Chinatown’s Awesome New Subterranean Bar, Denson, Opens Wed. – A Look Inside

600 F Street, NW

Imagine the The Greene Turtle Sports Bar located across the street at 601 F St, NW by the Verizon Center. Now imagine the exact opposite – behold Denson’s Liquor Bar:


This is the place from the owner of Ghibellina in Logan Circle and Acqua al 2 and Harold Black on Capitol Hill. And it is another spectacular transformation. When we took an early look back in April – here’s what you saw:




They open tomorrow. More photos and a peek at some of the menu after the jump.


















67 Comment

  • Emmaleigh504

    I like those floors!

  • Awaiting tons comments on beer/drink prices…1, 2, 3-go.

    • I’ll bite!

      $20 for a cheese board that includes cheddar?! Jesus.

    • $8 for a Sierra Nevada!?! $16 for a half dozen oysters??!!?? This city is getting too rich for my blood.

      • Going even slightly off the beaten path, and you’ll beat these prices easily. Anyone know about a HH?

        • Agreed. It looks like a nice place, but there are lots of nice places in the area that will serve you a generic domestic beer for closer to $6. And, to be fair to them, there are lots of places in the area (I’m looking at you, Proof) that will serve you a generic domestic for closer to $10.

    • What good business owner WOULDN’T charge the highest prices he/she could get away with?? And given the relatively captive audience, those are going to be higher than you’re used to.

    • justinbc

      A $14 Negroni is by far the most expensive I’ve ever seen in DC.

    • How about $9 for a bowl of nuts?

    • I guess you’re that guy who thought, “Hey, $12 is nothing for a cocktail! Won’t somebody please charge me $14 for it?” And $9 bar nuts? Are you kidding me??? But hey, hats off to Mr. Denson, if he succeeds in conning enough people into paying these prices.

      • $14 is pretty standard for cocktail bars in the city (The Gibson, Quill, The Sheppard, Dram & Grain-a la carte).

        • That’s a list of very expensive cocktail bars — so perhaps it’s standard among expensive cocktail bars.
          I’m OK if a place wants to charge $14 for a specialty cocktail but classic cocktails such as sazerac, negroni, old fashioned and the like should cost $12 at most.

          • Well-yes, this place is clearly positioning itself as an expensive cocktail bar. How many cocktail bars in DC are actually cheap-I can think of Bar Charley as one (though it has some pricey cocktails), maybe Wisdom?

          • justinbc

            Most of the drinks from Passenger’s daily board are $12. There will usually be one that’s $10 which is something simple like a Negroni twist, or $14 which contains several higher proof spirits, but it’s more of the outlier than the norm. They also consistently employ some of the city’s best bartenders to back it up.

      • Also, don’t order the nuts then, jesus. Order one of the fairly reasonably priced entrees.

  • I’m currently in NYC on business and was kvetching about DC prices with a coworker who now lives in NYC (he’s an ex-DC’er).
    We both remarked that – unlike NYC – every food/beverage-related business that is opening in DC is trying to push the price point higher. No one is opening anything that caters to middle-of-the-road tastes or budgets. The great thing about NYC is that there is something for every budget. For instance, good luck getting a lunch in DC downtown for under $10. However, on Wall Street yesterday I had a great sushi box lunch for $5.95. It would have easily cost me $11 for the same meal back on K Street.
    I guess the flip side is that you get hammered in NYC on the rents. C’est la vie.

    • Seems comparable prices are 20% higher in NYC. But, NYC just has so many options in a given geographic proximity its pretty easy to find cheaper alternatives.

    • but the question is, how many people really WANT to eat $6 sushi? 🙂 But seriously, this is why I love potbelly’s and am disappointed so many of them have closed recently (chinatown, Dupont)

    • Yeah same situation with Chicago. I think when there is a much larger population of lunch buyers and happy hour goers, you get more business serving across the price point spectrum. But we get condos and $16 cubans because that’s what the target demo is I suppose.

    • maxwell smart

      “I guess the flip side is that you get hammered in NYC on the rents.” Oh don’t you worry, DC is looking at hammering those too.

    • NYC may be more in rent technically than DC, but as your post suggests overall life is getting pricier in DC. You can get a fantastic meal in NYC for under $10; good luck for that in DC. Plus there are more choices for types of bars; DC is really losing out on regular “bars” and everyone is going for the cocktail/small plate thing which I am getting sick of. DC I believe for day to day living is more than NYC.

  • justinbc

    Hopefully this place is a lot more like Ghibellina and a lot less like Harold Black (which I was surprised to find was still open).

    • Just curious…what did you find so off-putting about HB? I’ve been a few times (though not for 6+ months) and always enjoyed it.

      • justinbc

        Most of the drinks were just terrible, and bad for a whole census of the group, so it wasn’t just one person’s preference. The attitude from the staff was also beyond obnoxious.

        • Very interesting. I guess different strokes for different folks. I’ve been to Harold Black about 5 times, and like it better than most other specialty cocktail bars in the city (gibson, barmini, dram)…though admittedly I have yet to go to the columbia room. On my list before they close down!

        • Dang, no joke on that availability. Got what looks like to be one of 4 spots left. Crazy. One more serious question for you- tasting menu or a la carte?

  • jim_ed

    “magine the The Greene Turtle Sports Bar located across the street at 601 F St, NW by the Verizon Center. Now imagine the exact opposite”

    So this translates into wildly overpriced beer and meticulously pre-fabricated shabby/chic cool? No thanks.

    • Precisely. So while it’s nothing like the Greene Turtle, it’s almost exactly like every other bar to open in DC in the last five years.

  • No TVs? No bro dudes in flip flops? This looks promising.

    • maxwell smart

      well there’s only 1 of those things that is absolutely true. Don’t underestimate the ubiquity of bros in flip-flops.

  • austindc

    I think this would be a cool place for Batman villains to hang out at.

  • That weird wall/divider around the bar is going to make it impossible to get a drink when this place gets busy. I hate it when people camp out at the bar on a busy night.

  • +1
    Excellent point. Go away others.

  • This may be a reason to check out Chinatown in the coming week.

    I agree the prices are high, but no more than many of the other cocktail lounges in DC and with Passenger closing, there a no options down there when you get out of a movie at 10pm.

    As far as DC vs. NYC–it’s futile to understand why no other city works like NYC, because no there city does in the world. The idea that there are 20 million dollar condos located across the street from a rent controlled studio apartment for under 1K a month is only a New York thing. There is so much more competition for business–in Manhattan specifically–that there can be equal competition for cheap eats, mid-price food and fine dining. Add an extra million people to DC and you too can have $5 sushi…but don’t complain when it takes you 45 minutes to get from Dupont to Chinatown.

    • justinbc

      It can take a lot longer than 45 minutes to get from Dupont to Chinatown if the President decides he just has to be somewhere at 6PM.

    • +500000 NYC is so much more crowded that it’s claustrophobic and difficult to get anywhere quickly. And cheap eats are nice, but they don’t really make up for the crowdedness, or for not having an apartment with a usable kitchen, even though their rental rates are astronomical. I’ll trade cheap eats for room to breathe and a real kitchen any day of the week.

  • Apparently this place is not for the Popville crowd. From the pictures, it reminds me of Quill on 16th Street. Hopefully it will be a nice place to sit back and enjoy a conversation over a cocktail.

    • maxwell smart

      I don’t know if the takeaway is so much that it’s not for the popville crowd, but rather it seems like every new bar / restaurant that opens in DC these days are all cut from the same cloth and people are getting a little worn out of getting yet another expensive cocktail bar. It’s kinda like the cupcake craze – 1 city can only support so many cupcakeries.

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