THE MESSERS Smith's are no mass-produced rides. In fact, they're two different trips altogether.
The original Mr. Smith's of Georgetown, with its indoor/outdoor patios in the back and its when-we-were-young-and-gay fruit daiquiri assembly line remains one of M Street's stalwarts -- a victory for same-old dependency over trendiness.
But atmosphere is a famously poor traveler. So what happens when Mr. Smith's Goes to Tysons? Well, it's not quite the same: The live music was a no-draw, so they've settled for a nice CD stereo setup. There's no piano, hence no sing-alongs. And where the in-town Mr. Smith's picks up business after dark, the suburban Smith's crowds come, and go, a bit earlier in the evening with the commuter tides.
But what they do, they do well, and appropriately adjusted to the slightly more, uh, mature expectations of its less self-conscious patrons. Which is fine, since it would be adding insult to injury if one had to endure both Route 7 (it's in Pike 7 Plaza, just west of the Route 123 overpass) and a bunch of 22-year-olds mentally flashing "6.9" score cards.
The Tysons branch of Mr. Smith's is less of a habitues' bar; it has a more sincere open-door policy. Whereas the official greeter at the Georgetown bar stalks up like a cross between Arthur Treacher and Quentin Crisp, Tysons has the cheerful and gratifyingly solid Mike Koscso (actually the bartender, which is even better). The outer-Beltway 'burban offshoot has somewhat more muscular happy-hour hors d'oeuvres, too, variously including sandwiches, meatballs or nachos as well as fruits and veggies.
The Other Mr. Smith's does try to evoke the garden atmosphere, however, breaking the seating area up into groupings with intimations of informality: open rafters and trelliswork frames, bamboo-slat curtains, the stray climbing philo, etc. To be truthful, it looks a little like a Sukkot contest for professional carpenters, or a Hollywood-production Sears garden center ad, but it's nice.
The food is most of the hearty variety (pastas, beefs, major chef's salads) and the servings generous, although perhaps not particularly inventive. Still, it has the essential virtue of a funny and extroverted staff, and since the bar (big and welcoming rather than darkly stuffed against a wall) is just inside the entrance, that's essential.
This is a good place to wear hats, incidentally -- Koscso appreciates dashing haberdashery. Call 703/893-1204.
WHERE'S THE PROOF: On the lighter side, the Silo Inn, which this summer celebrated its 25th anniversary (which in Olney is probably a record), has established a weekly "dry night." Every Wednesday night, the bar shuts down at 9:30, and only nonalcoholic beverages -- sparklers, soft drinks, bottled water -- are available until the midnight close. Silo scion Tommy Tavenner says he was challenged to fill the nondrinkers' nightclub gap by some friends of his, and the no-proof nights proved so successful that they began breaking even within a few weeks.
The temperance theme is limited to the Silo, incidentally: The bar at Mr. T's next door operates as usual.
A SID FAREWELL: Sunday's fundraiser for Bob Gordon at the Bayou was a successful and sentimental occasion, with one exception: Old friend and fellow group traveler drummer Mark "Sid" Sithens, who had planned to cater the event, died of a heart attack last Wednesday at the age of 40. So it was a double salute.