Opening a hospitality business was as natural to the Wilder Bros. as the artisanal mixers served at their recently launched Adams Morgan establishment they had previously marketed under their name to local bars and restaurants.
In early May, brothers Ari and Micah Wilder opened fed restaurant and Federal Lounge, acquiring an existing liquor permit otherwise unavailable in the licensing moratorium zone. Quickly becoming a popular dining and nightlife venue, the two-level space offers distinct environments.
Located at 2477 18th Street, N.W., steps south of Columbia Road in the dual avenue entertainment district, the intimate street level interior is warmly appointed with wood tables and bar stools. Both provide food service seating for savoring a flavorful rustic menu comprised of locally sourced and organic ingredients, along with carefully concocted craft cocktails and specialty draught beers.
Flanked by exposed brick accented with wooden brewery casks, the casual comfort matches the personable service and affordable pricing. A cozy cocktail kitchen concept adds to the theatrical and aromatic final preparation of menu items at a visible bar station. Small-batch mixers, gommes, syrups, tonics, bitters and root sodas that the brothers handcraft are a special feature now exclusive to their first venture.
Every day from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., all food and drink items are half-price, and the two hospitality veterans extend an all-the-time across-the-board 30-percent discount to industry employees. Food service extends until one-hour before closing, attracting post-shift bar and restaurant workers. Sunday brunch and a small outdoor seating area are popular with neighborhood residents and local patrons.
The lower level offers a contrasting sleek modern design with two separate bars and lounge area, smooth slate dance floor and prominent DJ booth. Walls merge with the ceiling in a LED lighting array of constantly changing pulsating patterns synced with the music, enlivening the nightclub ambience.
The mid-30s siblings have long been a well-known D.C. duo serving as both business operation and beverage program managers and consultants at a number of restaurant and bar hotspots, in addition to bartending gigs. Divergent in appearance and personality, Ari and Micah are similar in their professional commitment to an industry that has been their focus since college.
The well-traveled bi-coastal boys grew up spending serial segments of their youth shuttling between parents living in the San Francisco and Washington areas. Outgoing personalities enjoying center-stage soon sparked bartending stints. While studying in southern California, Ari would drive to San Francisco to visit Micah, then at the Academy of Art University and bartending on weekends.
“Micah would pull me behind the bar, review basic bartending details, and then disappear on a break,” Ari recounts, “and I’d get slammed. But I loved it.”
Today Ari manages operations and balances the books, while Micah tends to food and beverage menus along with creative details.
What motivates these dynamic entrepreneurs is being among highly regarded culinary and entertainment operators in the area. They interrupt each other describing their “excitement at being part of a movement to bring Adams Morgan back to life with innovative new venues that residents desire.”
They’re on track to soon open a separate third-floor multi-level live music and DJ venue rock-and-sports pub inspired by their German-Austrian heritage, including a fireplace-enhanced outdoor deck.
“We saw this location as an opportunity to contribute our passion and commitment to quality craftsmanship in all that we do, joining other businesses in re-defining an area in need of new and appealing concepts,” Ari says. “Adams Morgan has suffered through hard times,” adds Micah, “but now is when it can flourish again.”
The Wilder brothers are proud to be a community asset in that process.