Regardless of how long you’ve lived in Washington, D.C., or where your District neighborhood loyalties lie (Northeast/Eckington represent), everyone has a favorite bar. And while the reasons for why a bar is your favorite may differ from mine, the commonality we all share is rooted in the idea of community. In fact, in a city like D.C., where population transience, gentrification, and expansive development seem to constantly reinforce JFK’s notion that DC is a town of “northern hospitality,” our favorite bars serve as direct refutations of our former president’s ideas.
A favorite bar encompasses what community means to us. Whether a watering hole brings together like-minded palettes, or unites people from Seattle who want to watch my beloved Seahawks, our favorite bars not only cater to who we are, but also to our desire to belong. Recently, as I celebrated another successful season with staff and friends at my favorite bar, Garden District on 14th street, it dawned on me why I valued it so much. Looking around at all the people considered “friends and family” by the staff, I saw doctors, music producers, teachers, recent D.C. arrivals, and long time residents. I saw people from every age group, from every economic stratum, and with a variety of family backgrounds. I witnessed jovial discussions between people who knew D.C. long before its residential and commercial renaissance, and those who know the city only as it is now.
Our favorite bars transcend food and drink. They are hubs bringing people together who would otherwise not meet – artificial communities that become real and impactful. In that sense, our favorite bars come to define us, becoming something more than just a place. Our bars take on their own character, their own features, and their own complexities. In short, they stop being just brick-and-mortar establishments, and become integral members of our communities.
While the impact of alcohol on our collective society is expansive, its role, on an individual level, is just as important. Our favorite bars bring us together, help us grow, and understand what we truly value in a communal sense. As it closes for another winter, Garden District has been a focal point during my time in the District. For all of the countless hours I’ve spent there, for all the pints of Köstritzer I’ve drank, and for all the money I’ve spent on smoked brisket, I can’t wait to do it all over again when it opens in March. My local bar, and the people that inhabit it, just feel like home.
Ruben Gzirian is a pursuer of fine whiskeys, with Michter’s US*1 American Whiskey currently his favorite. He holds an MA from the Monterey Institute of International Studies and enjoys reading World War II history, with a focus on the Eastern Front.