With its many excellent bars and restaurants, 14th Street may be where the kiddies come out to play on weekends, but if you’re into great cocktails without the insanity, I highly suggest a weekday evening bar crawl in the area around the Convention Center—quickly becoming one of the most exciting places in town to drink.
Tuesday marked the official debut of Hogo, Tom Brown’s new rum bar neighboring the Passenger, which he owns with brother Derek (Paul Ruppert is the brothers’ business partner). The drink menu screams tiki, but with its easygoing lighting and intimate booths, the interior feels like the Passenger and also the cool Atlas Room on H Street. I mean, there’s a portrait of Billy Murray as Steve Zissou out front—that alone should prepare you for an environment that’s more hipster than hokey. But sip enough Tom’s Punch—my favorite of the four drinks I tried (don’t judge)—and you’ll forget to lament the lack of loud, flowery shirts and thatch. The namesake cocktail involves two types of rum and falernum, a sweet syrup found in a lot of tiki drinks. The back of the space is to be a permanent pop-up venue where chefs can test future concepts. Currently, Passenger chef Javier Duran is playing around with a Hawaiian menu of Spam musubi, loco moco, and “mixed plate” with pork or salmon.
Before heading to Hogo, consider making a reservation at one of two drinking journeys nearby: Columbia Room or RogueSpirits. The former is, of course, the tranquil speakeasy inside the Passenger. A reservation buys you three fantastic cocktails—the first two are planned, and the third you design in collaboration with the bartender—and a food pairing. It’s $69 per person, but you’re not just purchasing consumables, you’re also buying a lovely experience. The atmosphere is transporting—guests gaze at jars full of esoteric ingredients as they chat with one another and the affable staff—and the net effect leaves you feeling more refreshed than tipsy, the exact best state in which to take on the tiki gods next door.
Alternatively, you could try out RogueSpirits—the new bar-and-snacks experience at Rogue 24 presided over by the inventive Bryan Tetorakis. Tetorakis and chef/owner RJ Cooper are planning to turn the concept into a bar next door to Rogue in Blagden Alley, but for now it is hosted at the restaurant’s four-seat back bar. The evening begins with a few bites—vegetable soups in gel form, bulgogi espuma—and then three drinks of Tetorakis’s design paired with dishes that range from rarified and modern (uni-topped squid ink pain perdu, anyone?) to a simple, bone-sticking rib, the latter beautifully partnered with a mezcal-based Old Fashioned riff. It’s $55 for the whole shebang, and you’ll exit inspired and happy but likely still a little hungry. Thankfully, A&D Bar has opened down the street. There, Ali Bagheri and Dan O’Brien, the guys behind Sundevich and Seasonal Pantry, have hung a chalkboard advertising snacks priced from $4 to $12. End your booze crawl at the long wooden bar, digging into potato chip poutine, pickled eggs with curry and jalapeño, or a beef tongue Reuben.
There’s more good drinking news on the way, too. Ron Tanaka is partnering with Maple bartender Sherman Golden on Thally, which will feature an ever-changing array of craft beers and wines as well as food from Tanaka, who opened Cork and just left New Heights in Woodley Park. And Tom Power’s long-awaited Baby Wale—casual little sister to his consistently excellent Corduroy—is due to debut soon.
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