Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Bar Belle: Drinks on board

The Passenger

Where: 1021 7th St., NW
Cover: No
Carded: Yes
Happy Hour: None, but there are hangover brunch specials on Sundays
Bar Bells:

Our Bar Belle roams around D.C. reviewing bars as she sees fit – if she can see straight after visiting them.

If well-crafted cocktails and grade-A people watching had a home in the District, it would be The Passenger.

The joint’s first impressions were admittedly a bit confusing. Was this a bar for professional adults looking for a casual drink or a hangout for young hipsters enjoying obscure brews from the can?

The menu boasted six drafts – from $5 to $9 – and 15 different canned beers – from $4 to $10 – and more than a dozen ways of ordering beer in bulk. All of the beers were local or unusual – devotees of Miller, Bud or Coors need not inquire.

Several of the bar food items caught my eye, including the $8 Kimchi Hot Dog and the $10 Pork Cheek Chili Nachos. We didn’t order any for ourselves, but the smell of good food wafting our way later stirred some envy.

The Passenger is created and owned by brothers Tom and Derek Brown, who have collectively tended bar at Komi, Citronelle, Palena, the Gibson, Corduroy and Cork. The duo’s experience and appreciation for a good product shows.

Though not on the menu, there is an understanding that patrons can describe something they’d like in a cocktail – types of liquor, genres or tastes. With these requests, an expertly crafted cocktail speedily arrives at your table, typically for $9.

My request for “something fruity with whiskey” produced a mixed drink akin to a tasty rum punch, substituted with whiskey. When I asked for something with ginger, our kind server pointed to a chalkboard with a few specials and suggested the $9 “Release the Mule” – Kraken spiced rum, lime and ginger. Only the aftertaste of the spiced rum and the subsequent buzz gave away that this drink had any alcohol at all.

In the St. Patrick’s Day spirit, I also ventured to try the $12 “This Ain’t Green” – Apple Jack, vermouth and absinthe. It wasn’t green but it was incredibly strong.

Each drink was a bargain for such an impressive amount of liquor, with each sip more delicious than the last. Nowhere else would three moderately sized cocktails have been so expedient in their mission of getting me drunk. We were content to sit at our table and chat over cocktails, as many other groups were doing the same. There were two large window booths, several four-seater booths along one wall and a line of tables along the other. The bar seemed to seat 12 to 15 guests, and the back room of two-seater booths had the distinct feeling of a train theme. The Passenger seems appropriate for an intimate group of friends but perhaps less appropriate for mingling and even less appropriate for dancing.

Having heard people refer to this place as a dive bar, I felt the bar was far too clean to be placed in that category. Like a dive, though, there are insider’s tips. The girls’ restroom is the one with the album cover with girls on it – less apparent after several drinks.

When taken for what it is, The Passenger is an extremely rewarding venture. Opened in November 2009, this unpretentious establishment offers a laid-back respite from the lights and bustle of the Chinatown and Mount Vernon Square area. It’s taken me several months to discover it, but you can bet it will only be a fraction of the time until I return with another crazy cocktail request.

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