The Pinch

The Pinch photo
Craig Hudson for The Post

Editorial Review

Something for everyone
By Fritz Hahn
Friday, February 8, 2013

The Pinch would be your run-of-the-mill Columbia Heights corner bar if it weren’t for the stage in its basement. Depending on the night, you might find karaoke singers, comedians, a traditional Hawaiian dance troupe or 20-somethings jumping around in a chaotic mosh pit as a hardcore band performs.

Upcoming events include “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” performed with sock puppets (March 1-3) and, in the near future, a Sunday-night musical talk show with bands and interviews, hosted by co-owner Carlos Eyster.

“We want to be a variety of things so that people who live here can come two or three times a week and not be bored,” Eyster says. And there shouldn’t be a dull moment; recent entertainment has included a residency by the Washington Improv Theater and concerts by bands regularly found headlining the Rock & Roll Hotel or Glen Echo’s Spanish Ballroom.

But in addition to booking well-known acts, the Pinch also has been a talent incubator for smaller neighborhood bands and theater groups looking for a space to show off their talents.

“It’s good for the community, and the arts in general, to give people a chance,” Eyster says. “We’re open to talking to anyone [who wants to put on an event]. It’s about keeping it fresh.”

Originally, the three owners, who worked together at Marty’s and Trusty’s on Capitol Hill, weren’t planning to offer live entertainment; they planned to use the basement as “a drinking space,” with a bar and televisions for watching sports. But the raised stage along the basement’s back wall, a holdover from the building’s previous incarnation as El Salvadoreno, proved too expensive to remove, so it remained, and the checkerboard floor was covered with couches and high-top tables.

The stage has welcomed punk groups, blues bands, improv comics and burlesque performers. Every Tuesday is karaoke night, Wednesday is reserved for trivia and the last Thursday of the month finds a packed house for bluegrass night, sponsored by DC Brau. No matter what’s on the lineup, there’s always energy in the room and there’s never a cover charge.

Even if you’re not going for a show, the bar is worth a visit for its neighborhood spirit and surprising food. The friendly bartenders are evangelists for IPAs, there’s a selection of beer from local breweries and paintings by local artists hang on the bright red walls. Buffalo wings prepared with ghost chiles are crispy and have a pleasant but not overwhelming burn. Slices of pickle are fried with crunchy pretzel bits. And the burger -- sorry, Burduckon -- is monumental: a beef patty topped with bacon, fried onions and a pile of pulled barbecue duck.

Go early for happy hour drinks and dinner and stick around to test your brain or dance to the sounds of washboards or electric guitars. I’m sure some will complain that the vibe is a little hipstery -- what else were you expecting at a Columbia Heights bar that serves PBR tallboys? -- but the eclectic entertainment will keep everyone coming back.