Here they are, the Washington, DC metropolitan area's worst bars, ranked from "barely tolerable" to "execrable." Be sure to first read the introduction
, which I posted earlier this morning. And remember, this is a work in progress - I'm more than happy to modify or append this list if I hear any compelling arguments to do so.
Without further ado:10. Wonderland
- I hesitate to put this bar on the list at all, because I know I'm going to catch some flack from my friends. To me, Wonderland is the Modest Mouse
of the DC bar scene. Everyone I know whom I consider to be culturally attuned tells me I should like Modest Mouse. I've picked up their album, I've listened to them over and over again, I've tried real hard
to like them, but it's not working. I'm sorry, Modest Mouse sucks. And so does Wonderland. Occassionally they have great DJs
, but when they do, it’s packed to the hilt. And when it’s not packed, it's sparsely populated with angst-ridden hipsters who appear to be mocking me and my painfully unironic garb. Look, just because a bar is located in a sketchy neighborhood on the cusp of gentrification doesn’t make it a good bar.9. Dan's Cafe
- Similarly, age doesn't automatically equal character. Dan's Cafe has been around since 1965, so ostensibly it's been sucking continuously for the past 41 years. It's small, always cramped, filthy, the toilet constantly overflows, and the proprietors force you to mix your own drinks
. Granted, some people think the net effect of all this is charming. But then again, some people enjoy getting peed on
. That doesn't make it universally fun.8. Both Pool Halls in Ballston
- Yes, I'm talking about the two-headed fun-sucking monster of Carpool and Bailey's. This isn't a knock against Northern VA, which has some genuinely great bars
. These two places would be bad anywhere. Now that Rockland's
is no longer located there, there's really no defensible reason to ever go to Carpool. (Although I hear it's going to demolished
soon, so things are looking up.) As for Bailey's, they can fill it with as many TVs and checkerboards as they want, but it's still a contrived, cavernous monstrosity located in a shopping mall. The last time I was there was over a year and a half ago, and I'm still waiting for my jack-and-coke.7. Madhatter
- Narrowly edges out Rumors
as the worst bar on that particular block of M Street. Jam-packed with GW students, who are generally loathsome. I've never not
seen the bathroom floor covered with vomit - but hey, when you allow 17 year-olds to drink like that, those things are bound to happen. Washingtonpost.com's review of this place doesn't look like it has been updated since the early 1990s. I don't blame them - I wouldn't go back to this place either.6. Rhino Bar and Pumphouse
- Easily the worst pumphouse in DC. Before I go on, let's get one thing straight - I'm not at all opposed to places like this in theory
. DC needs a place where obnoxious, pretentious, self-indulgent Georgetown students can congregate, get hammered, and fight each other. For instance, back when I was such a Georgetown student, we went to Champs. And I loved it. But Champs - being a larger venue and located in an alleyway - was somehow able to contain the debauchery, like one of those ghost traps
from Ghostbusters. (I really don't know how else to explain it.) Rhino, on the other hand, is unable to control it - and as a result, the depravity of the place routinely spills out and pollutes the neighborhood at large. It's not fair to the residents of Georgetown, and it's not fair to society. On top of that, Rhino caters to Red Sox and Eagles fans, two groups of people that I generally find abhorrent. No sir, I do not like this place at all.5. McFadden's
- I'm going to be intentionally parsimonious here, because nothing I could say would accurately convey how much I despise this place. I actually considered moving away from DC after spending a few hours here one night.4. Kelly's Irish Times
- This place wasn't fun when I was 17, and it's not fun now. The washingtonpost.com's review of this place, written by Michael Dowd, incorrectly states: "pretty much anyone could appreciate its Old World feel." I guess being an inaccurate, overwrought hack runs in the family
. (Ed. Note: Since I've already taken gratuitous shots at both GW and Georgetown students, I originally intended to say something disparaging about Catholic U students here. But I think we can all agree that they've suffered enough.)3. Royal Palace
- For years, I thought this was a quaint little Indian restaurant. Well guess what? It's not. I'm not sure what the exact opposite of "a quaint little Indian restaurant" is, but this might be it. Even if you're overcome by a seemingly irresistible sense of morbid curiosity, do NOT go into this place. In the name of all that is good and righteous in this world, just don't.2. Coyote Ugly
- If it were possible to capture the essence of clinical depression, bottle it, mix it in with a drab acrylic, and paint the inside of a bar with the resulting concoction, I believe you would be able to replicate the ambience of Coyote Ugly. I've never so palpably felt such mass despondency at a bar before. Sad, old men stand by their tables and gawk at the "Coyotes" on the bar, their mouths slightly ajar, each of their expressions telling a unique, unbearably sad tale of desperation and hopelessness. But on the bright side, they serve free peanuts. Bonus reason to hate this place #1: It replaced the Rock, which in retrospect wasn't such a bad sports bar, especially in a city notably devoid of good sports bars. Bonus reason to hate this place #2: Ever since Polly Esther's, LuLu's, and Tequila Beach closed, this place has become bachelorette party central. I think you can deduce how I feel about bachelorette parties.1. Smith Point
- Come on, you knew this was coming. It was inevitable. Don't act so surprised.
I don't know what else I can say about this place that hasn't already been said, but I'm going to try to add to the conversation anyway. First of all, despite the erratic hours (I'm not exactly sure which days they're open), Smith Point is actually a very capable restaurant. Second of all, this ranking is not indicative of "sour grapes" - I'm on all the proper lists and I get the Jetties e-mails every week. I can go whenever I want.
Which is precisely never. Smith Point not only embodies, but epitomizes everything I hate in a bar. What do I like in a bar, you ask? I'm not that picky. Give me a place with a genuine atmosphere, a diverse and open-minded customer base, no barriers to entry such as outlandish cover charges or "member's-only" policies (ostensibly to falsely portray a sense of exclusivity that just doesn't exist in DC), some good music, a solid beer selection, and friendly service. Places like Saint Ex
, Science Club
, Russia House
, Cantina Marina
, Cafe Nema
, and Capital Lounge
all pass muster.
Smith Point is the exact opposite.
Now, I know Smith Point may be some people's cup of tea. For instance, the Bush twins
used to frequent it. And the members of the super-exclusive social club LateNightShots
consider it their favorite bar, as you can plainly see here on their super-exclusive online newsletter
But these are my rankings, so we'll just have to agree to disagree and leave it at that...