First Look: Spider Kelly’s

Most sports bars draw a crowd with super-sized flat-screen TVs and dirt-cheap beer specials. But when Spider Kelly’s opened in Clarendon two years ago, owners Nick Freshman and Nick Langman wanted their place to stand out for its food. It quickly attracted neighborhood regulars, and in the midst of the burger-and-pork craze, word traveled fast that the patties there were laced with fat back.

The venture was successful enough that last fall Freshman and Langman took over three adjacent storefronts. The revamped bar—now four times its original size—reopened just in time for March Madness. While the old place was a confused mix of bar, lounge, and restaurant, there’s now room to embrace each concept.

The expansion extends to the menu, where the usual lineup of bar snacks—onion rings, wings—are joined by updated comfort food. For a beef fix, look to a slab of tomato-slicked meatloaf smoky from a searing on the grill. Pickles, enrobed in a peppery batter, come nicely out of the fryer, as does a big portion of brittle-skinned fried chicken. On a menu this large, there’ll be some duds: Pulled pork was overwhelmed by black pepper, and spinach-and-artichoke dip had the same problem with salt.

The kitchen and servers haven’t yet settled into a rhythm, but customers don’t seem to mind: The night of Georgetown’s loss in the NCAA tournament—just a week after the bar reopened—there was hardly room to shake a fist at one of the 31 TVs.

This review appeared in the May, 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.