The Passenger in the District is divided into two separate bars, each drawing heavily on the brothers who run the locale.
“The Passenger [is] the bar in the front which is more likely to be packed and playing Motorhead at top volume,” says Tom Brown, whose personality fits better in just such an atmosphere.
The bar in back, called The Columbia Room, takes on his brother Derek’s disposition. It’s more refined.
“We jokingly refer to it as a ‘cocktail spa,'” Tom Brown says. “You kind of come back here and it’s quiet and serene, even after you’ve fought your way through the crowds to get here.”
Those who make The Passenger a regular stop talk up what it is not — namely a swanky, pretentious bar.
“The atmosphere here is just unique,” says Jeff Smith. “It’s got really great cocktails, really great drinks, but it doesn’t have [pretense] to it.”
It’s a common refrain.
“Mostly when you go to get a cocktail this good, it’s kind of a hoity-toity, uppity atmosphere,” says another regular. “But I come here, I can get a great drink and go relax and listen to great music.”
Brown says the atmosphere of the bar, located in Mount Vernon Square in Northwest, is intentional.
“A lot of bars focus on some sort of hook or draw,” he says. “Really all that we did was focus on the very most basic things of creating a community atmosphere, being a part of our community, reaching out to the people who work and live around us, and that’s really generated a cool vibe.”
Check out the full list of America’s best bars here.