From the outside, the rowhouse-turned-bar has purposefully little to draw the attention of the casual passerby. Only the purple halo of light around the front window and red-lit address — 1104 — hints that something’s going on there that wasn’t before. Stepping inside however, is like a trip down the rabbit hole: violet light seeps from every fixture and reflects off gilded, well, everything. The velvet wall-papered walls are also covered with frames, mirrors, sconces and other random adornments, all painted gold. If I had seen the Cheshire Cat himself, smile floating in the corner of the bar’s upstairs lounge spot, I would have hardly been surprised.
This is Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar, the latest addition to H Street NE bar-life. The bar was conceived and meticulously executed by owner Mark Thorp, a follow-up to Jimmy Valentine’s Lonely Hearts Club on Bladensburg Rd. The name was born one night when Thorp and then-business partner were working at Rock and Roll Hotel. When he turned around at the bar, she met him with two whiskey shots — “Well aren’t you just Little Miss Whiskey?” he quipped. Add to that a nod to Detroit’s Gold Dollar Bar, a hot spot that played host to great bands (it was the first venue The White Stripes played) from 1996 until its close in 2001. The final product is due to countless hours of work from Thorp and his crew, who took what was a hollow gut of a building and turned it into the purple haze haven it is today.
Beyond the bar’s aesthetic, it aims for all the things that make a bar good. That’s not gimmicks or crushing crowds, it’s good music, simple drinks made well, a wide selection of delicious beers and bartenders who know about said drinks and beers. As Thorp told me, the impressive visual effect of the bar is just step one, it’s “just the shell.” The next step is environment and service. Its creating a place where people can come and have a chill time, complete with a mason jar full of the bar’s house drink: a Peach Sweet Tea slush made with Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Vodka and peach schnapps. This isn’t the Country Club, Thorp is going for a different feel and a different clientele.
It was when I stepped out the back door onto the again purplish, beautiful patio, that I was sold. To the left of the door is a running gold-and-black gothic garden fountain. Beyond that, a footed bathtub filled with twinkling bubbles. Decorative gold plates hang like shields on one side of the fence, while the other sides are fringed with shrubs and flowers (all purple and white). The garden is crowned by a gilded umbrella-like awning with a purple-tinted globe light. It’s awesome.
The second floor of the bar is more open and boasts a second bar and a lounge apse. The walls are decorated with still more underground artwork and florentine frames. This weekend, DJ Mohawk Adam will grace the bar’s DJ booth. A fantastical look, damn good beer (Penn, Bear Republic, Duckrabbit, Avery), no popped collar crowd and dancing? This is bar that makes me deeply regret having to leave DC in the near future, and that’s saying something.
Photos by Sam Rosen-Amy.