The Grooming Lounge
1745 L St. N.W.
Monday, March 31 . 4 p.m.
Among the office buildings and lunch break eateries that crowd L Street between 18th and Connecticut is an inconspicuous edifice. It is the entrance to one of the area’s newest and most popular salons.
Here’s the catch: it’s a male salon (I’ll try to keep the Zoolander references to a minimum). The Grooming Lounge at 1745 L St. opened in March 2002 and is the brainchild of Michael Gilman and Pirooz Sarshar, two individuals with a lifetime of experience in the men’s grooming industry. In an effort to test the place, which was so highly rated by men’s magazines across the country, I went down there with my compadre, Dave Wallace. Neither Dave nor I knew what we were in for, but Dave voiced a desire to be “really, really ridiculously good looking,” so we decided to take the chance and give it a go.
As soon as you walk into the establishment, the mahogany walls and leather upholstery stand out in contrast to the mirrors and neon lights of a typical salon. Rather than the odor of hair products and nail polish, there is the pungent aroma of cologne and the familiar musk of shaving cream. A mix of Elvis blues and jazz keep the beat up while a team of beautiful women surround you, offer you a frosty mug of root beer and take your coat for you. Of course, they knew I was writing a review of their place, so it is feasible the ugly ones were hidden somewhere but, nevertheless, root beer!
I’m not talking about a can of A&W. I mean a big, frosted mug that is placed in front of you as you wait on a leather couch and either watch ESPN, CNN or read the paper or a magazine. Just try to find an Elle or Cosmo on the rack.
After sitting down for a few moments, one of the beautiful women returned and asked if we wanted something else to drink, gesturing to the stock of Jack, Martini and Rossi and other classy spirits that beat the hell out of the plastic handles of vodka I can normally afford.
After what was the most enjoyable wait time I ever experienced, we were taken into the main room of the salon. I was offered a shave and a haircut, Dave a foot treatment. I made a few pedicure jokes at Dave’s expense before we were each taken to our respective stations.
To start off, allow me to explain how amazing a shave is. I had never received a shave in my life. In fact, it took a few years of saving up for me to splurge on my trusty Mach 3 (which I’m still making payments on), so I never knew the unspoken near-orgasmic wonder that is a hot lather shave. Lying almost totally horizontal in a comfortable leather chair, I met Gretta, who was to shave me. After a series of hot towels, oils, ointments and facial massages, she shaved every hair off my face so well that my skin felt pre-pubescent (which was amazing seeing as I have a thick beard that grows if I think too hard). In between the seven steaming hot towels, which were wrapped around my face to open my pores, Gretta explained, I received a face massage. The contemporary German thinker Klaus Conrad once stated, “A real man shaves every day.” I was so clean-shaven, I managed to go for two and a half days and still fit his definition of a “real man.”
Next was a haircut. Again, Gretta made it happen, starting with a shampoo and scalp massage. The haircut was great, but most impressive was Gretta’s ability to cut without getting a single piece of hair on my collar. After I was done contemplating how strange it will feel to not be itching my shoulders all day after a haircut and how that affects the cosmic order, I realized that the haircut was done, my hair was styled, and Gretta was massaging my neck, back and shoulders.
After my haircut, I met up with Dave, who had a priceless look on his face. While his feet were really nice and well kept, Dave described the pedicure as being “one of the most painful procedures I have ever encountered.” The process involved a footbath and massage, which “felt really nice.”
“But then,” Dave explained, “she took out a toolset of hooks and knives which looked like they were from the interrogation room of a spy movie.” Dave then described a painful process of cuticle removal that is really not suitable for print. All things considered, his feet did look really nice.
If you are feeling in the mood to be groomed, you need to call 466-8900 and make an appointment. Also, make sure you have a stable job, this place is not cheap. My shave and haircut cost a hell of a lot more than two bits, $95 before tip. Dave’s pedicure was worth $49. Other services also float within the price range of $25 for a manicure or hair removal to $90 for a massage. For a more complete list of services and prices, give the Lounge a call or check out its Web site at www.groominglounge.com.