To kick off our second night of the Great Cross-Country Barcrawl (still in Washington, DC) Maggi and I met up with SeanMike Whipkey for dinner and drinks at what might be my favorite of all the places we visited in our nation’s capitol, PS7. It’s just a couple of blocks north of Pennsylvania Avenue, between Capitol Hill and the White House. The neighborhood practically throbs with the
dark majesty of the Federal Government. With the Convention Center to the North, this is a heavy-hitter business, government, and tourist area.
The Head Bartender at PS7 is Gina Chersevani. SeanMike, who apparently knows every bartender who works near the Potomac River, told me she is the best “original modern drink” mixologist in town. Who am I to argue? The drinks were very good, though we didn’t have that many rounds, for two reasons. One was that we had a long night ahead of us. In addition to being skilled, Gina is also immensely charming… an attribute that I’m led to believe doesn’t hurt in the bar game. We sat at a table, so I didn’t get to see her work, but the sunlight was still flowing into the beautiful modern lounge and I could see all her products being delivered to tables around us. The drinks were gorgeous and the faces of the customers appreciative.
SeanMike had apparently told her in advance of our coming. When he introduced us, she told me she had something in mind for me. A few minutes after we sat down, she came over to our table with that monster you see below. (The drink, not SeanMike!) If you had told me that I was going to really enjoy a Strawberry Sage Frozen Pegu, in a snifter the size of a basketball, I might have scoffed…. But nay, nay! That was delicious. It wasn’t terribly Pegu-like, but it was good. The other reason we each only had one other round was the size of this thing!
PS7 is a fine dining restaurant first, with a fine drinking lounge attached. But that lounge is not what you’d expect from a restaurant bar. The prices are not inflated over bar prices as is the inexcusable case with most fine dining restaurant bars. The cocktails on the menu are all originals, but aren’t the typical homogenous group of offerings that limit so many such menus. A few are riffs on classics, updated with a new or oddball ingredient. Others are completely novel creations. Gina employs some combination of fresh fruits, herbs, spices and/or peppers in most drinks. She even uses beets in two on the current menu. I have a policy against beets, but that’s just me. The names are also clever, which I really appreciate. Some are evocative of classic cocktail predecessors, while others are meant to appeal to the clientele of Washington, DC, like the press and military.
I’d like to eat in the main dining room at PS7 next time we visit DC. The food in the lounge, where the offerings are mainly small plates, was simply delicious. Again, the offerings start as bar food, with burgers, sandwiches and flatbread pizzas. And like lots of great places, they tweak it for more modern tastes. But Chef Peter Smith takes that transformation further than most, with great results. The most outstanding and unique dish we had was a plate of thick slices of pork belly, rolled up in small hot dog buns and covered in a gently spicy relish. I think they are called Banh Mini, and I could eat them about every day. The rest of the world needs pork belly hot dogs, stat.
As I noted before, the decor in the PS7 lounge is very modern and airy. It isn’t much like what you see in most “craft” cocktail bars, with their dark woods and cozy environs. There is nothing of the speakeasy here. The walls are white, the windows, huge, and the light, bright. The bar itself is smaller than in most watering holes of this quality, but there is a plethora of low, plush seating spread throughout the rest of the large room. The music was there, but ambient. This is a bar for conversation, where they assume you are interesting enough to hold the attention of your fellows when you can actually hear each other….
The reason I said that PS7 may well be my favorite from our Washington stop is that it does so many things well. The service and hospitality are wonderful. The food is top notch, especially those pork belly things. The location is convenient and safe-feeling. And the drinks are top-notch and not over-priced. As an overall package, the lounge at PS7 would be great for a lot more occasions than just a night of cocktailan adventure. It wold be a great pre-show stop, happy hour haunt, or business entertainment venue as well. Here’s hoping I can get back and review the restaurant itself soon.
This review is part of my larger Great Cross-Country Bar Crawl series. Here is the main post for our Washington stop, with links to all reviews for DC.