Bar Charley opened last week in the space formerly occupied by Cajun Experience. The what? Yeah, that’s the usual reaction, which is why I’m hoping it will be more successful than its predecessor. One thing Bar Charley has going for it are some interesting and creative cocktails, some of which are better than others. First, there’s the Stepdad — a drink that takes smoky to a whole new level. The drink comes with smoke, but, at a whopping $18, it’s too much gimmick and not enough booze. It requires the bartender to pull out a cedar plank, light a small section of it for a few seconds and let the embers burn enough to create smoke, which is then trapped under a rocks glass. Next, a large ice-cube is placed in the center of the plank and, finally, a small glass pitcher filled with cognac and tobacco (in liquid form) is placed on the other end of the plank. The plank is then pushed towards you to complete the last step: assembly. Flip over the glass, throw in the ice-cube, and pour in the liquid. The result is about a finger’s worth of smoky booze.
I wish I’d loved it.
My recommendation is to skip the Stepdad and order the Suffering Bastard, which reminds me of a Moscow Mule with a twist, or the Quack-Quack-erac, which contains St. Germain washed in duck fat and mixed with aged rum, rye, bourbon, and burlesque bitters. Both are easy to drink, tastier, and more affordable (than the Stepdad). Charley’s cocktail menu is fun to read and I look forward to tasting some of the options which include many classic, throwback cocktails. There’s the sloe gin fizz, orange crush, and the always–in-style old-fashioned.
As for food, I haven’t been won over, but I have tried only three dishes so far. The deviled eggs with fried oysters would have been excellent had the oysters been seasoned well. The anchovies, served on crostini slathered with marrow butter, were solid. The roasted lamb crostini were also fine but a little expensive given the small portion. The menu is mostly small plates like fried eggplant balls, smoked chicken thigh with chicken livers, and shrimp and pork belly dumplings nestled in a little broth. There are also sandwiches, such as a lobster roll and bison sloppy joe, and salads featuring romaine and kale and carrots and lentils with bacon.
Bar Charley 1825 18th St NW Washington, DC 20009 Tel: 202-627-2163 Hours: Mon-Thurs: 4pm-11pm Fri: 4pm-midnight Sat: 10am-midnight Sun: 10 am-11pm