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Bars Behind Refrigerator Doors Are So Hot Right Now

Two secretive spots debuted in D.C. this month

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After washing off chicken residue, enter this door at Chicken + Whiskey to get a fill of whiskeys and vinyl music.
Tierney Plumb
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Two new and wildly different bars in D.C. share the same kind of inconspicuous entrance: a refrigerator door.

Eater examines this latest phenomenon.

Chicken + Whiskey

The Spot: 1738 14th Street NW

The Players: Maryland-based Star Restaurant Group

The Situation: After devouring slow-brined Peruvian chicken at the front portion of the brand new 14th Street NW restaurant, keep walking to enter the “+ Whiskey” part of the venture; the drinking den opens at 5 p.m. weekdays and noon on weekends. A communal hand-washing station positioned right outside the entrance to the 50-person bar is clutch.

The Scoop: There’s no list for the relaxed space; admittance is on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Drinks: Prices are compatible with dive bars, the team tells Eater; think cocktails for $10, while pours of bourbon, vodka, and rum start at $7 (see list below). The focal point is its dozens of rare whiskies, including a featured one each week (right now it’s blended Japanese Suntory Whisky Toki). Another fun pick: the $6 “PBR Fully Dressed” summons a tall boy doctored with hot sauce, lime, and salt.

The Vibe: Managing principal (and former DJ) Charles Koch is tapping into his personal inventory of vinyl records to curate a retro music program. The hope is after-brunch dance parties happen organically.

The BackRoom

The Spot: 715 Florida Avenue NW

The Players: Andy Seligman, Brian Vasile (Brickside Food & Drink in Bethesda, Md., and Grand Central DC)

The Situation: The new casual Capo Deli houses a sizable “secret” bar that fits 100. The scene screams lounge, with a glitzy clump of chandeliers in the center, sleek seating, and dim lighting.

The Scoop: Guests need a personal e-invite from one of the co-owners to receive an online access code. Registered guests are listed at the door, run by a seated bouncer. Open weekends at 9 p.m. to start; Wednesday and Thursday could be added soon.

The Drinks: House cocktails ($12.50) include The Boot (Smirnoff Red, Southern Comfort, frangelico, fresh lime, amaretto, ginger beer) and Shaw’s Rising (orange, cherries, Absolut Mandarin, Maraschino liqueur, amaretto).

The Vibe: There’s no DJ or dance floor, but on a recent Saturday night Barcelona musician Raul Del Moral was manning the music.

A peek inside Capo Deli’s BackRoom bar.
[Brian Vasile]

While the freezer door front is new territory for D.C., it’s long been utilized in other cities. Take Smoke and Mirrors, the since-shuttered club inside The Standard West Hollywood that made patrons weave through a kitchen before entering.

And New York City was naturally in on the game early. There’s a speakeasy hidden behind a hardware store, while Brooklyn’s new La Milagrosa Agave Bar and Listening Room looks like a deli from the outside but packs music, mezcal cocktails and ceviche behind a freezer door.