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.
Here’s where my secret love for this place really glows. It’s a rundown mess inside. You might actually never know Fox & Hounds was a dive bar if you spent all your time on the patio. I remember my first visit to that bathroom as a sheltered college kid, thinking, “Um… maybe not. I can hold it back to Brookland.” Right. Good luck with that, kid.
I just love the rec room basement feel of the mirrored side room with those beaten tables and the carpet with the smoke of ages. Definitely no frills here, nor the opposite that we see so much these days, a new bar purposefully decorated to be like a dive bar. No, Fox & Hounds just IS, a completely utilitarian watering hole. Barfly regulars hanging at the front bar, groups piled in the back, everyone just talking and having a good time. Somehow bars like this encourage conversations that last and last. Maybe it’s the pub mentality – you’re here to drink and wax philosophical or nonsensical until the lights go up harshly and you blink and think “what?! it’s after last call!?”
Possibly the best part about this shabby lady is her service. Fox & Hounds has to my mind some of the best staff in the city. Regulars are remembered even after long absences, drinks are kept filled, no one’s rushed. This is perhaps more true inside than out, but that’s understandable.
So stick a napkin under the wobbly table leg and settle in for a night of catching up with your friends. Sometimes the old reliable, the tried-and-true, the dependable dive bar is the best choice of all.
Trio’s Fox & Hounds
1537 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009