D.C. residents can now double-fist drinks for half price at 42 bars across town.
The Passport Program is a national two-for-one drink special program available at bars such as Masa 14, Roofers Union, and Hank’s Oyster Bar.
Here’s how it works: For $20, you get a pocket-sized booklet that lists 42 local bars. Bring that booklet to any one of those bars for a two-for-one drink special. Though the deal can only be used once per bar, the booklet is valid until Sept. 7.
Check out a map of all 42 D.C. locations:
From Jane Alonso. Her passion for food and spirits leads her on frequent excursions into Borderstan’s land of bars and restaurants. Email her at jane[AT]borderstan.com
As the weather heats up, the season of gin is upon us. Who doesn’t enjoy a cold, refreshing gin and tonic while lounging poolside or watching a sunset on the back porch?
The herbal nature of gin is symbiotic with hot weather. All gins have juniper as a flavor base in their distillation, which is what provides the spirit’s distinctive herbal scent and flavor. Most brands also add in citrus and spice flavorings called “botanicals” — the mix of these flavorings is often closely held by each distiller as a trade secret. Because our sense of taste is connected almost exclusively to our sense of smell, and we smell botanicals more intensely in hot weather, gin is absolutely tailor-made for the warm weather months.
Gin and Hot Climates
And then you have the spirit’s historical connection to hot climes. The army of the British East India Company created the first gin and tonic when they discovered that gin was an effective masking agent for bitter flavor of quinine — the only effective anti-malaria drug they had access to as the empire expanded into tropical climates. Quinine was typically dissolved in carbonated water to create “tonic water,” which went down better with a shot of gin. Lucky for us, we get to enjoy the modern-day gin and tonic without worrying about a malarial fever.
As good as a regular old gin and tonic is, why not branch out this spring and summer into new territory? All too often, we default to ordering what is on the menu (or the list of rail drinks we became familiar with in our early drinking days) when our local bartenders — especially the talented ones we are lucky to have in Borderstan — are ready to show us their best work, if only asked.
First Stop: Masa 14
So one recent night, I set out in Borderstan to issue a “gin challenge” to local our bartenders. First stop: Masa 14‘s rooftop bar, where I asked bartender Anthony Marlowe to give me his most creative signature gin concoction. Marlowe, who used to be head mixologist at Againn on New York Avenue NW, enthusiastically accepted my challenge. He quickly whipped up a drink he has had in his repertoire for years called “Little Sister” — gin, St. Germain Liqueur, simple syrup, sour mix and a splash of citrus juice.
It was light and refreshing as I expected from a gin drink, but a bit more fruity (and less bitter) than a gin and tonic. The St. Germain adds a floral note that balances the herbal gin perfectly.
I enjoyed it so much I completely forgot to ask Anthony what type of gin he used (though I am sure it was top shelf)… which means I now have a good excuse to go back and ask. Ah, the sacrifices I make in the name of research for my Borderstan column…
“Last Word” at Pearl Dive
Over at Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, bartender Collie (he only goes by one name, like Madonna or Prince) mixed Plymouth gin, green Chartreuse, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, and lime juice in a cocktail known as the “Last Word” — a prohibition-era cocktail originally developed at the Detroit Athletic Club and making a comeback in modern-day speakeasies.
What sets this drink apart is its use of the distinctive tasting Green Chartreuse, a French liqueur made by Carthusian Monks and composed of distilled alcohol aged with 130 herbal extracts. The use of Green Chartreuse amplifies the herbal nature of the gin, creating a unique experience. The lime juice and liqueur accessorize it nicely with sweet and sour notes.
I also sampled a drink from Pearl Dive’s regular cocktail menu called the “Pearl Cup” (a play on Pimms Cup) with Plymouth gin, Pimms, Cucumber, lime juice, mint, and housemade ginger beer. The ginger beer made the drink very spicy and overwhelmed the other flavors, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Take the gin challenge with me this season! Walk into your nearest Borderstan bar and ask your bartender to make you a creative gin cocktail. Then report back to us here at Borderstan.com and tell us what you have found. No reason to keep these hidden neighborhood gems secret any longer…
Ignoring the last few days, our unseasonably warm winter has brought on a quickly temperate spring time. All this has pushed forward the grandest of D.C. days: the first day of patios and rooftops. With even an inkling of 70-degree weather, Standard’s benches begin overflowing, Marvin’s porch starts bumping, and Public starts rolling again. What’s a recovering snowbird to do?
Luckily, Masa 14 has come to the rescue with a brand new rooftop deck and bar just for the occasion. While the restaurant itself has occupied its 14th Street location for what seems like an eternity, its upstairs setup debuts today (a fact that surprised me, having seen their apparent stairs to nowhere for almost two years now). Still, it seems to have taken a page out of the playbook of its sister restaurant and neighbor El Centro D.F.: rooftops and good food means a good time.
Unlike El Centro and its other contemporaries, Masa’s rooftop does it better by taking advantage of its geography and understanding a central truth of rooftops: the more sun the better. Its outdoor section of wooden-bench two-tops forms a U around the central staircase, which itself is decked in a set of flower beds and bar rails. The decor is intentionally and successfully minimalist, with straight lines of sleek wooden finishing.
But perhaps most importantly, the rooftop completely opens up the street-side half, which means the setting sun will almost always be theater at every happy hour. This floods the space not only with blessed warmth, but a picturesque backdrop, and sets Masa apart from practically anywhere else. After all, who goes to a rooftop to be underneath a hutch? If the game is called on account of rain, then the rooftop’s inside portion, a mirror image of the bar downstairs, offers ten seats to wait out the weather.
What’s more, Masa’s rooftop menu impresses, curating its offerings into a limited list of successful dishes from the Latin-Asian fusion menu downstairs. A bay scallop ceviche of jicama, pineapple, red onion, and yuzu-sriracha vinaigrette offers a refreshing bite perfect for the impending heat, while two house-made hot dogs (The Rising Sun — teriyaki beef and wasabi, and El Tigre — spicy chorizo with sriracha) bring a savory counterpoint. Moreover, the cocktails provide a wonderful splash of flavor and punch to the space, especially the French and Strawberry-Basil caipirinhas.
Upon leaving, my companion turned to me to say, “We should savor this. This might be the last time we see this rooftop this empty.” Given all that it has to offer, I tend to agree.
Disclosure: Kim Vu attended the Tuesday-night preview of the Masa 14 rooftop deck and was comped on food and drink as part of the event.
Work on the rooftop deck at Masa 14 is progressing. A spokesperson for the 14th Street restaurant said, “We hope to open by the end of April. We will be offering a roof top menu and hope to be able to serve brunch shortly thereafter.” Hours for the rooftop deck have not yet been set.
Borderstan will have news and photos about another rooftop deck opening soon over on 9th Street NW. BTW… check out the Borderstan team’s list of favorite rooftop decks and brunch spots, links below.
From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter at @frijolita.
Looks like Tuesday is the new Thursday in Borderstan. Masa 14 recently announced a weekly all-night happy hour every Tuesday (5 pm to closing) in the bar and lounge areas. You can nab $4 cocktails, beer and wine specials, but your wallet will be at a loss when it comes to grub — sorry, happy hour food specials aren’t included in this early-week boozefest.
Masa 14 also has a rooftop that’s nearing completion. While they haven’t announced a date the roof will open, one can only assume they’re aiming to open the space by spring — prime eating and drinking outside time.
All night happy hours + new roof deck = we’re sure the neighbors are just thrilled!
From Mike Kohn. Have an urban etiquette wrong that needs to be righted? Drop Mike a line at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @mike_kohn. This week he takes a break from his regular urban etiquette column to outline a perfect Valentine’s Day.
Ah, yes, Valentine’s Day. The time of year where we proclaim our love for our significant others on this hallmark of Hallmark holidays. Admittedly, this holiday would be much more entertaining if I had a significant other to share it with (and for that matter, I’d be way more into celebrating it), but I digress…
The best part about February 14 is that it gives all of us the opportunity to chart a course for a great evening with that very special someone. So what would I do to celebrate my magical Borderstan Valentine’s Day with my guy?
After a rousing Tuesday at work, I’d meet up at Masa 14 at 14th and Swann Streets NW for happy hour. Not only do they generally have a great bar, but as a friend proved to me, they have the best mojitos in town. And for $4, can you really go wrong? The happy hour is usually 5 to 7 pm on weekdays, but on Tuesday happy hour drinks last all night long.
With a few mojitos downed, it’s time to make the short walk to Estadio at 14th and Q Streets NW for a romantic dinner. If you like that idea, just be prepared to wait — the place is one of the most popular restaurants in the neighborhood, so it’s unsurprisingly always packed, and they don’t take reservations past 6:00. Alejandra Owens did a great job profiling the place a few months back.
Everything I’ve had at Estadio has been delicious. On my last visit there I had the pork belly bocadillo, the crispy duck breast and the wild mushrooms, all of which were amazing. In case the mojitos weren’t enough, I’m all about their G&Ts, particularly the Old Raj Gin & House-made Orange Thyme Tonic. Delicious.
There’s no need to wander off 14th to get dessert — it’s so much easier to just walk back up the street. I’d play it by ear depending on what I’m in the mood for. For something chocolatey, I’d make a stop at Point Chaud at 14th and S Streets NW and pick up a nutella and banana crêpe. But I might be tempted to settle in at Cork Wine Bar at 14th and Riggs Streets NW, just sipping a glass of port or enjoying one of their sweeter dessert wines.
That would be the end of my night. All of that delicious food — not to mention, more than my share of beverages in each location by my recount — would definitely leave me quite satisfied.
Alex Baca will be writing about community and development issues for Borderstan, including occasional reports on local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. She also writes for the Housing Complex blog at Washington City Paper.
The famously sprawling ANC 1B (Columbia Heights, LeDroit Park, Pleasant Plains, Shaw/U Street, and University Heights) held its monthly meeting last Thursday, May 6, at the Reeves Center, 14th and U Streets NW.
Amongst the slew of liquor license applications and renewals, the evening’s agenda also included the public safety report and design reviews of the African American Civil War Memorial Museum.
The United Negro College Fund’s agreement to occupy the site between S and T at 7th Street NW started the meeting on a high note. The Shaw space was intended to house Radio One, which backed out in February. UNCF’s forthcoming move elicited quite a few smiles from the commissioners–as well as a unanimous move to write a letter to the City Council supporting a potential $1.5 million tax abatement for UNCF.
Liquor License Requests: Masa 14’s Rooftop Deck
But things heated up as representatives from local establishments came forth to request liquor licenses. Masa 14 had their request protested in the name of “parking, peace, and quiet” alongside potential neighborhood newcomers GII and The Florida Cafe. The commission, as is typical, recommended that the businesses attempt to reach a voluntary agreement with the neighborhood associations before coming before the ANC.
From Alejandra Owens, One Bite At A Time
Well… wasn’t that first Restaurant Profile fun? HA! I think we can all rest assured that Masa 14 won’t be leaving us anytime soon. Touting one of the longest bars in town and a mish mash of flavors, dishes and drinks, Masa 14 is a popular gathering place.
Here’s our assessment of the basics, but what do you guys think? I’ve heard folks wax poetic about the wings–anything else on the menu a favorite?
Where Am I Going:1825 14th Street NW, just south of U Street.
When Am I Going: Monday-Thursday, 5 pm to 2 am; Friday, 5 pm to 3 am; Saturday, 11 am to 3 am; and Sunday, 11 am to 2 am.
Paycheck Pain: Soups and vegetable dishes start at $5 with fish and beef clocking in at $12. But these are small plates, so you’ll need a few to yourself to fill up!
Say What?: A long, skinny bar makes for easy one-on-one conversations, but difficult for larger groups to chat it up. It’s a social scene, whether at the bar or seated at a table… expect to raise your voice a little.
What You’ll Be Eating: Chef Richard Sandoval of Zengo and partner Chef Kazuhiro Okochi of Kaz Sushi Bistro came together to put the best of Asian and Latin flavors on “small plates.” (Let’s just call it what it is, folks: tapas.)
Happy Hour: $4 happy hours are a draw–everything from popular nibbles like their signature wings, to cocktails and bars.
Birch & Barley and ChurchKey at 1337 14th Street NW are two new additions to the 14th Street corridor of restaurants and bars. Birch & Barley offers what sounds like as a delicious menu in the high-priced range. Both of these places offer an extensive list of beers. We are still waiting to go. Let us know what you think.
Masa 14 is at 1825 14th Street NW and is another new addition to the neighborhood, offering Latin-Asian inspired cuisine in small plate offerings. Ever since its soft opening last week the place has been full every night (I walk by regularly). It is beautiful inside and I was able to photograph it last Sunday. Reservations are recommended. Again, we are still waiting to go; let us know what you think if you have already been.
Teaism at 2009 R Street NW is a favorite around the neighborhood with a nice selection of teas and wonderful food. Perfect for a weekend brunch with a great and fast service–I had a very good meal last Sunday.
The Washington Business Journal reports that two-thirds of the units at the Metropole, 15th and P NW, are sold.