Sixth Engine was once a firehouse, and the owners worked hard to preserve some history. Exposed brick walls and reclaimed wood add to the atmosphere.
Where once stood a historical, but neglected, fire station, now resides a thriving neighborhood eatery committed to stoking appetites with artful comestibles and extinguishing thirsts via kicky libations.
Prior to Sixth Engine’s (438 Massachusetts Ave. NW) arrival earlier this spring, passers-by trudging along the still transitioning strip of real estate were hemmed in by ambitious apartment developments and perpetually shifting traffic lanes.
Today, the residents of the former amusement desert can avail themselves of food and drink at the recently retooled Buddha Bar, Sixth Engine or the newly minted Tel’veh wine bar just across the way.
But carving out this burgeoning pedestrian’s paradise took quite a bit of doing.
Sixth Engine co-owner/executive chef Paul Madrid said the project took his group roughly two years to complete, including the planning, design, investor hunt and ultimate construction of the modernized pub.
But he insisted it was all worth it to bring new life to a piece of D.C. history.
“The firehouse spot is what kept us going,” Madrid said of the captivating locale.
The building originally housed the Metropolitan Hook & Ladder Company and hosted Old Engine Company 6 for nearly a century before the fire brigade decamped for new digs on New Jersey Avenue in 1974.
Madrid and his partners — a roster that includes managing partner Jeremy Carman, with whom Madrid has worked at sibling tavern Town Hall (Glover Park) for the past seven years, as well as Gavin Coleman, the third-generation restaurateur whose family has operated the Dubliner for nearly four decades — fully restored the former fire station, putting the reclaimed wood and exposed brick back to work as eye candy within the two-floored interiors while recasting the former driveway as a breezy outdoor patio.
The facelift appears to be working, as evidenced by the menagerie of guests we’ve encountered during our numerous visits. The upstairs dining room appears to be the purview of privacy-seeking couples, the tables set far enough apart to avoid unwanted interruption by circulating servers or eavesdropping neighbors. The long, handsome bar downstairs welcomes all, from T-shirt clad couples sipping craft brews while engrossed in the NBA playoffs to back-slapping business types content to close out the day with splashy cocktails.
Carman handles all the hard stuff. His tastes run the gamut from easy sipping standards (Dark and Stormy, Old Fashioned) to rejiggered favorites (rum-laced Rickey, Champagne-brandy cooler) and alterna-digestifs (cocoa-spiked tequila, coconut-infused porter). We remain most smitten with an eponymous beverage that’s actually a Scotch sandwich, an angst-erasing medley of aged Scotch, mellowing port, bitters and a float of Compass Box Whisky Co.’s smoky “Peat Monster” blend.