Tag Archives: Speakeasy

Black Jack

Summertime and the living’s easy…as the song goes.  It may be “easy,” but uneventful and non-busy it is not.  To get refreshed for the summer season of drinking and bars, I thought it was quite necessary to take a small vacation to Curacao.  I’m back, “tan”, and ready to keep you all updated on which bars you should or shouldn’t be attending!

My most recent bar addiction has been Black Jack!  Located in Logan Circle, what started off as a random Friday happy hour with a girlfriend has quickly turned into my new weekly trivia destination.  I first attended Black Jack about 2 months ago as a second and last stop of a Friday happy hour outing.  Having heard good things about said bar and making what at the time was a rare appearance in Logan Circle, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try some place new.  Black Jack is slightly hidden; located directly above Pearl Dive.  It offers a tasty selection of mussels and oysters that should NOT be overlooked.  Somewhat masquerading as a ‘speakeasy’ because there is no official sign, there is no arrogance here.

The bartenders/wait staff are cordial and accommodating.  They were even willing to buy us a round when there was a last-minute cancellation of trivia.  These are the rare type of people that I actually feel comfortable engaging in light banter.   To describe a little more about the décor, Black Jack is relatively narrow once you get upstairs.  There is only one bar, but I’ve never had an issue waiting too long on a drink or food for that matter.  The main part of the bar offers a handful of tall tables, a couple booths, and some cozy couches that are great for those looking for a slightly larger gathering of people in addition to seating at the bar itself.  Be warned though, grabbing a couch or even a table during popular happy hour times or during trivia has been fairly difficult and requires a little bit of patience.  Further away from the blinking GOLF sign in the main bar area, you can find the indoor bocce court, complete with some baseball stadium type seating.  Quirky and slightly eclectic in comparison with many DC bars, I think it really is important to stress that the atmosphere here is not pretentious and laid back enough that most people can feel comfortable here.

Tuesday nights, as many of you are aware is my weekly trivia night.  At Black Jack, the trivia is hosted by Trivia Kings, which should be your reassurance that it is a quality product.  Starting at 8pm, my team is always pleased that Black Jack extends their happy hour deals until 9pm, which means ½ priced drafts.  These aren’t your normal shitty drafts though.  They go beyond the standard Miller Lite and Natty Boh deals.  Seeing as I’m still new to the beer drinkers club, I typically stick with a cider.  They offer both Jack’s hard cider ($6) and Strongbow ($9).  Beyond the mussels and oysters here, which are quite delicious, I have yet to be disappointed with the food.  From pizza to a Cuban sandwich ($11) to just a side of French fries with aioli dipping sauces, you do not need to eat before arriving at this bar.

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While I have yet to visit Pearl Dive or some of the other surrounding bars, this establishment has the potential to be part of great bar crawl in Logan Circle for those that are easily bored or need something different to hold their attention.  The only drawback to this Black Jack is that the volume can sometimes get on the loud side.  If you’re looking for a date atmosphere, it might be more of a struggle unless you manage to snag a more intimate booth or couch or go during an off time (if those exist here).  This would even be a decent place to drink solo at the bar because of the ongoing movies projected against the wall behind the bar.

Stay tuned for my next post!  Thomas Foolery opens this Wednesday and yours truly can be spotted on the menu 😉

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The Gibson

The Gibson is without a doubt one of my favorite bars in DC.  If you’re not familiar with this establishment, you are certainly missing out.  First….you need to actually find the place though.  Designed as a speakeasy cocktail bar, there is no sign on the outside of the Gibson.  If you know the street address, there is a faint gray number posted above the door that is really only visible if you’re looking for it.  Entering through an unmarked door feels slightly strange the first time.  Once inside, you see a bouncer waiting in a dim hallway.  The Gibson prides itself on not overfilling or packing people in so it’s a more enjoyable and relaxed experience than fighting people for seats at other bars.  For this reason, there is often a wait on the weekend to get seats.  You can make reservations, which I would advise for a weekend night especially for larger groups and when you don’t want a wait.  I’ve been fortunate enough and haven’t ever been forced to do this.  On one occasion it was almost a problem with a group of five people, but we were allowed to just go to the upstairs bar.

On the weekends, they open the upstairs bar.  This is slightly more relaxed and more of a typical bar atmosphere (read first-come, first-serve seating).  The downstairs bar has a much different feeling though.  There is an inside bar area that is dimly light for an incredibly intimate feeling, in addition to an outside patio.  The downstairs bar has cozy booths, bar seating, and some tables scattered by the bar, as well as towards the back patio.  The patio at The Gibson has a similar feeling to other trending U Street bars that have instituted patio seating.  It’s quite lovely during the warmer months.

The one drawback about The Gibson is pricing.  I’ve had many friends complain about the expensive tabs here.  It is a cocktail bar after all.  This means that the ingredients are fresh, unique, and typically strong.  One cocktail from the menu here generally runs $10-16, but is well worth the treat (if you choose correctly).  Talk to the servers/bartenders and they can direct you towards a drink you will like.  I will admit that most of the time when I get a drink here I can’t identify all the ingredients, but if I stick to those ingredients that I do like and can identify, I’m rarely disappointed.  The best drinks I’ve had here were ‘Glittery Bitch’ and some kind of bubblegum pop drink.  Both were deliciously sweet and perfectly girly for my tastes.  My guy friends have had some of the stronger whiskey drinks and have been equally satisfied.  The menu itself is broken down into different categories based on what you are looking for – fizzy and sour are two of my favorite categories.  Ordering a drink with some fruit ingredient also typically means looking forward to a nice visual display, not just a healthy taste of booze.

Places like The Gibson really make bartending into an art that I highly respect.  I go here to treat myself and always find it well worth the venture.  I’d recommend The Gibson for small groups of people.  This is not the type of bar to go to solo.  It is a great date spot too (I just saw it listed on WaPo’s listing of DC locations to lock lips).  This classy establishment is not necessarily a place to spend an entire evening, considering the lack of food and prices, but is certainly a great place to start or end the night.

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