Food

Inside the Hotel-Inspired Denson Liquor Bar

The Acqua Al 2 and Ghibellina team bring classic booze to Penn Quarter.
The Art Deco-style Denson Liquor Bar debuts in Penn Quarter. Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

Just in time for frigid weather comes Denson Liquor Bar, a cozy, subterranean watering hole from the Ghibellina and Acqua Al 2 team. Mindful Restaurant Group co-owners Ari and Stacy Gejdenson debut the Art Deco-style space in Penn Quarter on Wednesday, bringing classic cocktails and late-night noshing to 600 F Street, Northwest. Here’s what to know before you drop in—or under.

The inspiration: A hotel bar in the 1920s. The Art Deco style runs throughout, from bronze inlay tables and black-and-white tiling to pull-chain toilets in the bathrooms.

The cocktails: Classic. While the barmen get riff-ier at sister watering hole Harold Black, here you’ll find a more straightforward list with a Negroni, Sazerac, Aviation, and Hemingway daiquiri. For those who like their spirits stiffer, the bar pours one- and two-ounce servings of fine whiskeys and Scotches.

The best seat in the house: A corner booth to the right of the door. Not that you have too much choice in the 49 person-capacity bar, lined with deep leather booths. Still, if you want to gaze over the scene while also discreetly sipping drinks with a date, this is the place.

Check out the action in the bar by snagging the booth to the right of the door.

The fun fact: Booths are divided by chicken-wire glass from the historic Hecht Warehouse. The panes are not only a cool memento of DC’s past, but also a nod to its future. Gejdenson’s next project involves bringing three concepts to the restored building, which is being transformed into the mixed-use Hecht Warehouse District development. While plans aren’t fully set, at least one project will be a sit-down restaurant, the first of its kind in Ivy City.

The “hotel” food: Better than real hotel food, which doesn’t have the best reputation. The small menu follows the bar’s theme, serving an eclectic mix that a traveler might enjoy. Guests can snack on bar nuts or cheese and charcuterie platters, or take comfort in warm dishes like a Cubano panini or curried-chicken pot pie.

The late-night noshes: Still to be set, but you’ll likely find that spicy pot pie. The full menu runs until 11:30 most evenings, with a few eats served until last call.

Denson Liquor Bar. 600 F St., NW. Open Monday through Thursday 5 to 2, Friday and Saturday 5 to 3. Closed Sunday.

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Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.