Over the past two-and-a-half years, the building next to Marvin has had dual personalities. It opened as Blackbyrd Warehouse, an oyster bar with late-night movies and DJs, before becoming Hanoi House, a Vietnamese restaurant that recently hosted Toki Underground chef Erik Bruner-Yang's Maketto residency.
Something about the space never quite jelled for me -- or owner Eric Hilton, for that matter. "I got talked into doing the restaurant thing a few times, but I always thought, 'I like this place as a bar,'" Hilton says. He kept asking himself, "Why don't we put in a permanent DJ booth and let it be a bar?"
Starting this weekend, he'll get his wish: An intimate bar called Den of Thieves officially replaces Hanoi House on Saturday, with Thievery Corporation's Hilton christening the new DJ booth himself.
Den of Thieves, which shares its name with a 2003 Eighteenth Street Lounge compilation, will be music focused. There's not much of dance floor, so you'll most likely post up at the bar with a drink and listen to what the DJ spins.
Expect well-known local DJs to spin less-commercial sets on Fridays and Saturdays; Hilton will work out any kinks in the system himself, DJing Jan. 18, Jan. 25 and Feb. 1. "I'll put myself in the rotation when I can," he promises. He's been doing some DJ nights while on tour with Thievery Corporation, but "bigger gigs require you to play uptempo and clubby music. I'd like to play more eclectic music." Hilton's legendary sets at Eighteenth Street Lounge bear that out: mixes of old reggae, dub, Brazilian, punk, funk, lounge and anything else that fits in the expansive Thievery Corporation worldview.
Despite its location just north of the hectic 14th and U intersection, Hilton says he and the DJs will be trying to keep Den of Thieves as cool as possible. "You can't keep a weekend low-key, but I think that the music palette can help," he explains. "If you don't play Top 40, certain folks will come in and leave right away. I enjoyed Blackbyrd … Yes, it was crowded, but it was fun because you liked the music."
Den of Thieves will be open on Friday and Saturday at first, before eventually expanding to a Wednesday-Sunday schedule. Hilton says the midweek lineup will be "more eclectic" than weekends. It may get unbelievably esoteric: Hilton says he's been talking to Som Records owner (and Marvin DJ) Neal Becton about "a Trainspotter night, where record collectors try to play the rarest, best records that nobody has heard – things you can't even find on YouTube." (At this point, I'm picturing a bunch of dudes hovering around the new DJ booth, trying to take a picture of the vinyl spinning on the turntable.)
With the Hanoi House name goes the Vietnamese menu: Marvin chef Angel Franco has created a more standard bar menu. Hilton says the music will start around 9 – "10 at the latest" – and you'll want to make sure you're there for a night of great music in a cozy space. It should be the first of many.
Den of Thieves, 2005 14th St. NW. 202-747-2377.