What has lots of alligators, horses, jockeys, foxes and a 94-year-old watering trough? Bowie race track, perhaps? Derby Day at the National Zoo? Well, close.
It's J. Paul's, Georgetown's newest eating and meeting place for D.C.'s Y.P. (young professional) crowd. But J. Paul's isn't for every member of the Washington single circuit who passes through the double-glass doors or sits at the massive mahogany bar. There are a few prerequisites: a rich tan (and we're not talking about the Q.T. type); blond, dirty blond or light brown hair; a polo shirt with some sort of animal or mammal appliqu,e; a pair of madras pants or Bermuda shorts; and your name on the Britches mailing list for its new fall collection.
But seriously, folks. J. Paul's is modeled after turn-of-the-century bars in Chicago, with pictures of J. Paul Getty, Al Capone and J.D. Rockefeller smiling smugly on the walls. And it comes pretty close, too.
There's the 50-foot bar that was shipped in from the Chicago stockyards -- piece by piece; the 14-foot gold-painted ceiling, solid oak floor, two sterling silver lamps from the Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh (at $5,000 each), elevator doors from the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan and specialty drinks called Big Al's and the Bathtub Martini. John Dillinger would feel right at home.
Barry Silverman, general manager of the three-month-old bar, says he wants his establishment to be thought of as a "comfortable place to eat and drink for both families and the 25 to 40 singles crowd. We're different from the other bars in that there's plenty of stand-up room and open space."
The music at J. Paul's comes from eight speakers hanging somewhere in the impressive front room. But the volume is kept at conversation level and barely audible when the bar is crowded. Silverman says he doesn't like to pump the music up too high, and, besides, the big-band tunes and Frank Sinatra tapes they play don't carry well over a crowd.
Bartender Ron Bowman says J. Paul's is a class place. "No hustling here. People who never thought they'd become regular customers end up coming in two or three nights a week."
Susan Eid, 24, a first-timer at J. Paul's, said that, compared to most bars, J. Paul's is certainly more spacious. "But, I'll tell you, I've never seen so many people wearing eyeglasses in one place before."
The menu of J. Paul's covers everything from guacamole and chips to swordfish, roast beef, omelettes and fresh strawberry cobbler or grasshopper pie for desert. The most expensive item is a 12-ounce sirloin steak "char grilled to perfection" for $10.95. Drinks range from $1.50 for domestic draft beer to $2.25 for mixed drinks. J. PAUL'S -- 3218 M Street NW. Hours: 11:30 to 2, Monday through Thursday; till 3 Friday to Sunday.