*Warning: This review might be slightly sentimental, but keep reading for the nuggets of humor*
Let us flash back to July 2010. I had just moved to the lovely neighborhood of Cleveland Park, graduated college in May, and was ready to start a master’s program at GWU. Yes, it was a fresh beginning in a new city. Ironically at the time, I had never had a drink in my life, nor had I intended to start drinking. Despite not drinking, I still needed a place to hang out on the weekends. Those of you that know me and my killer pool skillz (yes, with a ‘z’), I can thank my time at Atomic Billiards and some fine teaching from a friend or two. Atomic Billiards and Nanny O’Briens quickly became where I spent most of my original bar time in DC prior to drinking.
My initial impression of Atomic Billiards was nothing too exciting. You enter by going down a set of stairs like basically every other billiards place in DC. It’s dark and basement like. The interior has a retro 60s feel to it, very mod, topped off with the Jetsons painted on the bathroom doors. There are 5 pool tables (which have been newly felted in blue!), two shuffleboard tables, 2 dart boards, various board games, and an AWESOME jukebox at your disposal. The pool and shuffleboard rates do run on the higher side ($14/hour for 2 players during prime time and are slightly reduced at off times), but about the same as other places. Atomic Billiards is also where I picked up my mean shuffleboard talent. As if I weren’t cool enough playing pool, I also needed to learn how to have a decent showing at shuffleboard.
Having lived in Cleveland Park for almost a year and being in attendance at least once every two weeks, you can imagine I have a collection of stories. Aside from my countless times of beating the boys at pool 😛 and a number of dates (have I mentioned on here before that I think pool is one of the best date ideas? Because it really is), Atomic Billiards will always be the place where I had my first alcoholic beverage.
I get this question all the time. Why did you start drinking? To answer it here, in writing for everyone to see so maybe I don’t have to explain it as frequently as I do now, it was just time. I had no responsibilities to an athletic team, everyone had finally stopped pressuring me to drink (my family and friends wised up), and I had gotten over my fear of my family’s history with alcohol. None of this really fazes me now and it’s almost funny to think that prior to drinking so much of what I considered to be apart of me was defined by ‘not drinking.’
My drink of choice that glorious night? Fuzzy navels. Super classy, I know and no, I didn’t get drunk. My first drunken experience would come the next night on U Street following a concert, haha #typical.
More recently, I was lucky enough to visit Atomic Billiards two weeks in a row. The one week I crashed a boys’ night and the other was a mostly girls’ night out. The first week, I stuck to my classic vodka tonics, which rang up at $4 a pop. The girls’ night was a bit more adventurous with buttery nipple shots ($5 each, I believe). Either way, I’m definitely a fan of the super affordable $4 rail drinks here.
The bartenders are cool and down-to-earth. They are definitely willing to joke around with you, but during busy hours it can be slightly difficult to get that kind of personalized attention. The bar is typically crowded Friday and Saturday nights and with the logistics of the pool tables you may have to wait a couple minutes for a drink, but nothing unbearable or obnoxious. One thing that I am never quite good at predicting is the clientele that will be present here. Sometimes you have a younger ‘hipster’ crowd or college aged students (especially on their way elsewhere for the night), other times you have a slightly older yuppie crowd, and then you never know when the table of old guys will be playing a game in midst of the younger folk.
Over many observations, I can proudly say that Atomic Billiards is my favorite dive bar in DC. Is this somewhat biased and sentimental? Heck yes, but isn’t that what choosing a favorite dive bar is all about? This establishment is really great for a lot of purposes (girls’ nights, guys’ nights, dates, relaxing). From my first real neighborhood dive bar, to the time I almost punched a drunk girl for sitting on our pool table, to my first real drink, to the first time I could nostalgically bring other friends to Atomic Billiards and rave about it – these are the memories that I will not forget.