The intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street SE doesn't look like a place where you'd put 247 luxury condominiums and a huge new Harris Teeter supermarket, but they're on their way, thanks to a development called Jenkins Row. This is a drastic change from the existing one-block commercial strip: a pizza restaurant, two beauty salons, a convenience store, a carryout, Papa John's and a sporting goods shop with cool-looking basketball gear in the window. Protective metal grates cover windows and surround the soft drink machines on the corner. Grass grows long and unkempt in the median strip.
Still, this is a neighborhood that's going places. And in the meantime, it has its first sit-down bar.
Trusty's Full Service opened three weeks ago in converted wig shop, just around the corner from the Potomac Avenue Metro station. It's run by Joe Englert, the Washington nightlife tycoon who has opened some of the city's most popular bars, including the Big Hunt, Lucky Bar, DC9 and State of the Union. Englert is making a habit of opening bars in transitional neighborhoods; he's got a hand in the new Temperance Hall in Petworth and has plans to open seven establishments along H Street NE.
Like many of Englert's bars, Trusty's decor takes a theme to the extreme. The lamps over the sturdy metal bar are made from chunky old oil cans; old Texaco posters and photos of vintage cars cover the dark red walls; and a large map of the United States is cobbled together, like a jigsaw puzzle, from individual state roadmaps.
Draft Yuengling and Bud Light are served in squat mason jars with handles, and beer is the drink of choice. I've yet to see anyone order a cocktail despite the full bar. The menu is a simple one: hot dogs, Italian sausages, burgers, double burgers, veggie burgers. The reason becomes clear when you see that the kitchen is actually a small one-man grill located behind the bar.
It's a minimalist operation, and it's cheap. Two Yuenglings and an Italian sausage loaded with peppers set me back $11.25 one day after work. (Happy hour includes $2.50 draft beers and $3 rail drinks.) Trusty's is a neighborhood dive, the kind of place where you want to bring friends, hang out at one of the booths in the back of the room and catch up.
-- Fritz Hahn (July 2005)