I swear time stops at Jimmy Valentine’s. It’s like an alternate universe, a wormhole, a gap in space. Every crazy visit reinforces the feeling that I’m Alice – diving through the looking glass while holding tightly to Hunter S. Thompson’s hand.
Or maybe it’s just that it’s a cracking good bar located in what many people would consider to be the NE wasteland. I’d hazard to guess that Trinidad isn’t high on the radar for any but the most adventurous night owls, though that’s changing radically with H Street’s success. Because of the location, a night out at Jimmy Valentine’s requires a certain commitment. The owners are committed as well, to keeping it grounded with locals as a place to hang out and have a good time, with a vibe that’s almost defiantly pretension-free.
Other spots may cheekily aspire to the speakeasy sensibility in an effort to keep themselves free of excessive popularity, but this truly has a no-nonsense, almost bootlegger mentality. There’s no outside hint of what greets you inside, and no street traffic to help in your search – the gritty street scene will save this bar from ever seeing Saint Ex’s sad fate.
Once inside, its narrow and cosy confines force you into conversations with total strangers (actual meaningful conversations, I might add), which really is the point of a night out here. Everyone always seems to be having a great time, bathed in the surreal red light, dancing impromptu, lounging on battered couches, gawking at the “Mao Goes to Mexico” decor. I’ve never seen or encountered the slightest attitude that can ruin other bars, and that’s very important in such a small space. No feeding off the trend trough either.
Honestly, whenever I write about a place I truly like, I feel slightly guilty, as if the more people that know about a cool bar the more likely it is to be inundated by jerks (oh, wait. I don’t think you are a jerk, dear reader. sigh. do you know what I mean?). I really debated not writing about Jimmy Valentine’s at all. But then I thought, there are some bars that can take it, can maintain their identity no matter their popularity. And I really can’t see it being ruined. Once you enter the magical forest, you don’t change it – it changes you.
Or maybe it’s just those honey liquor drinks that fantastic part-owner and bartender Dawn concocts. In any case, just relax, get to know some urban pioneers, and leave any bullshit at the door.
Jimmy Valentine’s Lonely Hearts Club
1103 Bladensburg Road NE
Washington, DC 20002