Best New Bar

Service Bar DC
928 U St. NW, (202) 462-7232
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

The O’Jays once sang “Give the People What They Want.” That’s what Service Bar DC did when it sprung onto the scene in October serving cocktails and fried chicken, including tenders that come in a waffle cone.

The name of the bar from Glendon Hartley and Chad Spangler is a tipoff that it aims to please because the service bar is an area of a restaurant where bartenders mix drinks for diners seated at tables. “Usually it’s an area that’s thankless,” Spangler says. “You are behind the scenes, so it’s not about you. It’s about the guest and the guest experience.” Indeed, enter the intimate, 40-seat bar, and it feels at once hospitable and easy.

Despite the fact that Service Bar DC employs some of the city’s top bartenders—like Christine Kim—classic cocktails like a daiquiri or a Tom Collins run a modest $7. That’s not to say prices don’t creep up for originality like the “Raisin d’etre” that combines Armagnac, cinnamon, lemon, serrano pepper, and golden raisin for a sweet and spicy sip ($12).

Adding to the allure, there are several ways to enjoy Service Bar DC. If you want more than a casual drink, there’s the “snug room” modeled off pubs in the Emerald Isle. The private table that seats six comfortably is encapsulated in a box that has a window for bartenders to pop in and pass drinks. Here, cocktail-tasting menus are offered and can be customized if a group books in advance (in person or via email).

Not even six months old, Service Bar DC is pushing itself. It announced in February that every two months it would debut a special menu inspired by a region known for its cocktails. First up was New Orleans complete with expertly made Sazeracs.