Where? 1334 U St., NW
Happy Hour? In the words of the bartender: “No. It’s cheap here.”
The Bar Bro brings you the best dives in the District. He isn’t classless – just low-class.
The ceiling and walls of The Codmother are covered in chalk.
Spend a night there, and you are bound to see a patron climb on to a chair to find a bare spot on which to scrawl a message, a joke or just his or her name. Before I left the U Street bar last weekend, I began to understand why. This is the sort of place that people want to be a part of. I’m certainly going to become a regular.
The bar, tucked between 13th and 14th streets on the U Street corridor, is everything that a purported British pub should be: cheap, unpretentious and welcoming. The Codmother isn’t trying to fool anyone, though – all the classic dive bar touches are there. A seemingly random assortment of crap – framed newspaper clippings, license plates, a buck’s head – adds character to exposed brick walls. Bathroom signs read “For those who stand” and “For those who sit.”
I knew within moments that The Codmother was my kind of place.
My friends and I arrived early Saturday to grab some dinner. I asked the bartender for a menu, and he pointed over his shoulder to a dry-erase board hanging above the bar, featuring all of six food items and a handful of drinks.
I’m not a huge fan of British cuisine (is anybody, really?) so I went with the safe option: fish and chips ($8), a Genesee Cream Ale ($3) and fried Oreos ($4 for four) for dessert.
The food came out fast and hot. The fish was cut into two-bite morsels and fried crispy in a thin, slightly sweet batter. The “chips” – thick steak fries – were served with generous tubs of dipping sauces. The fare was all delightfully greasy – the kind of meal where you use all of your napkins but do not feel sick afterward. The fried Oreos were everything that I’d come to expect from countless summers spent on the New Jersey shore boardwalk: They were salty, sweet, crispy and melty.
That is not to say that all of the delicious fried food kept me from getting good and drunk. The Codmother’s drinks are cheap. If you want to go a step above the PBR and Genesee cans I was downing, you can grab a Yuengling ($5). But why bother when you can get either of the former along with a shot of bourbon for $6?
A roof beam adjacent to the bar reads, “Have you tried the world famous Peruvian Bear Fucker?” I hadn’t – but how could I resist? The drink ($7) bombs a shot of rum into a mix of orange juice and PBR. After chugging one, I was just glad that there were no bears around.
Despite the ease with which cash-strapped patrons can binge drink here, the scene at The Codmother is what makes it a go-to D.C. dive bar. With just nine tables, the bar has a comfortingly crowded feel. The clientele was an eclectic mix of people: A hipster couple shared a meal in the corner of the bar, a guys’ night out pounded beers in an alcove near the window and pretty girls with football jerseys watched the Michigan State-Notre Dame game on one of two small TVs. As the night wore on, the scene got rowdier, but was never douchey.
My friends and I played flip cup on the bar and sang along to a soundtrack that included everything from Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” to a-ha's “Take on Me” to Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” If I recall, I might have even performed John Travolta’s part in “Summer Nights” from the Grease soundtrack.
It wasn’t just that my friends and I had a great time. It was that everyone at The Codmother seemed to be having a great time. If you don’t go for the food or the cheap booze, you should go simply to be at a bar where you can get drunk and feel absolutely at ease. If you do, something tells me your name, like mine, will grace the bar’s walls in chalk.