“The employees are no longer required to wear the goofy out of place uniforms.”


A reader reports:

“I noticed Old Engine 12 in Bloomingdale has some changes. The employees are no longer required to wear the goofy out of place uniforms. The uniforms have been replaced with standard DCFD shirts you see DC paramedics wearing. Also, there is ANOTHER relaunch event (they did the same thing when the bar first opened). Every time I jog by there it looks pretty empty and I don’t see anyone in the second floor bar.”

Anyone go last night?

1626 North Capitol Street, NW

41 Comment

  • What were the employees wearing? I have only heard negative things about this place. Haven’t bothered to try it since it would require me finding parking.

  • I didn’t realize the place had changed its name. Or is Engine 12 just the bar? Isn’t this Washington Firehouse?

    I have eaten there three times and had a good experience each time. I did not realize people thought it was struggling. It has been moderately busy every time I’ve eaten there. I guess I should go again soon. I’d hate to see it close.

    • It’s been moderately busy when Pub and The People and Big Bear have been packed to the gills. I don’t have anything against Engine 12, but it’s nothing special and there are better options right there. They play a good marketing game, though!

    • I think it’s more of a function of size. That’s a huge building – much bigger than The Pub or Big Bear, so it looks relatively empty even when they have some folks eating inside. That said, I think the owners completely missed the mark in terms of vibe. They are/were trying to make a Dupont-crowd bar in Bloomingdale. Nope.

      • Yeah, when I have gone (which all three times were before Pub & the People opened), the crowd was a very diverse cross-section of the community. Young white professionals, a bunch of gay kickball players, and several black families. At least for brunch. I suppose the one time I went for dinner the gay kickballers weren’t there but it did seem to be a good representation fo the community. But I suppose if you’re not continuously focused on that crowd in your marketing efforts/vibe, then they won’t return. But I definitely enjoyed the food. Nothing spectacular but all three meals I’ve had were good.

        I really thought the patio was going to be the winning feature there, but was worried the noise from North Cap was going to just be too much to make it enjoyable.

    • I live in the neighborhood and can say this bar is horrible. I’ve had several bad experiences there and like others have said they don’t really know what they want to be. On opening night they had a red carpet out with bouncers who had ear pieces by the door and a sign for

      • I live in the neighborhood and can say this bar is horrible. I’ve had several bad experiences there and like others have said they don’t really know what they want to be. On opening night they had a red carpet out with bouncers who had ear pieces by the door and a sign for valet parking!??? Really this is Bloomingdale not Gerogetown. Also the bar is illuminated by horrible purple black lights and they’re prices are crazy high. If you go on Yelp the majority of the reviews complain about their prices. I was there on opening night and was initially given a free beer by a waitress, she then came back and said their promotional time was over and charged me for it. Great way to win customers! I was really excited for when Washington Firehouse was initially opening because I thought it was going to be like Meridian Pint which is highly successful. Unfortunately, this bar is far from that. I really hope they revamp everything or someone else takes the space over and uses it to its full extent. I have to say though that Pub and the People next door is awesome. The staff is super friendly and very easy going, their outdoor patio is great, and their beer list rotates almost daily. Pub and the People is one of the better bars in DC in my opinion and just what Bloomingdale needed. And to the poster below who asked about Yuengling, yes this is the bar who sells Yuengling for $9 a bottle. This is laughable because I’d never pay more than $5 for one.

  • I didn’t go, but the photos on their FB page make it look like the turnout was pretty good. I agree, normally it does feel pretty empty. I love the space, and want to love the place, but I have had pretty mediocre experiences with the food and the staff. Even when some menu items are good, it feels pricey and the menu has a bit of an identity crisis. Actually the whole place does. IS it trying to be a sports bar? Upscale? Neighborhood pub Events venue? American food? Italian? What? Hope it turns around and becomes really popular – the hood needs it!

    • Completely agree, the management is really inept and I hope every day they sell it to someone who knows what they’re doing and has a vision. Something like Meridian Pint would be perfect for this space and would fill a need for a larger casual eatery/bar.

  • we’ve been a couple times and the food was surprisingly good, though heavy. Will be interesting to see how this goes for the next couple years.

  • We went last night. They put out a TON of free food and both the second floor and the new (to me anyways) third floor wine bar were giving out free cocktails. I thought it was a really good event! But, I’ll echo that while the food is good, the place as a whole seems to be struggling with figuring out its vibe and just what it is. I do hope they make it though!

  • Who owns it? Sadly, it’s not going to survive in its current state. No matter how many time you change the name or uniforms or anything else, concept, hierarchy, execution, service and timing have to be aligned for success. It’s too big and too obscure and has no identity. But it’s a great space for someone who knows what they’re doing to operate.

    • It might be better if sub-divided into separate venues with separate management teams, interior design, concepts, etc. Sounds like too much space for one team (and kitchen) to manage.
      North Capitol ain’t exactly a happening destination.

    • I believe it was the folks who owned Shaw Tavern until recently.

  • The one time we went, we sat outside and had great food and great service. The pizza was particularly delicious. While I didn’t go upstairs, my wife did and told me that the space was really cool. (Apparently, they rent it out for functions.) Its a good addition to the neighborhood and I hope they continue to operate.

  • I’ve been once and thought it was quite good and it was definitely packed. I don’t have any inside info here, but prior to this restaurant this place had been abandoned for a long time, right? So I bet they have pretty good terms on their lease. They wouldn’t need to keep the place packed like Le Diplomate to stay viable.

  • justinbc

    Is this the place that was selling Yeungling for $10?

  • Has there ever been a successful venture turning an old firehouse into a bar/restaurant with a fire department motif? Cmon, so played out and won’t cover the scatterbrained operation of its inept management.

    • justinbc

      I thought the one in Harrisburg, PA was pretty decent, and it’s been around for a while so I would say relatively successful. That’s the only good example I can think of though.

    • Blithe

      Not sure about the motif, but as far as I know, the Firehouse Coffee Co. in Canton, Baltimore is doing well. I haven’t eaten there since they first opened up, but the space is great, and its a nice addition to the many other options in the neighborhood.

      • Coffee house is not a bar/restaurant. I would love to see this location become a coffee shop. But the amount of folks who buy/lease an old firehouse and then turn it into a fire dept-themed bar and/or restaurant and expect people to flock to it because… it’s a fire dept-themed eatery/drinkery in an old firehouse is too damn high. Place in downtown Silver Spring, same deal. TERRIBLE bar and restaurant, but hey, it’s an old historic firehouse with a bar/restaurant on it!

  • I wonder if they would consider doing a kid-friendly happy hour a la Bourbon (and previously Reef). There are lots of families with young kids in the neighborhood who could take over that private function space for a few hours of drinks on a Friday early evening.

  • I’ve lived a block away for nearly 15 years. Circa 2004 we had high hopes for this place. Then it took TEN years to open and the neighborhood changed. The deal offered to the owner from the city was amazing (and a very bad deal for taxpayers0 such that he sat on it for nearly a decade with failed attempt to get it open after failed attempt. then he had an operator who sent an “open letter” to the community blaming the neighbors for the fact that he hadn’t got — or even applied for a liquor license. It’s been a comedy of errors.

    Now that it’s open, it’s extremely expensive, the menu is trying to be something that isn’t supportable for a restaurant that size in our neighborhood and they have made no effort to welcome neighbors — with the exception of this long overdue event last night (an aside: they need to fire their graphic designer and get someone better qualified to design those fliers). Soon after they opened I stopped by, explained I was a neighbor and asked to look at a menu. The vibe was almost actively hostile, despite an empty restaurant. I also asked about kids (because the neighborhood is full of them) and they had no interest in having families as customers. This is in direct contrast to any of the other new restaurants who have been absolutely delighted to meet neighbors and very welcoming of kids.

  • it may have no identity and be vacuous and bare, but the service is good and the food is decent. it’s not spectacular, but it’s not bad either and it’s consistent. I often go when I don’t want to go farther than around the corner. I was totally expecting this to be horrible, but it’s just standard. Sometimes standard sticks, look at Shaw’s Tavern. SAME vibe. no identity and standard fare. but on your corner, so you go.

  • I have been here twice, once for a party and the other time with a pretty large group.
    My first impression, at the party upstairs, was that the food and drinks were pretty good but totally over priced. Later, my friend who held the party told me that the management stiffed her out of a bunch of money. Not a good way to make friends with your neighbors…

    My second visit was similar. I group of us went for happy hour, only to find that they have very specific requirements about where you can sit and still get happy hour pricing. There was no where within those boundaries that we could fit. So again, things felt over priced and management was kinda jerky.

  • I’ve gone for dinner and brunch. Both times the food was excellent. Service not so much. I do like the environment though. It could be a little more budget friendly, especially for the area. It has a nice bar with tvs, but the beers are too expensive to hang out for an extended period.

  • I’ve been 6 times, most recently two weekends ago. I live two blocks away but didn’t go to the neighbor night last night. The food ranges from passable to terrible. On three of the visits, there was a problem with delivering the food to the table, either not the right dish, appetizer being brought out after the entree, or getting a bonus dish. I feel like they are trying to hard. On the brunch menu, the only burger they have is open-faced (though they missed medium rare by a mile) and they have a risotto which was down right terrible. I never want to go there, but, they get my business probably in the same fashion that they get all of their business, no table at Boundary Stone, no table at El Camino, no table at Big Bear, no table at Pub and the People.

    • You also forgot:

      No table at Baccio’s, no table at Costa Brava…

      • I also left of Rustik. I’ve been to Costa Brava a couple of times and haven’t been thrilled by the food. So, not planning on going back for dinner (but definitely still enjoy the bar upstairs). I’ve never actually eaten in Baccio, only done take-out. I like being alone when I shove pizza into my face.

  • They’ve started hosting salsa dancing there on Thursday nights. I’ve heard mixed reviews from my dancing friends. Of course, it’s just hard to get any new social going.

  • I went when it was in it’s first iteration (I didn’t realized they had changed anything since they opened), and swore I’d never go back. It was absolutely the worst restaurant experience I’ve ever had in every regard (food, drinks, wait staff, management staff, wait times… you name it).
    Knowing this has changed at all is obviously a step in the right direction, and I really want it to get better (the second floor when we ere there was a lovely atmosphere, and totally looked like a place I’d want to hang out with friends), but I just don’t know how long it will take for me to get over that initial experience.

  • The problem isn’t the place–okay, the purple lights are weird. But otherwise it’s fine. The problem is the prices. They’re 25-35% too high for the neighborhood, and what they’re serving. The food is good, IMHO, but it’s overpriced, so people go elsewhere, and then the place doesn’t have any volume, so they can’t get good servers. If they lowered the prices on their menus, they’d be packed, get better servers, and make the place work. But as it is, they’re not going to make it.

  • We were there for dinner last night around 7 – it was pretty busy. And their pizzas are fantastic!

  • We had a horrible experience here and walked out before we ever got served. It IS expensive for what it is, and the service was really awful. Not sure if the manager is an owner, but he was a mega-jerk to us. I am absolutely not a chill person, but my wife is so I work hard at maintaining my calmest self in bad situations — the one and only time we tried this place, she was the one who finally said we should leave. They were short-tempered, slightly snarky, forgetful, GLACIALLY slow… We witnessed other tables having similar issues.

  • I live 2 blocks away on Bates St, and I’m totally fine with the Firehouse in terms of quality and service. Agree with other commentators that food is decent, a bit heavy, a bit pricey and it’s pizza for the win. (But Baccio’s pizza is better.) If I’m going walk a couple of blocks to sit on a patio and drink some wine, it’s hard to resist Big Bear (although BB has the worst pours in the ‘hood).

    I’ve found the manager quite nice and the crowd (or even the lack of one) diverse. Agree too that the purple lights are weird and some of the finishes are cheap, like the tabletops. I too thought the Shaw’s tavern connection would mean awful food, but Firehouse’s is fine. Wish they’d made the Firehouse look as nice on the inside as Shaw’s Tavern. Speaking of which, why is THAT place so popular? It’s cute, but talk about overpriced food and terrible service!

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