Bar Belle: A taste of the U.K. in D.C.

Boxcar Tavern

Where: 224 7th St., SE
Cover: No
Carded: Yes
Happy Hour: Monday through Friday 4 to 7 p.m., $4 house wines and $1 off all beers. Mondays: $4 Svedka vodka drinks 7 p.m. to close; Wednesdays: $4 pints of Fat Tire 7 p.m. to close
Bar Bells:

Our Bar Belle roams around D.C. reviewing bars as she sees fit – if she can see straight after visiting them.

During a streak of mid-week drinking stereotypical of senior year, a trip to Eastern Market for a chill night with friends was exactly what my Wednesday night needed. With Hawk and Dove – a GW favorite – closed, we thought we would try the new owner’s Boxcar Tavern for a different neighborhood flavor.

Boxcar is a gastropub with a distinctly British décor. It offers an extensive wine list, a decent beer selection – including some imports – and unusually good food for a pub. On a separate menu, it boasts an eccentric selection of cocktails, including several that we were eager to try, and others that frankly scared me; one cocktail featured Irish whiskey, lemon peel, nutmeg syrup and hot water.

Francis Rivera | Assistant Photo Editor
The Boxcar Tavern, near Eastern Market, serves cocktails like the Lockout Farm, front, and the Cluss, back, named after Adolf Cluss, the designer of Eastern Market.

We came during prime dinner hours but waited only a few minutes before getting a comfortable table for five in the back. One benefit of dining and drinking at a gastropub is that you’ll have food infinitely better than normal pub fare, even if it comes at a higher price. As a result, the crowd is mainly young professionals and 30-somethings willing to pay slightly higher prices, as well as recent graduates living in the area. Maybe it’s because the bar is still new or because of the trip required to get there, but Boxcar doesn’t have a college student feel.

Boxcar offers an assortment of dishes that put a chef’s flare on typical pub options. Rather than eating your food out of a greasy basket with fries, you’ll have it on a white dish with a gourmet presentation. Unfortunately, the portions are a bit smaller than average. My mushroom and cheese ravioli – in a cream sauce, topped with Parmesan cheese and caramelized onions – was delicious, but I’m not sure the five small raviolis were worth the $11.

Eager to get to the point – drinking – I decided first to take advantage of the Wednesday night special of $4 Fat Tire draft pints, which are available from 7 p.m. until close at around 11 p.m. Then, I settled for the safest looking specialty cocktail. The Lockout Farm, $9, with light rum, Luxardo Maraschino cherry liqueur, lime juice and white grapefruit was tasty and strong, but a little too sweet.

At the other end of the spectrum, my friend bravely tried a drink that was a bit manly for her taste. The Stained Glass, with red burgundy and brut champagne on the rocks, $8, was a little rough for her first time trying burgundy, so when she couldn’t finish it, I stepped in to help. I couldn’t let perfectly good alcohol – even if it is bitter and woody tasting – go to waste. Again, the drink was strong, so no complaints in that department.

Intimidated by the other cocktails – many of them featuring scotch, brandy or whiskey – I turned to my trusty go-to, rum and Coke. It was weaker than I would have liked, especially after the strength of the other drinks I tried. But for less than half the price, at $4, it’s certainly a good alternative if you’re looking to have more than one or two well-crafted drinks.

By the end of the night, just after the 11 p.m. closing time, most of the seats and booths had emptied out. Even though the cocktails were slightly over-the-top, and we probably should have just stuck to beers and rails, Boxcar is ultimately a good choice for comfortably enjoying a couple of relaxed drinks with pals.

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