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Bar Review: Solly’s U Street Tavern

Submitted by on December 20, 2009 – 12:21 PMNo Comment
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Solly’s U Street Tavern
1942 11th St
Washington, DC
Tel: 202.232.6590

Hours of Operation:
Mon. – Thurs.    4 PM – 2 AM
Fri. – Sat.     4 PM – 3 AM
Sun.        4 PM – 2 AM

Best time to visit: Quiz night (1st and 3rd Wednesday every month).

sollysU Street has a reputation for trendiness, which may or may not be deserved.  The existence of Solly’s certainly helps to keep that reputation in check. The most unpretentious place in the neighborhood, Solly’s is the dive DC needs.  On the surface it has almost no charm, no frills, and little to make it stand out.  Again, on U Street, that’s what makes it stand out.
As a dive should, it offers only the basics.  You can pay $5 for a bottle of Yuengling, or $3 for a can of PBR.  (Guess which is more popular?)  The standard array of bottled beer is on hand, and that’s about it.  The bartender’s gruff demeanor might make you want to check the sign out front to see if the bar is actually called “Surly’s.”  In fact, if Solly’s had only one floor, the only thing to recommend the place would be the novelty of PBR in a can, if that really has any novelty.

But what happens upstairs makes all the difference.  The upstairs bar has less of a dive feel, and more of a college hang-out atmosphere.  It is more spacious, better-lit, and its small stage offers the occasional entertainment. In addition to performances of various types – including a weekly Open Mic – Solly’s hosts a pub quiz twice per month.  The quiz has more personality than most, with lots of sarcasm mixed in with a variety of questions, ranging from sports to history to pop culture.  The design of the quiz is also distinctive, including a couple “lightning rounds” (“Name everything you can that fits in this category…”), and the options of scaling your scores (max points for the answer you’re most sure of) and doubling your points for the round in which your team feels most confident.
All these touches make for a fun, competitive, and challenging quiz.  But the real draw?  The quizzes’ proceeds go to charity, with a different sponsor for each quiz.  Not a bad way to spend a night – drink a few beers, answer a few questions, and feel like you’re doing something for a good cause.
When all that is taken into consideration, it’s not such a big deal that the beer in question is unexceptional.  Solly’s isn’t a nice place, in the normal sense, but the nice aspects are there if you look.

Pros: Charitable events; satisfies the definition of enjoyable dive.

Cons: Poor beer selection; limited personality.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5