Where You Should Be Drinking on U Street: Service Bar DC
Our first encounter with Service Bar was at the Glendalough Pop-Up. We were impressed by how they handled the Irish Whiskey in their Glendalough specialty menu, and delightedly to find that it’s just a short walk away from the office for one of us. We knew we’d make it back there again, sooner rather than later. The perfect opportunity arose last week.
One of us works for the federal government; the other works with a small team of people in a very decentralized office spread around the country. There’s only one day a year when the entire team gathers in one place for a day of in-person meetings in DC. Last week, we had that day, and thought it would be nice to cap it off with happy hour. We wanted a place that was close to the office, not too crazy, and had a wide selection of drinks available to suit the varied tastes of our team. Service Bar checked all the marks.
It opens at 4pm. We were there at 5, and initially had the place to ourselves, though it filled up over the time we were there. Service Bar is an interesting combination of cheeky and no-nonsense. Their theme of fried chicken and cocktails and their slogan, ‘Welcome to the wonderful world of Cocktailery and Tom Foolery,’ show that they don’t take themselves too seriously. That’s juxtaposed by no-frills, almost severe decorating of concrete and metal, and a low-key and hands-off approach to service. There’s not too much hand-holding or entertaining here. They basically leave you to yourself, mind their own business, and make sure you get a good cocktail when you ask for one–and maybe some fried chicken too.
While the decor is minimalist, the cocktail menu is quite extensive. When we went, they had not one, but two special seasonal menus going, as well as several pages of permanent house specials broken down by base spirit. Best of all, they have a small list of $7 Specials. Coming from a place where happy hours are illegal to DC where they’re omnipresent, we were extremely enthusiastic about the concept of Happy Hour, and then crestfallen to discover just how rare happy hour mixed drinks are. So, we’re extremely gratified to see Service Bar do their part to make up for the lack, not just by having a discount cocktail menu, but by offering it ALL DAY. There’s nothing fancy about these All-Day $7 drinks; it’s just a few of the standards, solidly made with basic, decent ingredients. They’re the cocktail equivalent of comfort food; we’re glad we know where we can find them, and even gladder that it’s just around the corner from the office.
What We Ordered
Champs-Elysees: Armagnac, green Chartreuse, lemon, bitters
What We Thought
Our drink was from one of the seasonal menus, ‘Regional: France,’ and it tasted just like something we might have been served at Le Syndicat. It had a higher alcohol content than what we might have been served in France itself, but the same smooth flavor, light palate, and fresh from the garden feel. There was just enough Chartreuse to bring complexity, but not enough to make the drink noisy or overwhelming. It’s a drink that showed a deft touch.
If You Go
Consider the $7 menu, because it’s not often that something is both rare and inexpensive. But if you want something more complex, go with a strategy in mind. Thumbing through page after page of delicious-sounding options was a bit overwhelming and made ordering slow and difficult. Narrow your options ahead of time by deciding you’ll focus on one of the specialty menus, or a specific base spirit.