Best Terrible Gimmick

The Big Board’s beer board
421 H St. NE, (202) 543-3630
Photograph by Matt Dunn
It’s 6 p.m. on a Friday: Which overbearing bar theme would you like to oppress your night? There’s Dupont Circle’s Thomas Foolery, where you can play Uno and enjoy Ring Pops just like at grandma’s house. Or you can head to Shaw’s Chaplin’s Restaurant, which has an “opium den room” to honor the silent movie star. In a city where it seems like every bar needs a gimmick, it’s a relief to find a softer touch at the Big Board—the kind of thing that wouldn’t seem too outré in, say, Phoenix. Big Board’s big board displays the original price of beers next to a price determined by demand and is made to look like you’re watching a crash on the floor of a commodities exchange. The logic of the market scheme can’t hold up for more than a second; customers can’t horde lagers before a run, for example, or short-sell a beer and hope that it’ll be a soft night for IPAs. In practice, it’s just a fancy way to show happy hour deals. But at least it has nothing do with Charlie Chaplin.