If there’s a prototypical picture of 1950s Washington and its dealings, it goes something like this: a group of huddling men in a corner booth; an austere room where the cigar smoke rises up the wood paneling to dim lights; handshake deals and all manners of spycraft happening over tumblers of whiskey and fingers of bourbon.
These days, as our city starts elbowing its way into the upper echelon of epicurean cities, bars and restaurants like these are increasingly falling by the wayside; old standbys like Kinkead’s shutter while 14th Street flourishes with the next round of craft cocktails, small plates or exposed brick/refurbished barn wood decor.
Don’t get me wrong, I love these things. But that’s why the Mayflower Hotel’s refurbished bar intrigues me so much: it’s like a high-speed collision between the old and the new.
Take the decor: the old Town and Country, the bar that Edgar replaces within the Mayflower Hotel, was a monument to the days of its replacement’s namesake and frequent patron, former FBI director/Leonardo DiCaprio title role, J. Edgar Hoover. The re-design and re-branding has jettisoned with the old while keeping some of the prettiest design elements intact.
To wit, the feel remains generally the same: here, on one side of the bar, are black leather riveted booths below dark wood paneling and in front of you is a back-lit bar ensconced in art-deco style mirrored columns framed in polished silver. To your side, a wall of emerald brick tile frames the doorway; in some ways, it feels like a cleaned up 1920s cigar lounge. Still, it’s the cleaned up parts that bring some modern nuance: from the exposed brick on the restaurant side, to the light gray granite tile that decks the bar, to the globe lighting that hangs overhead.
The menu is generally what one expects, except for perhaps the steak offerings. A slate of sandwiches and burgers and salads is flanked by an interesting list of small plates, flatbreads and charcuterie, another nod to the new and trendy. On this trip, my four companions and I ordered two plates to share and a round of cocktails.
The cocktails are on the sweeter side but are, nonetheless, enjoyable. My pom-blackberry balsamic bourbon tastes exactly like what it sounds like: bourbon with a splash of tart and sweet. A play on a Tom Collins injects the traditional lemon-gin combo with some cucumber, basil, and Chambord, producing a grenadine-like flavor finish.
Our dishes are similarly straightforward fun bar bites: a set of crispy artichokes with a hint of lemon, paired with a parsley aioli dipping sauce; and cheddar potato croquettes filled with Benton’s smoked bacon and placed atop a chive aioli. Like many of the other small plates, it’s optimally designed for a post-work grub grab: drink here, dip here, eat this.
So, for a little blast from the past and a little bit modern luxury, pop by Edgar at 1127 Connecticut Ave NW.