courtesy of ‘furcafe’
With the amazing renaissance of our drinks culture in DC – the craft cocktail movement, the wine bar explosion, and the expanding beer consciousness all facing off against the slick corporate engines looking to make big bucks off bottle service and velvet ropes – it’s easy to overlook the plain ol’ dingy dive bar. But there’s a seedy side to the world of drinks in our fair capital city. And I love it.
What makes a dive bar? Can you really define it? Imagine you were a production designer for a crazy independent filmmaker, would you know what elements to include? Some might say DC is too Type A to have real dive bars, but the sleazy underbelly of politics proves that wrong. With so many bright-eyed babies coming here to “make it big” there’s bound to be a lot of disappointment. Not everybody’s a winner. And the dive bar thrives on losers.
Depressed yet? Good. Relish it. That’s part of the dive bar too. You’ve got to inhale that sick aroma, ripe from years of cigarette smoke and body odor, squint as you enter almost total darkness or excruciatingly bad fluorescent lighting, belly up to the bar and order a shot. Now look around. Let’s see what we have here.
"17th Street Patios" by M.V. Jantzen, on Flickr
Seriously. Who hasn’t had a drink at Fox & Hounds? The quintessential DC dive bar. Completely schizophrenic depending on season and time of day. Always unglamorous and unapologetic. The grande dame of 17th Street since when, the 60′s? What’s summer in Washington without a visit here, sinking into a plastic patio chair at a perpetually wobbling table and watching the world go by, with some of the best people-watching in the city?
Its official name is “Trio’s Fox & Hounds,” and you can easily order food from the adjacent Trio’s diner to enjoy while you drink (my god, this means you can even get your teetotaller a milkshake). But eating is not the primary activity. If you’re a mixed drink inbiber, be warned – this is the sort of establishment that gives you a glass of vodka with a side of bottled tonic. That is all part of the tattered charm of a true dive. The beer is cheap (no pints or bottles over $6, with $17 pitchers) and the Guinness perfectly poured.
Don’t feel like hanging out on the patio (or find yourself still there after noise ordinances close it down)? It’s a whole different experience inside.