Bar Belle: Marvin

Where: 2007 14th St., NW
Cover: No

Carded: Yes

Happy Hour: Bottled Amstel Light and Pilsner from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the week for $5.

For an entertaining and eclectic destination, U Street is a tried and true choice.

Marvin, on the corner of 14th and U streets, epitomizes the neighborhood’s nighttime flavor with an international influence, a crowded atmosphere, live music and, of course, locally brewed drinks on tap. While there on a Friday night, the two-story restaurant, bar and dance floor combo was packed. It took our party of seven more than 10 minutes just to get inside.

Once we crossed the bouncer, who kindly greeted us with a smile, we had to battle through the young twenty-something crowd to find a spot at the upstairs bar. After a long week and what felt like an even longer workday, I was ready for a cold drink – or three or four.

Marvin has local brewery DC Brau ($7) on tap as well as familiar favorites like Stella Artois ($6) and Hoegaarden ($7). I opted for a glass of Stella, quickly finished and followed it with another.

After feeling a bit more relaxed, our group ventured away from the Belgian-style watering hole and on to the open-air deck. Heat lamps kept the crowd warm but after a few drinks, a few members of our group cozied up to some new friends for comfort or at least clung to them in hopes of a good time.

Sipping on our new friends’ mixed drinks, we found they were served up strong with many patrons embracing the double-fisted drink move to eliminate any extra trips to the bar. We found a back bar on the patio but it too was three or four people deep.

After feeling more claustrophobic than celebratory, we ventured to the front dance room. An older crowd made of mostly wallflowers didn’t seem to embrace the loud Latin and urban music mix that an in-house DJ was spinning. Our group, hoping to salvage the night, stepped on to the floor to sloppily spin and twirl around. The crowd quickly caught on.

After a few more minutes of dancing with a slightly too-old-to-be-fun crowd, our group was ready to go. A tell-tale sign of a more mature crowd, many patrons carried glasses of wine, ranging in price from $8 to $12 – not exactly a frat basement beverage.

Marvin offered us a great setting and decent drinks, but a too tightly packed patio and less than intriguing dance floor made it a slightly disappointing nighttime adventure. Hopefully the crowd seeking drinks under the stars and the warmth of a heat lamp will relocate with the coming of Spring, because until then, our group is more likely to frequent the true U Street staple where our evening ended – the D.C. classic and never unsatisfying, Ben’s Chili Bowl.

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