Washington area bars where you can be a kid again: Ping-Pong

Friday, April 23, 2010

Played at countless neighborhood rec centers and summer camps, Ping-Pong is a game for kids and kids at heart. In D.C. nightspots, however, it's far easier to get a game of beer pong, Ping-Pong's collegiate cousin.

There are a few exceptions. At Comet Ping Pong in upper Northwest, three tables in the pizza parlor's back room are open to everyone and frequently filled with families and teenagers on evenings and weekends. Go on the late side, and Pabst Blue Ribbon cans are two for $5.

There's a more adult atmosphere on Tuesday nights at Glover Park's Breadsoda, a subterranean bar whose brown-and-orange decor and vintage giant Steve McQueen photos ooze retro rec-room cool. Every week, the bar converts two of its pool tables to table tennis and the kitchen turns out baskets of house-made tacos. It's called -- what else? -- Taco and Ping-Pong Tuesdays.

The thwack of paddles and the sharp click of plastic balls striking tables fill the air while the jukebox plays '90s alternative rock, old-school hip-hop and vintage punk. Boxes of paddles and balls sit on the bar, waiting for players. The neighborhood crowd loves it. "It's a throwback," explains Josh Diamond, 23. "It's something I grew up doing -- I had a Ping-Pong table since I was 6. But after I moved out of the dorms at American [University], it was hard to find a table."

So when he heard that a bar in his neighborhood had one, he became a regular. "It's different, and it breaks up the week. And it's easy to socialize here. You're not always playing people you know."

You'll quickly notice that while plenty of armchair players are happy to knock the ball back and forth for a while, laughing and goofing around, there's also a group of regulars who pride themselves on extended rallies, trick shots and professional-looking serves, including Chris Cohen, 26, a bartender at the Jefferson Hotel. "The nice thing about this place is the people," he says. "It's not like [Breadsoda] has the best tables or the most space to play. But people who come here really know how to play, and like playing, and get the intricacies of the game.

"It's what I look forward to during the course of the week -- just coming here and whaling."

Since there are only two tables, you often have to wait to play, especially as the night goes on. (Some of the regulars are happy to offer their tables up to newcomers who've been eyeing a game.) But Breadsoda has great draft beer and whiskey selections and a sunken patio, and those tacos -- your choice of veggie, chorizo, chicken or beef -- are just $6 for three. Settle in, relax and enjoy one of Washington's best neighborhood bars.

Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Breadsoda, 2233 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-333-7445. http://www.breadsoda.com.

Daily. Comet Ping Pong,

5037 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-364-0404. http://www.cometpingpong.com.

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