Columbia Room Alums Are Opening a Cocktail Bar and Sandwich Shop in Shaw

Your Only Friend returns with mortadella subs and non-alcoholic Long Island Iced Tea (really!)

Columbia Room's former beverage manager Paul Taylor is at the helm of Your Only Friend. Photo courtesy of Your Only Friend.

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One of the best spots born out of the pandemic was Your Only Friend, a pop-up operated out of Columbia Room with bottled cocktails, playful sandwiches, and a strong devotion to Duke’s Mayo. Columbia Room, sadly, is no more. But Your Only Friend has finally secured its own lease and will open a cocktail and sub shop in Shaw in mid-to-late 2023.

The venture was started by former Columbia Room beverage manager Paul Taylor, who was behind some of the drinking institution’s most creative menus. (The pop-up, started in April 2020, was originally called “Get a Hero Be a Hero” and donated sandwiches to hospital workers and first responders.) He’s now partnering with former Columbia Room manager Sherra Kurtz, who’s also worked at popular spots like Hank’s Oyster Bar and Maydan. Their nostalgic-feeling 1,600-square-foot space is split between a sandwich counter and a 40-seat bar, though customers will be able to enjoy drinks and food on both sides or to-go.

The menu will feature eight sandwiches to start and expand from there.  Taylor plans to bring back favorites like the “Mort & Mootz,” a mortadella and mozzarella Italian sub, the “Hot Nugget” with Nashville hot chicken, and Salvadoran-inspired panes con pavo with stewed turkey, salted cucumber, curtido slaw, and Crystal hot sauce fried chili oil.

Taylor describes the cocktail menu as “irreverent” with some deli-esque drinks like a celery gimlet and rye-bread old fashioned. He also plans to reimagine cocktails with a nostalgic feel or bad rap—not so different from the 2019 menu he created at Columbia Room called “So Bad, It’s Good” featuring fancy riffs on Zima, Appletinis, and Midori Sours. This time, he’s created a rum-and-Coke riff with his own totally clear cola, channeling ’90s-era Crystal Pepsi. And yes, he’ll be reviving his non-alcoholic take on a Long Island Iced Tea. (Seriously. Read more about it here.) In general, non-drinkers will find plenty of spirit-free options.

“The concept in itself is pretty high-low,” Taylor says. “We’re using a lot of techniques and drawing on a lot of knowledge from Colombia Room, but we’re definitely putting our own stamp on it.”

Your Only Friend. 1114 9th St., NW. 

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.