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Taking a Dive: A night at Dan's Cafe

Dan's Cafe


Have you ever wanted to be served alcohol in a squeeze bottle? If so, then welcome to Dan’s Café, a DC institution for many years. Located in historic Adams-Morgan, it is widely known for being the gold standard of dive bars in DC. This reporter decided to put it to the test.

The place had beer signs with a combined age of around 125 years, giving it an authentic feel. The ceiling tiles and linoleum floors had definitely seen better days, but this is a dive bar after all. The wood panel drink holders that ran along the length of the bar were a nice touch.

Our bartender for the evening was a gentleman named Tracy. When asked what the specials were, he gleefully said “Everything is special here.” A regular mixed drink was $7.00, but you could also get a pint of the alcohol of your choosing served in a squeeze bottle with ice for $18 (plus a $5 deposit you get back when you return the bottle). The mixer is then provided next to the bottle. In this case, a rum and Coke was ordered and a bottle of rum and can of Coke were given with two shot glasses. Needless to say, the notes on this reporter’s phone stopped making sense pretty quickly.

Dan’s also offered bottled domestic beer for $3.50, which is a great price anywhere. This reporter wisely switched to Rolling Rock, and was served one on the house unsolicited at the end of the night. (Pro Tip: If you are friendly, tip well, and never ask for one, you will get many more comps over the course of your drinking career). Also, it is a cash only establishment and there’s no ATM, so if you’re planning on multiple rounds, make sure you are prepared.

The crowd was more of a mid to late 20’s crowd, and the tables and chairs throughout mean the place doesn’t lend it self to the grinding usually found in AdMo establishments, which is a huge plus. For the most part the people were friendly. One gentlemen offered to squeeze a shot of SoCo & Lime in this reporter’s mouth, which was damned delicious.

Prior to the visit, many people warned of the distinct smell of the place, stating it smelled like a word that rhymes with “burine”. There was, in fact, an odor, but it was more the musk of old age and certainly did not stop the crowds from piling in.

The only real knock on the place is that when it does get busy, with only one bartender the service time slows, though certainly not from lack of effort. It was certainly not slow enough to warrant the reaction from the two jerks who stormed out without leaving a tip.

All in all, if you can handle the musk, like to get drunk, and are not afraid of strangers pouring booze in your mouth, Dan’s is the place for you.

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