This weekend, the Union Market district in Northeast will get the closest thing to a dive bar that the now-trendy, wholesaler-heavy neighborhood can accommodate.
Gina Chersevani, the prolific bartender who owns the Buffalo and Bergen soda shop inside Union Market, will open Last Call on Friday. The unassuming, 45-seat bar slides into a 1940s-era cafeteria space (1301-A Fourth Street NE) that’s been vacant for years.
The opening menu has four beers priced at $3 (think Naturdays and Budweiser), and seasonal Schlafly Oktoberfest runs $5. A short list of drafts ($6 to $7) shows love for homegrown brews like Atlas and DC Brau.
“This place is built for fun — to watch the game, chill out with a drink and sandwich, and be in and out for $11,” she says.
While the neighborhood has seen an influx of new dining options — Latin American market La Cosecha, Island getaway-themed Coconut Club, and Brooklyn import St. Anselm, for example — none are slinging the type of discounted drinks that Chersevani has in mind. A carbonated Old Fashioned on draft and an Aperol “Schlitz” are each $6. A customized “pick whatever” and soda is $7. The bubbly Old Fashioned is inspired by the ‘50s trend of making the classic with club soda. It’s already an early hit; during a pre-opening event with the landlord, they went through a three-gallon tank in less than two hours.
A vintage fridge (still en route) will help store an expanded canned and bottled collection, many of which will be $3. Even White Claw hard seltzer, which goes for $7 at most millennial-targeted bars around town, will be $3. A quick wine list (sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon) is $4 a glass.
The mismatched glassware collection includes everything from giant margarita glasses from Sauza to ones she amassed while working at long-closed PS7’s in Penn Quarterr.
“[Drinks] could be in a giant wine goblet or a DC Brau glass,” she says.
The priciest drink of the bunch is an $11 frozen Irish coffee, designed to keep late-night patrons perked up with Jameson Irish Whiskey, Irish cream, coffee, bourbon vanilla bean, and a green chartreuse float.
Cocktail names are odes to some of her all-time favorite bars. That Irish coffee, called the “Erin Rose,” is named after her first stop in New Orleans after a flight.
Lil Pub Jell-O shots ($3) refer to the longstanding bar on Pennsylvania Avenue NW she used to frequent with college friends in D.C.
While beers and cocktails are the main event, a short list of drinking snacks includes three $8 paninis: grilled cheese; turkey, bacon, pesto, and mozzarella; and a carnitas variety with manchego, pickled peppers, and avocado. Pimento and French onion dips are paired with Zapp’s or Snacklins’ — a homegrown chip brand making a televised pitch this Sunday on Shark Tank.
Chef Adam Miller, an O-Ku alum, plans to switch up ingredients and menu items as seasons change (look for a brisket panini soon).
Behind black metal grate doors, buzzed guests can stay occupied playing vintage pinball or Pacman. Sports will be a mainstay on four large-screen TVs. To mark the Nationals’ first appearance in the World Series, Chersevani developed a “Cocktails With Natitude” menu of $6 drinks with names like Howie’s Hurricane and Apple Zimmerman.
The quirkiest form of entertainment inside Last Call will be a stage perched above the bar where a singer will climb and croon over guests.
Green and yellow lockers from an old Hillshire Farm facility line the walls, joined by mirrors fashioned from old Campari and Red Bull signs. An orange rocking chair from the 1950s found a new home in the bathroom.
“There’s all these oddities I love about it,” Chersevani says.
She also encourages guests to lend a hand in the design by tagging what she calls an “ugly” bar with stickers. As long as it’s not offensive, any sticker is allowed.
“Maybe you work at the Post Office or you’re visiting from New York and you have a Big Apple one. We want the bar top covered in stickers that tell a story,” she says.
Chersevani already has a steady stream of followers from Buffalo and Bergen. She also directs the Airstream trailer drink cart, dubbed Suburbia, parked outside. Washingtonian first reported about her latest project and released more details today.
Last Call will be open seven days a week from 5 p.m. until (duh) last call. She plans to play Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” religiously every night at the bar’s eponymous closing time.
“My mantra is all are beautiful at last call,” she says. “All are welcome and all are beautiful — especially after 20 drinks at last call.”