51st State Tavern
2512 L St., N.W.
I stopped by 51st State last week to help retire my friend’s fake I.D. on her last night of underage drinking. A group of friends had gathered there for beer and wings before heading across the street to McFadden’s for a midnight 21st birthday extravaganza of $1 beers. Sitting in a corner of the crowded Tuesday spot (a Yankee’s game played out on all the big-screens), my friend spent the last hours of her 20th year with an illegal drink in each hand, a pink tiara on her head and a camera safely in the hands of a coherent roommate. Her sparkly foil “21” tank-top made its debut later in the evening, as did, finally, her real I.D. Pictures, thankfully, made their way onto the Facebook by the next day.
51st State, the two-story tavern with a cute political name and a cozy wooded interior, resides on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 25th Street, only a block from McFadden’s. So while the place draws a good deal of business types and sports fans, for the college set, it’s often just a pit stop on the way to a cheap McFaddy’s blackout. Indeed, 51st State’s happy hour specials – 50 cent tacos on Mondays, 10 cent wings for Tuesdays – offer the perfect place to prime your stomach on the cheap before heading on to drunker things.
Not that the place doesn’t have its charms in its own right. The food specials, if not the beer, are legitimately a great deal, and New Yorkers can find in it a D.C. base for obnoxious fan gatherings for Jets, Yankees, Mets, Giants and Bills games. The antique bars, exposed brick walls, and retro Guinness ads provide an old-time feel to combat the plasma screens and Internet jukeboxes.
Unfortunately, the service isn’t always as quaint as the bar’s interior. Our waiter – who, not to pick on the guy, seemed severely burned out – wore the same scowl that he did the night I stopped at the bar on my own 21st birthday, when my friend mentioned suggestively to him that he hadn’t carded me (I didn’t get any free beer out of the deal). At my friend’s birthday bash, he gave another girl in our party a Bud instead of a Sierra Nevada, and when she tried to send it back, he told her roughly to “Please drink it, because I just got in trouble for it, okay?” And while the bartender was cordial as he doled out drinks, the happy hour is too crowded to have only one person manning the bar downstairs.
So if you’re into tacos or wings, hit 51st State from 4 to 11 at the beginning of the week. If you prefer beer, like me, just suck it up, adjust your tiara and head across the street where it’s whoring itself out at a lower price. If you’re lucky, you won’t remember it anyway.
Bar Belle Rating