Imagine a drinking establishment whose entire aesthetic, menu, concept and decor have been dreamt up exclusively by the most seasoned bartenders and restaurateurs in DC.
Now imagine that place on the corner of Vermont and U. That’s Service Bar.
Two months ago, I snagged a sneak peek of Service Bar’s cocktail menu and I have been crawling out of my skin with anticipation ever since. Owners Chad Spangler, Glendon Hartley and Chris Willoughby have an impressive roster of DC restaurant openings and beverage menus between them, including Red Light, Chaplin’s, Provision No. 14, Prospect., Bonfire, Blacksalt Fish Market, Lost Society and plenty of others. To describe these gentlemen as “cocktail veterans” would be an understatement.
Service Bar became a reality based on a few different notions. Perhaps the most important one is that hard-working locals should have a haven where they can relax with a great cocktail for a fair price. While Service Bar specializes in craft cocktails, don’t expect to find a snobby mixology lab where all the drinks start at $21 a pop. Quite the contrary, it’s like walking into the cozy home of your longtime family friend where everyone knows your name and your drink is in your hand before your ass hits the chair.
The all-day happy hour menu offers classics such as the Mint Julep and Tom Collins at an astounding $7. If you want to start with something other than a cocktail, ease into happy hour at your own pace with the Pop & Pony ($7), which comes with a 7 oz Rolling Rock and a shot of Wild Turkey. I myself was glued to the “Hyper Seasonal” page of the menu, whose cocktails rotate based on the available produce and herbs from local farms. Case in point: one of the featured items during the preview was the Heirloom Carrot Margarita (I know!!!).
If you desire a more private experience, you do have the option to take it up a notch. Enter: the Snug Room.
The Snug Room is my favorite feature of the establishment. In cultural context, snug rooms literally refer to private rooms in public houses, and can be found in traditional pubs across Ireland and England. Tucked in the back right corner of Service Bar, you will find a closed-door alcove adorned with cozy seat cushions and a tiny sliding window to the bar where guests will receive their private dining and drinking service. The walls are painted an electric Absinthe green (“Absinthe is actually the name of the paint,” Chad informed me.) and once the door closes it truly feels like another dimension. The Snug Room will be reservation-only for a minimum of 4 guests and can fit up to 8 around the small circular table. Snug Room occupants will have a choice between two menus: one at $25/person to include two cocktails and some small bites, and one around $75/person (to vary based on the week’s offerings) to include a five-course meal and at least three craft cocktails. À la carte requests will of course be accommodated.
Part of our preview included a spin in the Snug Room where we sampled decadent rum cocktails, champagne, cubes of passion fruit, and whimsical spin-offs of classic dishes, like clams casino. Warning: consume the pineapple punch at your own risk (I believe it contains 12 types of rum).
Service Bar may not focus on traditional dining, but they certainly don’t want you to leave hungry. The menu keeps it simple, yet satisfying with a spread of fried chicken small dishes, panko mac n’ cheese and a deliciously fried version of caprese salad. I can’t speak for everyone . . . but I will, and I’ll say that EVERYONE was excited about this cute take on fried chicken and waffles (pictured below).
All this being said, an article really doesn’t do this place justice. You have to see for yourself. Head to Service Bar today and order the Baked Apple & Pear Gin and Tonic if you know what’s good for you.