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Bar Review: Asylum

Submitted by on October 12, 2009 – 10:45 AMNo Comment
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2741 18th St.
Washington, DC

Hours: Daily:  5 PM – 2 AM

(Upstairs opens at 11 AM on weekends.)

Best time to visit: After dark – though Happy Hour has some good deals.

AsylumfrontGo, by all means go, to Asylum – the hip nigh-Gothic bar on 18th Street in Adams Morgan. But, for the full effect, go after dark. This is not to say that Asylum doesn’t have plenty to offer when the Sun is still above the horizon, but few other bars can so strongly suggest the feeling of a morning hangover at 6 PM.

If you choose to go early, there is a fine Happy Hour awaiting you.  Drinks are cheaper, and wings and taquitos are a bargain.  There will be peace and quiet, and the place will still feel nicely dreary for those who like to wear a lot of black.

But when Old Sol dips below the DC skyline, Asylum earns its accolades.

It calls itself a Rock’n’Roll bar.  There is no telling if this theme occurred by design, or simply evolved through the influence of the employees and clientele.  But a clue might be its early-nineties date of birth; just like Grunge.

It’s a throwback sort of a place, but with a modern sensibility.  That is, bring your tattoos and piercings.  Most of the staff and guests give the impression of having grown up in the place, and this creates a comfortable, home-y atmosphere.  Suited businessmen or turtleneck-wearing suburbanites might not feel it, but it’s there.

The tap selection is more than adequate, with 10 beers available at any time.  Some of these are the boring old standards, but smaller breweries like Yuengling and Shiner are also represented.  For those who tend towards masochism, there is also an extensive Tequila list, ranging from high-grade to head-splitting.

The menu is a bit unexpected; in addition to the bar favorites and staples, more eclectic fare – such as a blackened-tofu sandwich – can be discovered.  Some selections seem more appropriate to a bright little bistro than to a rocker pub, but this only adds to the eclectic ambience.  Asylum is a Rock’n’Roll bar, but maybe not exactly as one might expect.

On the other hand, there is a downstairs area that provides a delightfully cave-like sensation, as if one is drinking in a post-apocalyptic speakeasy.  There is nothing overt about the basement bar, but a subterranean escape from reality is made possible by its presence.

Bands, films, and even belly dancers can be experienced at Asylum, which seems bent on demonstrating its cultural sensibilities.  All together, this makes for a unique institution in DC’s Adams Morgan neighborhood.

Pros:    Decent menu, beer selection, & prices; dark, dark atmosphere.

Cons: A little quiet before dark, a little loud after; some of the real rockers in the crowd might be frightening to small children.

Rating: 3.5/5