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Going Global at Skye Lounge

By Fritz Hahn
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, May 23, 2008

T he buzz: The happy hour at Skye Lounge seems a little more worldly than the usual. Men wearing sharp suits and stylish eyeglasses read the latest Economist while sipping mojitos at the bar, and more than a few European accents fill the air. Eyes are tuned to soccer news on the flat-screen TVs high on the wall.

The atmosphere is vastly different from the usual dark-wood motif found in bars near the White House: Floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls flood the room with light, crowds cluster on leather couches instead of in wooden booths and tables on the spacious fenced-in patio are covered with white tablecloths as well as buckets of bottled beer.

At a table outside, Camille Aponte is enjoying the sun, chatting in Spanish and sharing Coronas with a group of lawyers from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. "The atmosphere is nice and relaxed," the graduate student says. "The bartenders are great, and I like the drinks."

The key to Skye's United Nations vibe is its enviable location on Pennsylvania Avenue NW: The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are just around the corner, the Embassy of Uruguay is across the street and the Organization of American States is a short hop down 19th Street.

Skye Lounge opened in March, replacing an always-under-the-radar lounge and restaurant called Karma, and the owners have freshened up the space. On weekend nights, the patio is transformed into an outdoor lounge. Daybeds replace dinner tables, a full bar is set up and tables require a $500 minimum. Inside, DJs spin music for the groups clustered on banquettes and around the curving bar.

Weeknights are slow by comparison, though cover bands liven things up on Tuesdays.

The biggest complaint about Skye is service: Waitresses can be friendly, though slow, and sometimes they disappear altogether. Bartenders have confused specialty margaritas (tasty) with rail margaritas (avoid at all costs).

The space: Skye is a slick, modern lounge with cool, blue leather banquettes hugging the glass walls and a raised nook with comfy white couches and low coffee tables. (At night, much of the seating is used for bottle service.) Around the bar, space can be tight, and the barstools are inexplicably bolted to the floor, so groups can't scoot together. Folks trying to order drinks lean over and through conversations.

In your glass: The extensive cocktail list is full of martinis made with fruit-flavored vodkas, peach schnapps or chocolate liqueurs. The Skye-Sutra, made with raspberry vodka, Grand Marnier, Chambord, pineapple juice and sour mix, is a fun, tropical choice, but many others, including the SS or Cloud Nine, come off sticky sweet. I'm more likely to order a batida, Brazilian cachaca sugar cane liqueur shaken with sugar and muddled lemons.

Mojito lovers should note that, in addition to the classic version, Skye mixes 18 fruit-flavored versions, including pomegranate, mandarin and pineapple.

No draft beer is available, and the bottle selection is limited.

On your plate: The Mediterranean menu is long on salads and panini; "quick bite" appetizers to share include baba ghanouj, hummus and tasty stuffed grape leaves.

Price points: Skye is trying to be many things, but one thing it's not is cheap. Caipirinhas, batidas and other cocktails start at $10; house martinis are $12. Even at happy hour, a mojito or a selected martini is $8.

Skye Lounge 1919 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (enter at 19th and I streets) Info:202-331-5800 or http://www.skyedc.com. Skye Lounge 1919 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (enter at 19th and I streets) Info:202-331-5800 or http://www.skyedc.com.

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