Whitlow’s Bar & Grill, the historic watering hole that got its start in downtown DC towards the end of WWII before eventually moving to Clarendon and closing last summer, is resurfacing inside from the city limits on Tuesday, August 23.
Now called Whitlow’s DC, the relocated neighborhood hangout begins a new chapter at 5 p.m. in the Shaw space that was once home to Echo Park (2012 Ninth Street Northwest). The brothers’ short-lived replacement for Hilton hospitality at Gaslight Tavern opened across the street from the 9:30 Club in early 2020 with a fireplace room, two wood-paneled bars and an airy back patio.
With room for 200, the DC reboot is considerably smaller than its predecessor Whitlow on Wilson Clarendon, which has around 1,000 on its first floor and tiki-style roof.
“Things are going to be different, but the same fundamentals are there,” co-owner Jon Williams told Eater. “Be relaxed, don’t take yourself too seriously.”
And of course, ice cold beer. A 10-point draft roster makes room for plenty of locals like Atlas, Right Proper, and Solace. Cocktails are affordable, at least by DC standards ($10-$12). This includes freshly squeezed crushes with Smirnoff orange vodka and Sprite that cater to its Ocean City-loving regulars. Weekday happy hour also runs later than most (5-8 p.m.) with $5 beers and drinks and $8 cocktails on tap. Promotions run all day on Mondays and weekly events include “Singo Bingo” Tuesdays and Whiskey Wednesdays.
A $10 “Shaw’t and a beer” whiskey combo — a big boy Budweiser or PBR with a shot of Four Roses Yellow — is a nice nod to his new neighborhood. At a pre-opening training day last week, Williams said members of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office made a surprise appearance to reinstate the bar in DC. An official welcome letter signed by Bowser is already in place.
The relatively ready-made space has been given a Whitlow-style makeover filled with whimsical decor, retro art, sticker-tagged mirrors, and all sorts of treasured knick-knacks salvaged from its early days in DC until in his last hours in Clarendon. Devoted fans might recall the same Elvis-shaped lamp at the back bar or the ceramic drinking vessels above.
Neon signs spelling out old-school beer brands like Stegmaier and Meister Brau perch above the back bar. The door connecting the two is framed by an ’80s “Cocktails” sign with winking olives. Unfortunately, says Williams, that iconic vertical “Grill” sign that hung prominently in front of its last two iterations was far too large — at 14 feet tall — to fit indoors or outdoors at Shaw.
Founder David Whitlow opened the original Whitlow’s at the corner of 11th and E NW streets in 1946.
“You would have FBI agents and factory workers sitting next to federal judges. It was all walks of life. That’s what he always instilled in me – to capture that spirit,” says Williams.
The legendary bar has moved across the Potomac River to Arlington, where Whitlow’s On Wilson has sat as a 25-year-old nighttime attraction with live music several nights a week. Whitlow’s 3.0 plans to continue the tradition with DJs and bands playing out front. In a wild coincidence, the existing art deco-style light fixtures in Echo Park hovering above the copper bar are carbon copies of those in Whitlow in Clarendon.
“This place feels like home,” Williams says.
The whole Shaw bar is set to dimmers that go down as the night goes on.
Framed newspaper articles about Whitlows’ legacy join sports memorabilia displayed like Washington Capitals pendants and framed Nationals prints that honor each DC team’s national championship wins. As an ode to its proximity to the 9:30 Club, artwork in the bathroom features music greats like Lizzo, James Brown and Dave Grohl. Williams says he’s a big fan of the Foo Fighters frontman, and luckily for him, Grohl is considering opening a bar right next to the 9:30 Club.
To start, the hours are 5 p.m. on weekdays and 4 p.m. on weekends (which will extend to noon once the football season begins). Next door pizza Andy’s is providing slices for now, and Whitlow’s will be rolling out its own menu this fall. Look for the biggest hits like wings, burgers, grilled cheese and salads (but the days of its all-you-can-eat buffet, complete with crab legs, are over).