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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

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.

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