As nice as it might be to go to a bar where “everybody knows your name,” occasionally it’s pleasant to go to a bar where no one knows who you are, what you do or where you’re from. A flight attendant from Australia? A medical equipment rep from Hoboken? An education consultant from Atlanta? It’s all good under the guise of travel.
If you’re in town and down to clown around for the holidays, I recommend a beautiful, quiet lounge like The District inside the Magnolia Hotel.
My drinking companion on this review was my out-of-town friend, Ann. Ann was staying at the Magnolia and asked me to meet up at The District. I was expecting to find an uninspiring alcove off the lobby that served passable drinks to people looking to take the edge off before unpacking. What I found was a great spot to chill.
Ann sees more hotels than I as she travels for work. She noted hotel bars differ, but overall have an ephemeral, transitory ambiance that’s comforting to impermanent residents. Some can be low-key places to unwind after a long day’s travel, while others are suitable for a classy rendezvous off the beaten path. Hotel bars can be hidden gems, as they are rarely advertised.
The District’s taps are mostly local and craft. They include Thunderhead Brewing’s Hopaluia, Oso Cafe Coffee Brown Ale from Pint Nine, Infusion Brewing Company’s Radial IPA, Samuel Adams Winter Lager and Old Marathon Barleywine from Keg Creek. Only Bud Light breaks ranks. Stop in for happy hour from 2:30 to 6 p.m. every day for half-price appetizers, $3 Bud Light draws, $4 craft pints, $6 house wine and $5 well drinks.
I don’t make this observation or express it often when I do, but our server, Sandra, was the cutest little old lady ever. She was quite possibly the most genuinely happy waitress I’ve ever met. She raved about the Magnolia. She stopped by our table to check on us and gave us a virtual tour of the Magnolia. Sandra also told us about the second happy hour that runs from 8 to 10 p.m. and features cookies and milk. It’s not unheard of to slip a shot into one’s moo juice, per Sandra. Drink yours over a board game or bask by the fireplace.
The District has a great menu, from its Wagyu Burger ($14) and Ropa Vieja Sandwich ($14) to the filet mignon with garlic butter ($34). My companion and I enjoyed the cheddar bacon corn dip. It had all the bases covered: sharp cheddar, bacon jus, sweet corn and jalapeños baked and served with crackers and lavosh. Normally $10, it’s just $5 during happy hour.
The street parking is all right. It’s as picturesque under the orange street lights as it is convenient. A few blocks west of the Old Market proper, folks stress over parking, but here it’s entirely sufficient.
The District makes a great first stop or sweet place to chill if your night out wraps by 11 p.m. I had a great time at the Magnolia, and hope to be back in The District with friends soon.