From brewpubs to corner taverns, new bars in Shaw are ripe for exploration

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the artist who painted murals at Right Proper Brewing Company. This version has been corrected.


The one-room Southern Efficiency, which is stocked with more than 40 different bourbons and American whiskeys, was inspired by Southern lunch counters. (Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

Last November, the Weekend section presented its guide to Shaw: the restaurants, shops, bars and other venues that make the Northwest neighborhood an increasingly popular place in which to live and spend time.

Of course, it was more like a Shaw snapshot, because buzzy neighborhoods are always in flux. In the intervening two months, four new bars have opened, making Shaw a destination that should be on everyone’s radar this winter. Whether you’re looking for freshly made beer, Southern peanut soup or a comfortable corner tavern, you’ll find it on this bar crawl.

Right Proper Brewing Company

624 T St. NW. 202-607-2337.
www.rightproperbrewery.com
.
Open Tuesday-Sunday at 5 p.m.


A mural of the late Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson adorns the wall at Ivy & Coney, a Chicago-and-Detroit-themed bar in Shaw. (Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

The story: The District is on a brewpub kick, with Bluejacket and Gordon Biersch opening last year in Navy Yard. Right Proper has enough cred to attract bearded beer geeks from across the region: Founder Thor Cheston won plaudits for his work with the beer programs at Pizzeria Paradiso and Brasserie Beck; brewer Nathan Zeender is known for his love of obscure styles, and will be aging beers in barrels and working with airborne yeast in an open fermenter. But the hip vibe, cool music and not-beer-geeky crowd are reasons you’ll find yourself paying attention to more than a glass of the (admittedly very good) rye saison.

Why it stands out: Right Proper feels more like a well-stocked neighborhood gastropub than a place to savor obscure beers. If you want to hang out with your friends, sip the Raised by Wolves pale ale and check out the chalk-art murals of giant National Zoo animals on a Godzilla-style rampage through Washington or Nico Amortegui’s wall-size graffiti-style paintings, that’s cool. If you’d rather trade notes on the grisette, a peppery farmhouse wheat beer, or discuss the finer points of a wee heavy (full-bodied, 5.5 percent alcohol) vs. a wee mild (finely malted, 2.9 percent alcohol), you can do that, too.

What to order: Beer. Zeender changes the lineup frequently, but most of his creations go for $4 to $5 a glass (some are $6 for a 20-ounce pour), so it’s easy to taste around and find something you like. The menu, created by 1905 chef Matt Richardson, is heavy on such Southern comfort food as pimento cheese and chicken and dumplings, but the standout is a basket of fried, breaded chicken livers and gizzards ($7), served with a house-made mumbo sauce.

Top tip: The 64-ounce growlers of house-brewed beers are available to go for $12. Bring your own or buy the house version, with its logo on the glass proudly reading “Made in Shaw.”

All Souls Bar

725 T St. NW. 202-733-5929.
www.allsoulsbar.com
. Open Monday-
Saturday at 5 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.

The story: After years managing bars at Jose Andres’s Jaleo and Zaytinya, David Batista finally has a bar of his own. (Well, he still has a bit of the original Jaleo, too — that’s where All Souls’ copper-topped bar counter came from.) Chat with Batista, a tattooed presence behind the bar, and you’ll hear about his love of roséwine and alternative and punk music, both of which show up at All Souls.

Why it stands out: There’s nothing spectacular about this simple room, which has about three-dozen seats. There’s generally a crowd in the large corner booth. The folks mingling at the bar are a mix of ages and races. The selections on the Internet jukebox have been edited so that you can’t pick Taylor Swift or Guns N’ Roses — think Joy Division, Run-DMC or the Replacements instead.

What to order: There are four draft beers (including Lagunitas and Heavy Seas), a few more bottles, a couple of wines (including two kinds of cava) and three basic cocktails ($9), labeled No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3. I’m partial to No. 2, the Perfect Manhattan; it mixes Maker’s 46 whiskey and Dolin dry vermouth, “because that’s how I make it at home,” Batista says. But the novelty boilermaker is the most intriguing: a shot of Maker’s Mark and a cocktail glass full of pink rosé. The sweet, wheated bourbon plays well with the bubbles, and it’s a good deal for $11.

Top tip: An outdoor patio will grace the Seventh Street side of the building in the spring.

Southern efficiency

1841 Seventh St. NW. 202-316-9396. www.facebook.com/
SouthernEfficiency
. Open
Tuesday-Sunday at 5 p.m.

The story: Southern Efficiency is the final piece in Derek Brown and Angie Salame’s trio of Shaw bars, joining the sherry-focused Mockingbird Hill and the oyster-centric Eat the Rich. Brown’s inspiration for Southern Efficiency came from lunch counters he visited in the South, but because he’s one of the city’s best-known bartenders, there are dozens of bottles of bourbon and rye whiskey available, too.

Why it stands out: This narrow room, with two dozen stools made from old tractor seats, isn’t fancy. It also gets really crowded on weekends. But the drinks, poured by some of the city’s best bartenders, and the fantastic food make up for it.

What to order: Brown says the menu purposefully stayed away from “cliché” Southern dishes like shrimp and grits, focusing instead on rich, mushroom-laden Virginia peanut soup, fresh bourbon balls and pimento cheese with crackers. Wash that down with a glass of whiskey and smoked cola, a flavorful drink on tap created by bar manager J.P. Fetherston. There are flights of rye whiskey, different styles of bourbon or a mix of both ($12 each). Or you can order a la carte from a collection that starts at $4 for Virginia Gentleman but also includes affordable but underappreciated selections such as Belle Meade or Col. E.H. Taylor Small Batch for $10. High rollers should go for the $20 pour of William Larue Weller Antique Collection, an uncut, unfiltered treasure that checks in around 137 proof.

Top tip: On Saturdays, Southern Efficiency offers both “Intro to Bourbon” and other specialized classes, allowing students to learn about (and taste) a variety of whiskey. Follow the bar on Twitter (@whiskeyhome) for details.

Ivy & coney

1537 Seventh St. NW. 202-670-9489. www.ivyandconey.com. Open daily at 5 p.m.

The story: One look at the murals of Sparky Anderson and Harry Caray at this walk-up bar, and homesick Detroit and Chicago natives will know they’re in a special place. The four owners — two from Chicago, one each from Detroit and the District — set out to create the archetypal Midwestern corner bar, the kind where, partner and bartender Adam Fry jokes, “guys stop for seven or nine beers on the way home.”

Why it stands out: Instead of being a kitschy theme bar, Ivy & Coney is a small, dark two-room tavern. (Midwesterners should make sure to read the inscriptions on the “autographed” photos on the wall, though.) The main room features a long bar and gaudy gold wallpaper; through a door is a sitting room with ornate-yet-chintzy furniture that could have come from grandma’s house. The capacity is only a few dozen people; that will double later this year when the bar unveils a rooftop deck with an extra bar and retractable roof.

Baseball will be a big draw come spring: The Cubs, Tigers and Nationals will get priority on the flatscreen televisions, in that order. (Despite the Chicago theme, White Sox fans are left in the cold. Sorry, South Siders.)

What to order: The menu is simple: hot dogs dressed Chicago-style (“dragged through the garden,” as they say, covered with onions, relish, tomato and the all-important sport pepper) or Coney-style (chili and onions), cooked behind the counter for $4. The bartender will give you a free basket of peanuts if you ask; just toss the shells on the floor.

Try beers from Michigan (Bell’s, Stroh’s) and Illinois (Goose Island, Old Style) for $3 to $5. Chicagoans will be happy to find bottles of Jeppson’s Malort, the cult liqueur that tastes like Fernet Branca with extra wormwood; shots seem obligatory.

Top tip: The TV in the back room is hooked up to old-school Nintendo consoles, so you can settle in for a game of “Super Mario Bros.” or the original “Mario Kart.”

Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.
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