Best Gay-Friendly Straight Bar
“We pride ourselves on our diverse crowd and we welcome all,” says Scott Eustace, general manager of Tattoo. “We have no specific demographic night, basically it is come one come all.”
Tattoo Bar is an edgy, hip, rock ‘n’ roll entertainment venue with an intimate and accepting feel. Tattoo Bar beckons the rock lover to come enjoy an evening of great music, good company and excellent customer service. A diversity of musical genres makes it a true pioneer of the “Party Rock” theme in the D.C. nightlife scene.
Tattoo Bar also provides a place to release your creative side. During Halloween weekend, for example, Friday is Rehab: Triage, a sexy nurse costume contest and Saturday, a True Blood costume contest.
“We are getting ready to start a retro ‘80s and ‘90s night,” Eustace says. “Our main promoter is gay and is he doing a great job getting the word out to everyone.”
Rocking a 90-inch projection screen and seven high-definition TVs, Tattoo Bar provides visual entertainment as well as some of the best music in D.C. Whether it’s the music videos, various images of tattooed people as artwork, motorcycle chains or the infamous “ghost rider” crashing the party over the bar, there’s always plenty to see at Tattoo Bar.
“This is really great the readers of the Washington Blade have selected us. We are thrilled,” Eustace says. Tattoo Bar is owned by the Michael Romeo Group. (DP)
1413 K St., N.W.
Best Maryland Bar
Gay owned and operated, Club Hippo was established in 1972 in the heart of Mount Vernon, an area commonly known as Baltimore’s gay district. Club Hippo has always been supportive of the local LGBT community. Wednesday nights, for example, is bingo night, when a portion of the proceeds goes to benefit the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore.
Also, the Hippo is known for its large dance floor and awesome sound system. On Friday and Saturday nights, club goers can dance until 2 a.m.
For “Glee” junkies, Tuesday night provides an opportunity to watch the show with other friends. And Thursday nights are devoted to hip-hop. (DP)
1 West Eager St.
Best Place to Meet Women
Lure/Bare at Cobalt
Bare, a monthly lesbian event at Cobalt, celebrated its second anniversary in January and is still going strong.
Presented by Ladies of Lure, the event is sometimes given a different spin and will often have special celebrity guests like cast members from “The Real L Word.” There’s the annual White Party in July and a Pride edition in June.
“This event [is] a place where you can come with friends, meet new ones, or just dance the night away,” says Karen Diehl of Lure.
The latest edition of Bare was a joint effort with Mautner Project to raise funds for the organization in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (JE)
Best Dance Club
Town Danceboutique is the champ here. This is Town’s fourth win in this category and counting Ba’Naka and the Ladies of Town wins, Town now has 14 Blade awards.
2009 8th St. N.W.
Best Virginia Bar
Freddie’s Beach Bar
Some years we’ve just given one non-D.C. gay bar an award and called the category “Best Out-of-D.C. Bar.” Other years, like this one, we’ve given one award for Virginia and another for Maryland. No matter what we’ve called it, Freddie’s Beach Bar has never lost. This is the Crystal City, Va., bar’s 10th consecutive win in this category and its 15th Blade Best Of award overall.
But it’s not quite the no-brainer it might once have been as Freddie’s isn’t the sole Northern Virginia gay bar as it was for years. Herndon’s So Addictive Lounge is now part of the scene. Freddie’s owner Freddie Lutz says he feels no sense of competition with So Addictive and has enjoyed visiting there several times.
“I don’t think of them as competition at all,” he says. “I think they’re a great addition to Virginia. There are so many people out that way so they’re really increasing the diversity there, which I think is just great. They’re getting even further down into the conservative territory so I really salute them. I’ve been there several times and their owner, Dewey, has been here. We’re very friendly.”
Lutz says he’s often reminded of how important it is to keep a gay presence in the anti-gay state.
“A couple years ago at Pride, somebody came to our booth and said, ‘Why should we support a bar in Virginia, they’re so terrible,” Lutz says. “I said that’s exactly why. How are we ever going to make any progress if we don’t have some gay presence here.”
Next up for Freddie’s is a full weekend of Halloween festivities. Visit the bar online for details. (JD)
Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant
555 South 23rd St.
Crystal City, VA
Best Happy Hour/Best Neighborhood Bar
JR.’s, the popular 17th Street staple, is celebrating its 25th anniversary and its 18th and 19th Blade Best Of awards. The Eric Little-owned bar (he also owns Cobalt) holds the all-time record for most Blade Best Of awards.
Despite its record, manager Dave Perruzza sounds surprised.
“Wow, we won two things?” he says. “I think it’s great, especially on the year of our 25th anniversary.”
Talk of the bar possibly moving has been rumbling throughout the rumor mill.
Perruzza says it won’t happen “anytime soon. It all depends if we find a great space. We are looking to grow, though.” (JD)
1519 17th St., N.W.
Best Place to Meet Men
Nellie’s Sports Bar
This is Nellie’s fourth Blade Best Of award. It and JR.’s go back and forth on this category and the neighborhood favorite. This year, JR.’s got the neighborhood prize (Nellie’s won it last year) but Nellie’s won’t go home empty handed. Owner Doug Schantz sounds amused.
“Nellie’s is extremely proud to have received this honor from the Blade,” he says. “We would also like to throw in that we are a great place for people to meet in general, not just for men.”
He’s also quick to thank customers.
“They’ve really made Nellie’s what it is today,” he says. “As one can tell from looking at our walls, we take pride in being of and part of the Washington community.”
Nellie’s is almost always a happening spot, feeding off the popularity of nearby Town and the 9:30 club, both repeat winners as well. Located just about where U Street N.W. joins up with Florida Avenue, Nellie’s had perhaps its most delightful moment in the sun earlier this year when Nellie herself — actress Alison Arngrim from TV’s “Little House on the Prairie” — held a book signing there gamely posing with fans in her Goldilocks wig and prominently sporting a brooch that spelled out her character’s reputation: bitch. (JD)
Nellie’s Sports Bar
900 U St., N.W.
Best Live Music
The 9:30 club offers great opportunities to get up close and personal to major celebs (arrive early and you can stand right in front of the stage), though it’s not a place to sit back and relax to enjoy a show.
Seats are sparse and bars open throughout the evening can contribute to a rowdy crowd. But the sound system is great and mostly drowns out the talkers. And there’s an immediacy and energy to the venue the city’s other mid-size venues, like DAR Constitution Hall, can’t match. It draws big names and for those who do like to drink at shows, the bar boasts a staggering array of beers on tap with about 60 to choose from.
Just in the past couple weeks, acts as diverse as country legend Loretta Lynn and gay ally extraordinaire Cyndi Lauper gave powerful performances there.
And it’s wildly popular with Blade readers. This is the venue’s sixth consecutive win in this category. (JD)
815 V St., N.W.
Best Rehoboth Bar
It’s not uncommon to find yourself waiting in line on summer nights to get into Rehoboth’s Aqua Grill, the post-beach/pre-dinner place to see and be seen. Crowds start gathering at happy hour and by 6:30 the festive outdoor deck and sandy areas are packed with tanned and primped gay men.
But Aqua is more than cocktails and tank top-clad boys. It’s also a restaurant offering a nice selection of seafood (the “Bucket of Love” is particularly good, with steamed clams served with ginger and red pepper), sandwiches and entrees.
The space is inviting and the food is good, but the main attraction tends to be the staff — bartenders and bar backs, who are often shirtless or in revealing costumes depending on the night’s theme. Whether you’re looking for drinks, hot men or dinner, Aqua’s the place. Aqua is now closed for the season but will reopen in the spring.
57 Baltimore Ave.
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
Lemon Squeeze at Duplex Diner
Kevin Lee, new owner of the renowned Duplex Diner, has one word for the Lemon Squeeze: “It’s dangerous.”
This is a big comeback year for Duplex — this is its first Blade award since 2005. It was a staple in the early years of these awards with seven previous wins.
According to Lee, the Lemon Squeeze has been served at the Diner for several years, but lately it has taken on a life of its own. “It’s just a vodka lemonade,” Lee notes, “but you don’t taste the vodka. It goes down easy.”
It’s easily the most popular drink at this popular establishment. In fact, it has spawned imitators. There’s a version that swaps out the vodka for bourbon, and variations that replace the lemonade with orange or lime juice. The Orange Squeeze will be the feature of the Diner’s new Sunday Brunch, a tradition that Lee is pleased to bring back after a nine-year hiatus.
Lee has made other changes at the diner, which is gay-owned. The new menu features some updated dishes, but the Diner still serves generous portions of everyone’s favorite comfort foods. The kitchen is now under the direction of Mark Mulvey who moved to D.C. from Charleston, S.C. Lee says, “He’s added a Southern flair to some of the dishes, but the food is still delicious.” (BTC)
2004 18th St., N.W.