Mug Shots: An Upscale Place to Drink on Barracks Row

Posted October 22, 2008 at 3:11pm

The House side of Capitol Hill is peppered with dive bars that offer cheap beer deals and an overwhelming number of interns. The newest haunt, Lola’s Barracks Bar and Grill (711 Eighth St. SE), offers a welcome respite for the drinker who has longed for an upscale bar with more options than a pitcher of Bud Light or the house white.

This new Barracks Row bar offers reasonable food and drink in a classy, mature environment. In other words, your feet won’t stick to the floor here. The staff is friendly, and the place is beautiful, looking like a bar of yesteryear, with dark wood and photos and drawings of D.C. buildings.

“We shipped in African mahogany and built the bars, tables, floors, lamps etc. out of the wood on sight,” owner Xavier Cervera wrote in an e-mail. “Because the space is so small I felt that attention to detail was very important.” [IMGCAP(1)]

One of the perks of the bar is the back patio, which features a fireplace and four tables. It is ideal for summer drinking, but the fireplace helps it transition into a hot spot for crisp autumn evenings.

Lola’s is Cervera’s first D.C. bar. His previous ventures have been in Miami Beach, Fla. He says he was drawn to Capitol Hill because it’s his home.

“I thought we could use a local venue where good food and drink could be served in a setting that’s more bar like than restaurant,” Cervera wrote. “The response has been fantastic.”

The narrow bar, which took the space previously occupied by Tapatinis, seats just 40 people, which has forced Cervera to turn away about 100 people each night. Around 6:30 p.m. on a recent Thursday evening the bar was packed, as were the communal tables that line the wall. The room was filled with chatter as customers conversed over happy hour specials that include $3 draft beers and $4 rail drinks.

While the bar doesn’t yet have a specialty cocktail list, its bartenders are able to make almost anything to order. On a recent visit, Mug Shots sipped a particularly tasty dirty vodka martini. The bar also offers a list of wines by the glass and 10 beers on tap.

When it comes to eating, Lola’s improves on the usual bar-food menu. For instance, sliders have become the norm at area bars such as the Ugly Mug and Matchbox, but Lola’s adds a fun twist to the old standard by offering sloppy Joe sliders rather than the traditional burger. These mini sandwiches, ordered in plates of three ($7) or six ($12), are a delight. They burst with flavor, and the juice runs all over your hands. While the sloppy Joes are hard to eat gracefully, they are well worth it. For those who are looking for a healthier option, the bar also offers a large hummus plate complete with pita bread and vegetables. If you’re in the mood for heavier fare, the menu offers salmon and steak.

Cervera says the bar has been largely populated by locals, Hill staffers and lobbyist types, making it the perfect place to sip a cocktail and mingle.