At this point, Borderstan could probably run a weekly article with the headline, “Hilton Brothers Open New Bar in Borderstan” and we would still be right more often than we’d be wrong. And you can hardly blame them. They’ve perfected the combination of a slightly upscale, dim bar space with a rooftop/patio, hip decor, and a limited menu into a recipe for printing money. Marvin, at this point the grand old dame of the empire, is a U Street staple. Blackbyrd went through one iteration as a seafood restaurant, and will reinvent itself as a pho/banh mi restaurant in 2013. Even relatively low-key 18th Street Lounge remains a powerful enough draw that a taxiful of twentysomethings once had our group of friends roll down our windows at a stoplight to see if we were going to “The Lounge.”
It’s enough to get a little bit of Hilton Brothers fatigue. Still, wanting a quick bite and drink before an event later in the night and with a need to stay on U Street, it seemed like almost too ideal a time to try out The Satellite Room, the newest addition to the Hilton collection.
If you didn’t know The Satellite Room existed, you’d be hard-pressed to find it. Tucked away on 9th St north of V St, its location is both disadvantageous and fortuitous. On the one hand, it’ll likely be the watering hole of choice for pre- and post-concert crowds from next-door neighbor 9:30 Club; on the other, my friends CC and Katie both had trouble finding the bar, obscured as it is, and they were actually looking for it.
Find it though, and you’re in for a delightfully fun space. Like its Hilton brethren, it embraces its milieu, in this case a stripped-down warehouse from the looks of it, based on the exposed concrete walls and unfinished floor. Still, a fresh coat of paint and a sizable collection of pop art does a lot to make the space shine. Light bulbs hang over a row of small booths on the right side of the space opposite the main bar, a black-and-white tiletop with a giant script neon “Satellite” sign on the wall above it. Bar seating sits in the front window, while more tables sit in the back. Capping it off is a large covered patio behind the main bar.
Where Satellite Room follows its more recent Hilton contemporaries is in its menu; namely that it has one. The bar serves a neat mix of diner staples and light Mexican fare; to wit, a nontrivial section of the menu is dedicated to make-your-own tacos and one of the notable sides is elote, sweet Mexican corn with Mexican cheese. Still, the majority of the menu would fit right at home in a Johnny Rocket’s.
Take our own meal for example. CC and I both went with alcoholic milkshakes, selecting two of the ten options available, all named after characters from classic TV. CC went simple, picking the Vincent Vega, vanilla with Bulleit bourbon, while I went with the Latka Gravas, an espresso hazelnut with Hennessey VS. Both were delicious, sweet but dangerously enjoyable, with the bourbon providing a strong kick, but no typical bourbon burn, while the Latka was a straight shot of blended coffee bean (though a little light on any kick or sweetness that the other shake had).
The few bites we had to eat were also enjoyable. A patty melt is satisfying with the added surprise of marble rye, a straightforward and meaty dish. Its side of thin-cut fries is similarly tasty.
Overall, a solid place to grab a drink or a bite before you head to a show. I know I’ll be back to try the other eight milkshakes I missed.