Washington has never been a good place to find neighborhood bars. Many tend to be large and impersonal, or their managers seem to think they need some kind of theme to attract customers. The Townhouse Tavern in Dupont Circle is a true neighborhood bar -- warm but lacking gimmickry. To understand how a bar owner finally got the neighborhood bar concept right, look to R.T. Smith, who was a bartender at the casual Dupont Circle mainstay Fox and Hounds for 17 years. When he decided to open his own place (along with former Fox and Hound employee Doug Edgerton), many of the regulars followed him up the street to Townhouse and adopted a new hangout. The bartenders at Townhouse are all veterans of the D.C. bar scene and most of the customers have been in the neighborhood for years. The atmosphere is friendly, and it seems everyone knows everyone else but not in a cliquish way. The diversity of the neighborhood is reflected by the clientele inside. The Townhouse is located in a beautiful space that used to house the Spanish restaurant El Bodegon. The Flamenco dancers are gone but the exposed wood beams and ornate detailing are not. Several tables in front of the bar afford a great view of the sea of humanity that arrives at the nearby gay dance club, Cobalt. Downstairs is a bar and a dining area. The cuisine is American-seafood-pasta and is surprisingly good. On occasion, Townhouse will offer a raw bar downstairs for happy hour. The pool table upstairs is usually in use but the wait is never too long, and the atmosphere is hardly cut-throat. Jukebox selections range from country to techno with a particular emphasis on late-'70s-early-'80s alternative rock and punk. Smith rotates the 100 CDs often enough to keep the tunes fresh.
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