Locals Light Up the Room at Red Derby in Washington, DC

December 14, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC, US – With dangling filament bulbs and white fairy lights illuminating its crimson barroom, Red Derby at first glance seems like something from a Toulouse-Lautrec portrait or fuzzy dream of a can-can club. This is not Montmartre but rather Washington, DC‘s Columbia Heights, and the softly lit crowd is not a gathering of Parisian bohemians but instead a motley crew of recent college grads, liberal part-time politickers, and offbeat locals. It’s a beloved neighborhood dive, and devoted regulars gravitate toward all those glowing light bulbs like moths to a flame.

As far as holes-in-the-wall go, the Derb, as it’s hiply abbreviated, is among the most festive imaginable. Awash in its namesake scarlet, the bar projects a holiday-cheerful feel, even if prospective patrons are warmest to the half-mile trek there from the subway in less frigid seasons. Black-framed mirrors open up the space; coffered ceilings and glass windows feel both elegant and industrial; and chalkboard menus are an authentic touch. Continuing the celebration motif, different days of the week honor timeless cocktails, with Sidecar Sundays and Tom Collins Tuesdays. (Tuesdays also come with half-off tacos.)

But this festive haven is also hipster heaven, supplying everything that its skinny-jeaned coterie is sure to love. The beer cooler is stocked with PBR and Natty Boh cans (at an affordable price point of USD 2 apiece), plus so-cool-you’ve-never-heard-of-them options like Old Chub from Scotland and tart and fruity Witterkerke, a Flemish find. There’s also a ‘round-the-clock USD 5 beer-and-shot special, and a food menu with classics, some updated: Boursin grilled cheese, sweet potato fries, a foot-long fish dog. That enjoyable music is always blasting is verily built into the bar’s playlist policy, which allows patrons to plug in their own iPods for a track or two. And complementing the requisite dart board and pool table are board games—Connect Four, Battleship—and card games like Trivial Pursuit.

With brain twisters like that, you just might see another light bulb appear above these patrons’ heads.

Read more about Red Derby in our Washington, DC Guide.

Red Derby
3718 14th St., NW
Washington, DC

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