With rugged, stripped-down decor and hearty bar fare, Boundary Stone is quickly becoming a go-to Bloomingdale hangout. Photographs by Kyle Gustafson
According to Boundary Stone owner Gareth Croke, an Irish town is built around two things: the church and the pub. If the church nourishes the soul, then the neighborhood bar feeds the heart. It’s the center of social interaction, the place where people come together. Save Rustik Tavern and Big Bear Cafe, residents of DC’s Bloomingdale neighborhood (of which this writer is one) have precious few places that fill this role. But, as the old adage goes, if you build it, they will come. And they are coming in droves to Boundary Stone, the handsome new bar at First and Rhode Island.
Two sets of brothers run the place—Gareth and Matt Croke, and Colin and Peter McDonough. Colin and Gareth first bonded over an Eagles game at an Adams Morgan bar several years ago. Gareth, a naturalized American who comes from a long line of Irish hospitality workers, tossed around the idea of opening a neighborhood pub in Bloomingdale (he lives a few blocks away, as do the McDonoughs) with his new friend, and the concept stuck. The duo brought their brothers on board, settled on the old Sylvan Theater building, and opened their home-away-from-home on September 28.
Though testosterone certainly fuels the aesthetic, the bar doesn’t encourage the frat-boy compulsion to pound beers until blackout. Manliness has grown up at Boundary Stone, and it breathes the honest, uncomplicated intention of its owners—to be a neighborhood spot where anyone will feel welcome.
The interior has a rural, industrial feel. Though the two are not affiliated, those familiar with Baltimore’s Woodberry Kitchen will certainly notice its influence. Wood for the bar rails was pulled from a barn in Warrenton, Virginia, and the sliding front door is made from reclaimed snow fence collected in Wyoming. The lights are kept dim, an adjacent alleyway holds 16 seats for quieter conversation, the free jukebox provides an eclectic soundtrack, and regulars are already calling in sports requests for the two television screens. Open less than a month, Boundary Stone is quickly becoming a favorite among the neighborhood’s residents and followers of local blogs willing to taxi out for the experience. Any night of the week, the space hums with the sounds of friends catching up.
Classic pub fare and satisfying bar staples make up chef Vince Campaniello’s food menu. Deviled eggs ($3) and crispy risotto arancini ($7) are whipped up with seasonal fillings. The bacon burger ($10) is topped with a decadent jam of applewood bacon cooked down with bourbon, brown sugar, and maple syrup. The kitchen stays open until 11 seven days a week, and a late-night menu is in the works, making Boundary Stone an ideal place to line your stomach before an H Street bar hop.
The drink list will quench your thirst at any price point—it includes everything from $3 cans of Stroh’s to $14 Don Julio shots. The Boundary Stone brothers are serious about their brown liquor, so you’ll also find 64 whiskeys and 16 tequilas. Proof wine director Sebastian Zutant helps pick the wine list (no bottle costs more than $50), and a craft cocktail menu is on its way.
Boundary Stone, 116 Rhode Island Ave., NW. Open Monday through Thursday 5 PM to 2 AM, Friday 5 PM to 3 AM, Saturday 11 PM to 3 AM, and Sunday 11 PM to 2 AM.