Spend a night out in Adams Morgan and you rarely go home with a thick wallet.
Same goes for DuPont Circle, and most other Washington neighborhoods known for their bars and clubs.
But partying for fairly cheap is possible in the capital city -- proven by places such as Cue Bar on U Street. You can hang out there with a date for several hours, shoot some pool and have a few drinks for $40. For a Washington lounge, that's a steal.
Located below street level, Cue Bar is unexpectedly large. You walk down a fairly nondescript set of stairs to find a long, wide room bathed in pale blue light. Unlike a lot of Washington lounges, it has no cover charge and offers weekend drink specials -- the latter of which is almost unheard of in Baltimore or Washington. A couple Saturdays ago, the deal was $3.50 Yuengling drafts and $4 Skyy vodkas. Those are almost Charm City prices.
For $14 an hour on Fridays and Saturdays, you can rent one of the five blue-felt covered pool tables in the center of the lounge. The rate drops to $11 an hour on weekdays. Last week, there was a short waiting list for the pool tables. Our party landed one in less than a half-hour. My question: Does having only five pool tables justify calling a place Cue Bar?
Darts are $2. But the most appealing amenity is the Ping-Pong table, which costs $10 an hour to play. I wish more Baltimore bars would replace their shuffleboard with Ping-Pong. Sure, shuffleboard is fun, but it doesn't hold a candle to Ping-Pong.
Most Baltimore bartenders could learn from the speed and efficiency of Washington servers. After spending a Saturday night in Washington watching how their bartenders operate, drinking in a Baltimore watering hole is like living through the outtakes reel from Taps in slow motion. Cue Bar's bartenders were on their toes but still amicable enough that you didn't feel rushed.
The lounge wasn't slammed the Saturday we were there, but the service was still noticeably better than in Baltimore. Another plus: The edge of the bar was covered in a cushioned vinyl bumper, which meant you could comfortably lean over it and order another round.
I was pleasantly surprised by the crowd's diversity. It's not often you see such a wide range of ages and races in one place.
Cue Bar has a couple of projection screens, and the VJ used one of them to play vintage music videos. Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You get Enough" and "Sweet Dreams" by the Eurythmics were some of the highlights. I could have done without "Video Killed the Radio Star," though. Great song. But the Buggles aren't bar material.
If you're looking for the comfortable atmosphere and manageable drink prices of a Baltimore bar and the sleek interior design and speedy service of a Washington lounge, Cue Bar should be your destination.
Cue Bar is at 1115 U St. N.W. in Washington. It opens at 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 5 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. Sundays. Call 202-332-7665 or go to cuebardc.com.