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Zoo Bar Cafe, Steve McKinney's Unlikely Dive Bar with Live Blues On Connecticut Avenue at the Zoo - Closed, Perhaps Permanently


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The Zoo Bar jumped the shark as soon as they named it the "Zoo Bar."* It has the distinction of being one of two bars that I have been thrown out of, the other being Chaplins**.

Is the definition/recognition of a dive bar in flux with the smoking ban and the rise of microbrews?

Trivia Questions:

* Anyone remember it's actual name, as it appeared on your credit card statement?

** Where was Chaplins, and what's in the space now?

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The zoo bar is among my favorite dives in DC. First, you can smoke and drink outside on the patio. Second, you are a mere stumble from vace to get a slice to soak up the booze in your gullet and finally there are always the same 5 or so old men there drinking and holding court. Love it.

Bad thing is that it is kind of pricey for a "dive bar".

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I'm with Heather in condemning their official adoption of The Zoo Bar as their name but I think it still has decent dive cred. We spent a summer living in the apartment building that surrounds it and one of the defining sensual recollections is the smell of the bar's deep fat fryer, which apparently vented directly into the building's elevator shaft. They don't change that oil very often.

We've also heard some decent bands there. Or they sounded decent at 11:30 on a Saturday night, which is good enough for me.

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The Zoo Bar is great for what it is, and unless you count Murphy's, which is always filled with hotel guests, it's the only real neighborhood bar in Woodley Park. The patio is a great spot for having a drink on a weekday evening, and that stretch of Connecticut Avenue is surprisingly quiet and pleasant around that time of day. But like WoodleyGrrl mentioned, the drink prices are more tourist trap than dive bar. Don't be surprised to pay around $6 for a Bass Ale. Pitchers are your best bet, if I remember correctly.

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We've also heard some decent bands there. Or they sounded decent at 11:30 on a Saturday night, which is good enough for me.
As someone who used to live across the street and down the block, my only experience w Zoo Bar is throwing on a raincoat, walking over and pleading with them to close their doors when I needed to concentrate or sleep. :rolleyes:
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"When I gave up smoking, drinking (*) and sex it was the most miserable hour of my life."

That little sign on the wall gives you a pretty good idea of what you'll find in Zoo Bar, an uncompromising dive bar given its location. I stopped in last night for a bottle of Harp Lager ($5.50), and was brought back down to earth by the price, but like several of the posts above imply, Zoo Bar (despite being officially renamed "The Zoo Bar Cafe" in 2003) has not strayed from its humble roots.

(*) No Harvard comma here.

Cheers,

Rocks

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The Zoo Bar makes a pretty darn good club sandwich (The Club 3000)...the rest of the food looked mediocre at best...but the club, not bad at all.

I feel like the Zoo Bar, if in another part of DC, would certainly rank as a good neighborhood dive bar...being across from the Zoo, brings down its cred a notch or two. But, on a Saturday afternoon, there was clearly a group of regulars hanging out, and some old guy was sitting in the corner playing chess on his computer, and did not look like he was leaving anytime soon! Next time I'll have to check out the bar's music scene!

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Apparently I am the only one who is going to post about Zoo Bar in the past 4 years.

At 1am today I will bet that no one else is listening to better live music in the DC metro area. Random band who plays the first Friday of every month throwing down Cross Roads. Awesome .

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Apparently I am the only one who is going to post about Zoo Bar in the past 4 years.

At 1am today I will bet that no one else is listening to better live music in the DC metro area. Random band who plays the first Friday of every month throwing down Cross Roads. Awesome .

You get the most out of life, Martin.

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Aw, I love Zoo Bar! It's like a favorite comfy sweater of a bar--you can hang on to it for years and years through different stages of life and it still fits just right.

I popped in on and off--maybe a couple of times a year--through my late 20s and early 30s. It was always a great place to grab a drink after a Saturday afternoon wandering around the zoo before heading down to The Reef rooftop bar (RIP).

It was the first bar my kid ever went to. He must have been about 2 weeks old. I remember a visit about a year or so later where we made a makeshift high chair by strapping a baby carrier to whatever booster seat they gave us just so he wouldn't escape. These days it's a reliable stop for a decent meal post-Zoo visit. There's always room inside, the prices are very reasonable, and the kid's menu hits the spot.

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is that a hint?

Ripple, Ardeo Bardeo, Weygandt's, Indique, Vace, Fat Pete's (at least Tim Carmen rates), Cleveland Park Liquor (solid beer/wine selection). St. Arnold's is solid, as is Spices. Don't forget Atomic Billiards. At least 4 places have live music. And cross the bridge for one of DC's best dive bars - Zoo Bar. There's plenty of life in CP.

Popville June 2015:  "Legendary Zoo Bar's Owner Diagnosed with Cancer; Bar in Danger of Closing; Daughter Launches Fundraiser"

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Wow.  Sad news to hear.  I spoke with him not too long ago...but it could have been before this news.  Don't recall.  Steve Mckinnie took the bar school course in Arlington possibly 20 or more years ago.  He opened a bar in a hotel and later purchased the Zoo Bar site, running it for the last 15 years.  I actually don't know him;  we've only spoken.  Now I've been there, but its been a way long time.  Hey...a neighborhood bar with music from many blues players, some quite good.  No cover.  That is a gift.

Steve mentioned to me that while he's bartended a lot, nobody has ever hired him.   ;)   He's bartended at his own joints.  Good for him.  As to the food...well its been a long time for me.  Its a neighborhood joint.  Its got beer, burgers, and its been dedicated to musicians who don't get a lot of play in a lot of venues.  And its been free;  no cover.  Again that is a gift.

One other note that he passed on in conversation....one of his bartenders, possibly trained at the school went on to become a sommelier in California.  He was proud of that.  It speaks to the industry and it speaks to his affection and connection to employees.  Damn, I didn't meet him....but he was very nice on the phone and we have had a couple of conversations over a few years.  Damn...need to do something.

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Been drinking since 4:30 pm Friday. Tonight was the best night of music that I've witnessed at the Zoo Bar. 

That's because you've been drinking since 4:30 pm Friday.

:lol:  :lol:

Probably seeing double by now.

I haven't "witnessed" music in a long time. Keep drinking!

This will enhance your Zoo Bar experience: play both of these at the exact same time, while concentrating on the two young guns trading licks :unsure:, and imagine what's going on right now across the street ... they're trying to get Mei Shong pregnant, right this very second.

Let me know if you come up with any kind of quantum theories - the Sun is going to explode sooner than many people think.

I started at 4:25 ... see you in the gutter.

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They had a piece of paper taped to their door all weekend saying "closed today and tomorrow". I was fearing the worst.

In other zoo food news, Frozen Yo has re-opened under new management, now serving Famous Nathan hot dogs.

That's kind of an apt statement about the world. Sigh.

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Per a statement posted on the FB page of one of the bands that plays regularly at the Zoo Bar, the bar is in the process of being sold and due to some unstated "legal issue" the bar is closed until further notice.

That's so strange. I just saw FB photos of a friend bartending there in the past week as he had just been hired.

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