It has been nearly two months since Meridian Pint closed its Columbia Heights location, packed up its bags (and pints), and moved across the Potomac to Arlington, Virginia. As both a longtime fan of beer in DC and a current Columbia Heights resident, let me echo the sentiment of John Fleury, a fellow beer fan, who said, “This one hurts.” Although I’ve been in DC coming up on 14 years, I spent just about two and a half of them living within blocks of Meridian Pint’s former 11th and Park location. Even now on weekends and slow weeknights, I think to myself, “I could really go for a Sunnyside Dweller” before I catch myself and realize the Pint isn’t there and I’ll have to find another option.
Trying to identify what it was, exactly, about Meridian Pint that was good could help to understand what the options are for trying to replace it. Perhaps its finest quality was that the place contained multitudes. It was, at its core, a beer bar. The Pint was one of the top five beer programs in DC from end-to-end of its tenure and for most of that time could stake a claim to being second best behind ChurchKey. But it was also a family restaurant (and in fact prided itself on being kid- and family-friendly upstairs); this was particularly important for me because I have a two-year-old who, yes, we like to take to bars and restaurants. It had good bar food (RIP Superwing, gone too soon). It had good regular food and rotating specials (thanks to Chef Logan McGear). It was a community hub and hosted things like weekly trivia and also regular events. It had staff who were both friendly and experienced; willing to shoot the shit with you about the latest local DIPA that beer director Jace Gonnerman had on and able to knock out a busy weekend crowd all ordering at the same time.
Columbia Heights is not the same
The above compliments heaped, it’s time for a confession: my search to replace Meridian Pint hasn’t been particularly successful over the past couple of months. For one thing, there’s just no beer program in or near Columbia Heights right now that comes anywhere close to what Jace was putting out there. But, positively, I have discovered for the first time some options and reengaged others. Below is my rough order of the contenders to step into the void left by the Pint’s absconding to Virginia. To make the list you had to have some semblance of a beer program. Keep in mind two things: I’m trying to identify the best replacement for Meridian Pint, specifically through a beer lens, and your mileage may vary.
(1400 Irving Street NW): Your quintessential sports bar with 24 draft lines and nearly as many TVs. The beer selection here has historically been perfectly adequate. Some local flagships, a fair number of macros and their specialty portfolios, and maybe one or two surprises on occasion. The food is typical bar fare and scratches the quesadilla, wings, and tenders itch if you’ve got one. What puts Lou’s higher up my ranking is an event they recently did with Bell’s to relaunch their outdoor patio. They brought in a selection of core and seasonal offerings for $6 all weekend. If they’ll partner with more mainstay craft brands like this to bring their audience highlights across a portfolio, there may be more of a draw for beer fans than it seems.
(3628 Georgia Avenue NW): DC Reynolds sneaks in just under the arbitrary distance requirement I put in here (good thing I didn’t say venues had to be within 0.8 miles, I guess). There’s a lot to like about DC Reynolds, so let’s start with the Monday through Saturday 5-9pm buy one get one happy hour. Yes, you buy a drink and then you get a receipt to use that day for another of the same drink. It’s kind of bonkers. There are a few rotating draft lines here, but for the most part, it stays pretty similar with local stalwarts like Port City Optimal Wit, DC Brau Corruption, and Flying Dog Bloodline being fairly representative. The food is upscale but not fussy bar fare. There’s also a large outdoor patio and a separate bar. I’d love DC Reynolds more if the beer menu was a little more exciting and if it was just a smidge closer to Columbia Heights proper, but the staff is good and friendly, the place welcomes kids (and has an upstairs where they can spread out a bit). Fans of the Pint will find a lot to like here.
3. Sonny’s Pizza / No Kisses / Colony Club
(3120 Georgia Avenue NW): This is a hard one to rank because taken separately none of these places is going to be too high in this list. Given that there’s plenty of space in the back patio that services all three locations and also given this is my ranking and I can do whatever the hell I want within it, consider this ranking to be an aggregation across the three. No Kisses (a cocktail bar with an awesome, jungle-esque aesthetic) and Colony Club (a coffee shop with ping pong and a bar) each have about 4 drafts and bottle lists of about 4-8 beers. Sonny’s has 2-ish drafts and 3-4 bottle/can selections where you’ll find the likes of Solace, Right Proper, Bell’s, and Two Roads. There’s also a converted Winnebago-looking van in the back patio that dispenses drinks. If this whole compound of three places working together sounds weird, it is, but it’s decidedly worth going to. The beer list across these spots is greater than the sum of its parts.
(1101 Kenyon Street NW): Wonderland is kind of like The Big Hunt of Columbia Heights, and I don’t know if either place will be satisfied with that description. The beer menu here is eclectic with DC Brau Public and Bell’s Oberon sharing space with German classics like Kostritzer and Eggenberg Pils and the ubiquitous Genny Cream and PBR. There’s something for everyone except for your friend who really likes super high end beer. Not a lot of that going on here, to put it mildly, but again this is a common theme in this list. Be sure to try the eggplant fries, which are delicious, and definitely make friends with the various kickball and soccer teams who hang out in the ample front patio.
5. The Coupe
(3415 11th Street NW): This diner from the group that brought you AdMo’s Tryst, among others, has a bar at one end with ample high top seating and a few booths. The Coupe also features a surprising little draft list. The 8-10 options are all craft, mostly local, and rotate frequently, but the real highlight here is that Monday through Friday drafts are $5 from 5-7pm and starters are half off.
6. Bravo Bar
(2917 Georgia Avenue NW): In the same vein as DC Reynolds but a bit closer to Columbia Heights proper, Bravo Bar has to buy one get one draft and rails from 5-8pm every day as well as a $6 special that gets you a hot dog, PBR, and shot of Jim Beam as well as other food specials. Wild. The beer selection here isn’t what I’d call exotic (there’s a lot of this going on in this list), but it is reliable, locally-focused, and hard to knock based on the previous two adjectives. If you’re looking for the phrase “DDH” or “Brettanomyces,” you won’t find it here, but you will find a friendly staff and a good place to pull up a stool and make bad decisions for less than $20.
(3115 14th Street NW): Formerly known as The Heights Taproom, which itself had a perfectly serviceable beer program, this place within the past few years converted in two separate ways. First, it became a self-serve/pour-your-own model where you get an RFID card when you come in and then pay by the ounce on beers you dispense. Second, it went from a neighborhood bistro type place to serving “Asian inspired fried chicken.” (Here’s Tim Carman with more on that.) The model here is weird, admittedly, and in my experience service can be a little spotty, but there’s undoubtedly some value to be found on the draft lines. If you know how to pour a beer, you can get something on the order of $4-4.50 pints of some really quite good flagships from national craft breweries as well as some flagships and other oddball offerings from local and local-ish breweries. If you’re coming here looking for a traditional bar, you’ll be disappointed, but the novelty and value of pouring your own beer (again, realize you’re paying for the foam and learn to appreciate bartenders) makes this worth a stop if an imperfect permanent replacement for the Pint.
8. Beau Thai
(3162 Mt. Pleasant Street NW): You might be thinking to yourself, is Bill really suggesting this Thai restaurant is going to replace Meridian Pint for me? And the answer is no, I’m not, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to like here. For example, the good craft beer selection is half off Monday through Friday. Drafts often feature 3 Stars Brewing and other local breweries. The can selection often has some sleepers like Stillwater’s Extra Dry.
9. The Pinch
(3548 14th Street NW): Full disclosure, it has been a while since I walked through the doors at The Pinch, but I remember it fondly from a few years ago when I was last there. The Pinch advertises “a beer for every taste,” and they’ve got a good selection of drafts and bottles (e.g., Atlas Ninja Sauce, Manor Hill Pilsner, Hellbender Kolsch, and offerings from Uinta and Schlafly). You’ll find more upscale bar fare here including, for example, BBQ pulled duck sliders and a full range of burgers and sliders. They also host open mic comedy night and poker on Tuesdays, trivia on Wednesdays, and host bands for shows in the basement.
I look forward to being lambasted in the comments about what I got wrong here and about who I left out. Thanks in advance for helping me find another great place to drink beer near my house. If you suggest one I really like, your prize might be a high five from my little dude. Stop walking in the other direction and find more of me online at @billdebeer.
Three other places to try
Alright so I’m still knocking a little bit of rust off of this whole blogging thing. Upon further review of my article, I realized I made three glaring omissions. The below are also worthy of your consideration at Meridian Pint replacements.
Franklin Hall (1348 Florida Avenue NW): The thing about Franklin Hall as a Meridian Pint replacement is that there’s a big hill between it and Columbia Heights. So be advised you might be better off getting off at the U Street Metro stop unless you like really like the idea of earning/burning off those beers. Franklin Hall has a lot of good, stalart beer options, and they tend to rotate in some odd and exciting beers more often than others on this list (I wish those beers didn’t run a little pricier than I think they should, but so it goes). They’ve got plenty of drink specials pretty much every day of the week. Oh yeah, you can get everything in a liter if you want. Also: big props to the food here, especially the chicken tenders, which are hand breaded in-house. The burger is solid, too. Drawbacks include how cavernous it is, so if you’re looking for something intimate, this ain’t it.
The Airedale (3605 14th Street NW): Leaving out The Airedale was especially glaring because we had our little dude’s first birthday there. (By the way, if you want to rent out the top floor, the minimum is very generous. It’s an excellent space for hosting events.) The Airedale is solid. Thoughtfully curated beer menu (think locals + German classics + oddball stuff that rotates). Tasty food coming out of the kitchen (try the “Les Blues” burger). Opens early during EPL season for soccer (and in general is soccer-centric on the sports front). Just a really great neighborhood bar that is deserving of your attention. Sorry to the folks there for missing them on the first pass.
The Midlands (3333 Georgia Avenue NW): The beer menu at The Midlands is probably better than it needs to be given how DC residents love a beer garden nearly as much as they love brunch. That said, there’s plenty of craft on this menu. Locally, they tend to have a lot of Hellbender and 3 Stars, but there’s a healthy rotation of other regional breweries and going on here as well. The food is fine from the little I’ve had of it, but flagging that they have breakfast tacos on the weekend until 3pm in case that’s your bag (and it should be). For the non-beer drinkers among your party (read: please abandon these people on the side of the road) they also have wine and cider on tap.