The Barbaro Memorial "Worst Bets" Rankings: Worst Bars in DC, Part I
And therein lies my frustration with the contest - it's not the "best" of anything at all, it's simply a popularity contest. And more often than not, it's a reflection of the metropolitan area's collective poor taste. I would much rather read Fritz Hahn's and Tom Sietsema's best attempts at objectively ranking the region's bars and restaurants than rely on the collective opinion of the area's residents, many of whom have no basis for judgment to begin with.
For instance, check out last year's rankings for Best Gym/Health Club. Now, it's quite clear (to me, at least) that the ultra-swanky Sports Club/LA is in every respect "better" than Gold's Gym. It has better equipment, it provides bath towels (Gold's Gym surprisingly doesn't), it has a basketball court, it has a swimming pool, it has a steam room, it's in the Ritz Carlton - what more proof do you need? There is, however, only one (expensive!) Sports Club/LA in DC, compared with well over 20 (cheap) Gold's locations. The result? Gold's ends up on top, while the Sports Club/LA (in a very Matt Leinart-like fashion) falls to ninth.
See? The Best Bets rankings reveal absolutely nothing about what's actually "best." If they're not going to change the format of the contest, they should at least change the title to something more accurate, such as "Popular Places" or "Our Annual Appeal to the Least Common Denominator Among Us."
So why have I wasted your time with this seemingly pointless diatribe, you ask? Because this afternoon, I plan on partially rectifying the abomination known as the Best Bets contest by providing my own, objective rankings of various establishments in the DC metropolitan area. But here's the twist - instead of ranking the 10 best establishments in each category, I'm going to attempt to rank the 10 worst. It's more fun, and besides - this heat has left me a bit cantankerous.
Since most of my closest friends are drunkards and vagrants, let's start with the worst bars. Before I proceed with the rankings, which will be posted this afternoon, here are a few notes on my methodology:
You may be asking yourself, "Johnny, why are you including precisely 10 establishments in your rankings, as opposed to 7 or 12? After all, those other numbers seem perfectly suitable to me." Well, I’ve chosen to use the same arbitraty numeric device employed by washingtonpost.com's Best Bets contest for simplicity's sake. It requires less thought, and I’m on company time here.
- While my aim was to be as objective as possible, I honestly don't have an objective set of criteria by which to judge any of these establishments. Overall, I tried to capture the real fun-vacuums in this city. To paraphrase former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, I can't really define what makes a bad bar, but I know it when I see it.
- One thing to keep in mind, though: a dive bar is not the same thing as a bad bar. Indeed, many of the best bars in the city are real shitholes - Townhouse Tavern, the Raven, and Jay's Saloon immediately come to mind. Conversely, a lavish, expensive bar does not necessarily preclude it from being a bad bar.
I didn't consider any LGTB bars in coming up with my rankings. I haven't had the occassion to visit any such establishments, so I really have no basis for judgment. However, I'm sure there are some really crappy LGTB bars in the area (for instance, I've never seen anyone walk out of The Fireplace smiling), so I'd be happy to append my list if I get enough feedback about one or two particular places.
- Similarly, I didn't consider any Maryland bars in coming up with my rankings. To me, Maryland's kind of like Enceladus, one of Saturn's many moons. I mean, I know it exists, I've seen pictures, I know it's located somewhere north of DC, and I know it has the basic conditions to support organic life. However, I've never actually been there.
That's more than enough by way of introduction. I need to grab some lunch. The full rankings will be up sometime this afternoon, so stay posted.(Update: Here they are, the rankings in full...)