Nats fans are practically orphans when it comes to bar options surrounding their beloved ballpark. If you’re one of the effected parties, it’s downright miserable to live with from time to time. If you’re an observer of the culture and the area, it’s not that much better.
Justin’s Café opened last year, just a few blocks from Nationals Park. They opened up shop at 1025 First Street SE with a fine line of beer, wine, and meals oh so divine. Pardon, my rhyme but I feel the selection was worth the cute play on words.
It was a memorable experience, being at Justin’s Café on a Saturday night two hours after game time. The Nats had lost but the rain held out the entire time. There was an overcast sky but it wasn’t a bad day to be outside. A few Nats fans clung to the outdoor seating and bar top with a few neighborhood folk out for a meal.
The wait staff is friendly and attentive. They made it feel like you were at a well-worn-in neighborhood spot. You know, that place “known for” their burger or beers on-tap or vintage wine list. Justin’s Café is that without having to try too hard. It’s an upfront product they’re trying to sell and they sold me pretty easy.
I can see the place becoming vintage over the next decade or so while the rest of NatsTown slowly rises from its humble beginnings of the current day. Justin’s has the potential to become what Rockit Bar – Wrigleyville has become to Cubs fans – a quality watering hole with a good atmosphere and favorable menu.
There’s something novel about the corn hole sets and live music via The Bullpen and accompanying spot Das Bullpen. They work. They’re entertaining. They remind me of a frat party – loud, drunken and another fun night you’ll never actually remember while needing an Advil in the morning.
Justin’s Café is the classier, more grown up way to get the after-ballgame experience in NatsTown. There’s honestly not much more in the area.
I suggest the Ancrum sandwich. It’s grilled Portobello, sweet onion, roasted pepper, parmesan and spinach on 3-grain wheat bread. That paired sweet potato fries and a couple dirty Martini’s makes for a nice little Saturday night dinner. The pizza’s smelled pretty good too. Next time, I’m getting the Calhoun pizza with grilled chicken, mozzarella, mushrooms, sliced tomatoes, green peppers all on top of a ranch dressing base.