The Bar Belle: Cafe Saint-Ex

Caf? Saint-Ex
1847 14th St. N.W.

This week brought me back to a number of my favorite bars in D.C., but it also took me to Caf? Saint-Ex, which has officially been placed on my ever growing list of bars I vow to return to before the looming graduation date of May 21.

Located a few short blocks from the U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo Metro Stop, Caf? Saint-Ex is a two-story bar, and if you get there early enough, it’s a restaurant too. So when I walked through the beautiful curved entrance of Caf? Saint-Ex on a blustery Saturday evening, I was surprised that the first thing I saw were people finishing dinner at nice tables on the periphery of the bar. The happy food consumers were surrounded by equally happy beverage consumers. We made the executive decision to check out the downstairs lounge, Gate-54. In our descent to this portion of the bar, the medium rare steaks and organic greens made way to gin and tonics and cold pints of Stella Artois.

As a self-proclaimed sign (ahem) collector, I immediately fell in love with the d?cor of Gate-54 Lounge. From French street signs to gas station advertisements to plaques from cruise ships and commercial airlines, the collection of signs from around the world that hung with precision on the bar’s walls brought a smile to my face. But if street signs aren’t quite your style, maybe the old Fellini movie posters are more up your alley.

If your vision is stimulated only by moving pictures, Gate-54 has that too. Old-school VH1 was on and a DJ starts spinning every night of the week at 10 p.m. With a huge variety of DJs coming to spin every week, it’s a good thing the lounge has the best sound system I have experienced in a long time.

Since your eyes and ears should be pleased almost instantaneously, be patient if you have to wait for a drink at the bar or if the older men standing next to you steal the table where you and your posse were hoping to sit. Even though we arrived to Caf? Saint-Ex before 10 p.m., the bar was already packed with a truly eclectic mix of people enjoying their Saturday night.

If you’re looking to do something different, the second Wednesday of every month at Gate-54 boasts “iPod Jukebox Night” where anyone can be a DJ: all you need is a little creativity, a lot of confidence and a well-organized iPod (or similar MP3 player).

Once you do make it to the bar, expect to be carded before placing your order. Rail drinks will set you back $5.50 whereas a bottle of domestic beer will cost you $3.50. My Jack and ginger ale was perfectly mixed, and strong enough that I was willing to order another one before leaving to head down the street to DC9 to catch Exit Clov.

For more information about Caf? Saint-Ex and Gate-54, including information about upcoming DJs and iPod Jukebox nights, check out the Web site at:

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