The Bar Belle: Marshall’s

2524 L St. N.W., Washington D.C., 20037

What’s a drinker to do on a Tuesday night when the pretty young things at McFadden’s have turned you down and the tables at 51st State have all filled up? If you’re a salt-and-pepper forty-something with a short-term memory problem and a big credit limit, you head down the block to Marshall’s, sit near the corner and jump on every group of girls that walks in the place.

His name, let’s say, is John. We moved into his field of blurred vision when three girls vacated a table by the window. We ordered a pitcher of Red Hook ESB and John informed us that it was on him. “I just donated 18 million dollars to Katrina,” he said, swinging around on his stool to face us. “I can afford it.”

After introducing himself to us, claiming he was 23 years old, telling us how a girl stood him up at McFadden’s and the bartender lost his platinum debit card, and showing us a picture of his 7-year-old son on his phone to boast that he owns “49 percent of the Kokopelli Country Club – have you heard of it?” – John turned to his drink for a while and let us enjoy the bar. It turns out that Marshall’s is really nice – the converted three-story townhouse sports a sleek wood interior, bartenders with ties, big screen TVs, and a private bar upstairs – but despite its proximity to McFadden’s and 51st State, it’s not exactly a college bar. No, Marshall’s is the bar you go to when you realize, drunk into the night, that no matter how rich you are, you’re too old to be chasing college tail. It’s also the place you go, it seems, if you’re interested in chasing rich tail – no matter how old it is.

John must have thought my roommate was one of those girls – we have his interest in her to thank for the free beer and the accidental entertainment for the evening. But though he kept his attention on her the whole night – and came out swinging with the never-fail over-the-top-charity-contribution-lie – John struck out for the second time that night. Finally, as he left, he turned to her and said something I may never forget: “You look like my sister. My sister’s hot. But I can’t think of her that way. But I want to think about her that way. But I can’t think about her that way. But I will think of her that way.”

So maybe, instead, it’s best to head to Marshall’s with those other rich, prying, overly friendly old people in your life – your parents. The jukebox offered a mix of nostalgic hits and current favorites – including, I think, the first time I heard “SexyBack” and actually kind of liked it. And the place seems to bill itself mostly as a food joint, so it might be worth it to bring the family along to Marshall’s Monday night’s half-price burgers, where you can eat in a lofty townhouse instead of McFadden’s darkened basement.

It wasn’t until the end of the night that we found out why Marshall’s was so nice. Thank god for creepy old men. Though John footed two of our three pitchers – his sister look-a-like insisted we cover the last one, a Sam Adams Hoegaarden-ish white ale – the bill ran almost 20 bucks. So while Tuesdays may find McFaddens and 51st State filled with girls who’ve stood you up and bartenders who’ve dropped your debit cards, suck it up, squeeze in, and make yourself uncomfortable – the price is right. Even John finally got smart – our tab paid, we headed home and passed him outside a crowded 51st State, sharing a cigarette with a new lucky lady.

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