. On Thursdays, during the popular $1 Bud Night, no Budweiser bottles are sold at Top of the Hill, and no bottles may be carried upstairs. And while Politiki and the Penn Ave. Pour House's happy hour specials run toward half-price nachos, $1.50 personal pizzas and buckets of Rolling Rock, Top of the Hill's specials include Melon martinis, $6 mint juleps and $5 (that's half-price) Cosmos.
Top of the Hill's status promises an upscale atmosphere, and the decor follows through. The room is fitted with leather chairs and sofas, warm wood paneling, brass chandeliers and hanging green plants to create the feel of the cigar-and-martini lounge. A raised area on the side of the room has more seating and space for local artists to show their work. (Displays rotate every six weeks.) But if you grab a couch in the rear of the room, you can't tell that much has changed. The red-felt pool table is still a central feature. Certain reminders of the "Greatest Generation" remain, including the wall of Jane Russell photos, many of the framed ratio cards and uniform insignia and the patriotic posters in the stairwell.
The crowds we've seen at Top of the Hill have been older (not interns) and sipping mixed drinks -- folks at downstairs favor Yuengling or Bass. It appears that a division is appearing, so after a hard day of politicking, if you're searching for that upscale cocktail-and-club-chair atmosphere without being swamped by people in gym clothes, head for the Top of the Hill.
-- Fritz Hahn