In the past two weeks, Boundary Road opened on the western end of H Street NE, and less than a mile away, on Massachusetts Avenue NW, Sixth Engine started serving food and drink in the city’s oldest fire station building. Here’s an early look at the new duo.
When people talk about bars and restaurants on H Street NE, they generally mean the stretch between 11th and 14th streets. That’s changing as more businesses arrive on the western stretch of the street to lure the people moving into the buildings near Union Station. Joining Sidamo and Ethiopic in the 400 block of H Street NE is Boundary Road, a casual, cozy neighborhood tavern with a solid pedigree: Chef and co-owner Brad Walker cooked at Cashion’s, Proof and Central; general manager and co-owner Karlos Leopold tended bar at many places in Virginia and D.C., including the Reef.
It’s a gorgeous space, with rough-hewn exposed brick, century-old boards on the walls and ceilings set two stories overhead, high enough to hold a chandelier made from a box spring. The 20-seat bar faces a welcoming wooden communal table.
The cocktail list is short, reasonably priced and worth exploring. I’m Thinking About Getting A Vespa, true to its Italophile name, is a glamorous drink featuring Italian aperitifs (Cocchi Americano and Aperol), blood orange juice and sparkling wine. I keep coming back to the bright, crisp Praha City Represent, a vodka cocktail that stars spicy Czech Becherovka bitters, rosemary and ginger ale, with a lemon twist. The most unusual entry? The Five and Dime, a twist on the classic root beer float, with Root liqueur (which tastes remarkably like birch beer), maple syrup, a black IPA beer and some egg whites to add froth and texture.
That’s not to say the wine and beer programs can be ignored. Fifteen wines -- predominantly French and Italian -- are on the by-the-glass list, and there are nine microbrews on tap, including several from Maryland and Virginia.
Happy hour, which runs from 5 to 7 on weeknights, is a good time to try these. Every day, a different draft beer and wine-by-the-glass selection is $4, and any of the drafts are available as a four-ounce sample pour for $1. (A full-sized glass will ordinarily set you back between $6 and $8.)
There’s also a late-night happy hour: Every day after 11 p.m., get a can of Natty Boh and a shot of Old Overholt Rye Whiskey for $5. The rotating food menu served between 10:30 p.m. and 1 a.m. includes options like pork-fat crostini, bowls of marinated olives or hand-cut fries with curry mayo (all $5). And the chalkboard near the bar showcases discounts and the occasional freebie for those who live nearby. It’s a very nice way to welcome the new neighbors.
We don't often get new bars in buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but that’s the case with Sixth Engine. Housed in the old Engine Company Number Six, built around 1860, it’s a two-story bar and restaurant that honors its former occupant with Norman Rockwell-inspired murals, old fire helmets and even a spot on the floor of the upstairs dining room that marks the place where the pole once stood. All prices have 6 cents tacked on as a nod to the location and to help fund free filtered water (sparkling or still) for all guests.
The first-floor bar feels preppy with its mix of exposed brick and deep blue walls, a white tile floor and lots of dark wood. It gets crowded on a Friday night, but it’s easy for people to spill over into the large booths in the dining room behind the bar area.
Run by the guys behind the Dubliner and Glover Park’s Town Hall, this is a tavern that caters to a slightly older crowd — one willing to pay a little more for a draft beer from Six Point or Ommegang (most beers are about $7 to $9), or a well-made cocktail. At just over $12 each, the cocktails are priced to compete with Buddha Bar across the street, and they’re pretty good: The Jalisco Razor Blade, a sharp mix of tequila, cayenne pepper and house-made agave syrup, and the sweet, full-bodied Road Runner (rye whiskey, applejack, elderflower liqueur, sweet vermouth and bitters) are the highlights.
In coming weeks, look for the kickoff of the “Locals and Lights” happy hour, with $3 light beers, $4 DC Brau and Lost Rhino pints, and $5 wines by the glass, which, unlike the other offerings, are neither local nor light.