Bar Belle: Vacationing in Toledo

Toledo Lounge

Where: 2435 18th St. NW

Carded: At the bar after ordering

Dress: Comfy jeans, T-shirt and flip-flops

Cover: None

Bar Bells: Four out of five bells

Ohio has never been a state I’ve longed to visit, but Thursday night, I found myself in Toledo.

I needed a location that would work for an in-the-gray-area-between-hanging-out-or-is-this-a-date? outing with a guy. I went to my trusty friend Yelp.com and searched for a bar around Adams Morgan where I could have a low-key conversation but if the date turned into a let’s-just-drink-beers-together-in-awkward-silence event, there was enough action going on to distract me. Somewhere in the top 10 reviews of bars in Adams Morgan was this little ol’ place called Toledo Lounge.

Started by two former D.C. politicos in the 1990s, the lounge is the epitome of a dive bar. Everything looks old, slightly dirty and like it’s in need of a fresh layer of paint. The chairs’ cushions are ripped, the tables’ veneers are chipped and cleaning seems to be more for show than for any sanitary purpose. The bar is pretty small, the entire place the width of maybe four doors side by side, but there is a decent patio where about 15 people could comfortably hang out. The inside is bathed in a dim red glow from neon signs that reflect off vintage aluminum road, gas station and flour mill signs that line the walls. Ohio license plates, pictures of patrons and cartoons drawn on napkins are just some of the featured knick-knacks. Every open space has something to look at.

But herein lies the appeal. The bartenders drink with the patrons, yell at the football games on TV and in general enjoy themselves as much as the drinkers. The music played is by the likes of Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. I guess in Ohio, anything goes.

When I visited, the crowd was nearly all male and everyone was 35 or under. The bar gave off a just-take-it-easy vibe, a nice thing to see in Adams Morgan on a Thursday night. I saddled up to one of the 10 or so bar stools and ordered a Yeungling. The happy hour with $2 draughts had just ended, but Bob, my bartender with long hair, let me have it for $3. If it rains, no matter the time of day, Toledo’s draughts are all $2. “When it rains, we pour,” a hand-written sign near the bar proclaims.

Toledo was one of the places where Bob would glance over at my near-empty glass, nod, I would nod back and he would bring me a fresh beer. No forced conversation. Just a beer.

All in all, Toledo Lounge is a place to go when you just want to lay back, enjoy the chaos of Adams Morgan from a safe precipice and sip on some basic brews. No pretenses, no need to wear your sluttiest new shirt. Ignore the grime and enjoy the game on TV – even if it means you have to pretend to understand it. Just nod at the bartender when he nods at your empty glass and enjoy the red glow.

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