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Vagabond’s basement bar pays homage to Patrick Swayze.
Erich Morse

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Dupont’s Fun New Vacation Bar Features the Beer From ‘Dirty Dancing’

Vagabond opens with tinned sardines, clarified coconut milk cocktails, and a big Patrick Swayze obsession

The owners of Shaw Tavern, 801, and Prost DC expand to Dupont Circle tonight with the debut of Vagabond, a dreamy new bar that taps into the team’s shared love for surfing, sandy travel destinations around the world, and late actor Patrick Swayze.

Restaurateur Eric Heidenberger completely transformed the old Rebellion space into a two-part venture that starts with a bright bar and dining room covered in whitewashed decor, pops of turquoise, leafy palms, pebbled flooring, and tropical photos (1836 18th Street NW). The wanderlust undertone carries over into a globe-trotting menu showcasing cuisines from Portugal (tinned sardines and wood-fired prawns), Hawaii (ahi tuna ceviche), and Mexico (quesabirria), with a cocktail program big on mezcal, tequila, rum, and dehydrated fruits.

Down below, a surprise speakeasy called Swayze’s pays tribute to the team’s celebrity man crush.

Vagabond is in permanent vacation mode.
Erich Morse

“We’ve all had an admiration for Patrick most of our lives, starting with Point Break and Road House,” says Heidenberger. The lengthy layout lent well for a themed bar-within-a-bar. “It started as a joke and snowballed,” he says. Vagabond’s partners include Frank Wilson, Alex Heidenberger, Dick Heidenberger, and Michael Tobin.

The same brand of Utica Club Beer that a sweaty Swayze sipped while shimmying in cult ‘80s movie Dirty Dancing is served downstairs by the can. A rep coincidentally came into their German bar Prost with the New York brewery’s hard-to-find lager. “We had wanted to get it and didn’t know who sourced it,” he says. (Along with its movie cameo, Utica Club’s claim to fame is it’s the first beer sold the night Prohibition ended.)

Back upstairs, a paloma-like “Cerritos Beach” features clarified coconut milk, mezcal, grapefruit, lime, and grapefruit soda. An island-hopping beer list includes Puerto Rican lager Medalla Light and Maui Brewing Co.’s hoppy IPA.

A beachy bar upon entry connects to a dining room area.
Erich Morse
“Rebellion was great neighborhood bar but we wanted to make [the space] more of a full-service restaurant,” says owner Eric Heidenberger.
Erich Morse
The seafood-heavy menu comes from executive chef Roberto Ascencio.
Erich Morse
Quesabirria (short rib, chihuahua cheese, and consomme dipping sauce).
Erich Morse
Red beet hummus dip with pistachio dust and grilled pita bread.
Erich Morse

One of Heidenberger’s favorite vacation spots is Lagos, a rustic cliff town in southern Portugal he’s visited with his wife. “Wherever you travel you connect with the cultures through dining out and meeting the people,” he says.

Vagabond offers diners a taste of Portugal via tinned sardines with lemon and herbs alongside grilled toasts and seafood butter and a fisherman’s stew brimming with clams, mussels, calamari, fish, and shrimp. “We are trying to source from purveyors that are able to get authentic supplies from these destinations,” he says.

A wood-fired grill prepares whole fish, octopus, and prawns, and double-patty sliders arrive on King’s Hawaiian rolls.

The Las Dunas is a homemade pineapple-infused vodka martini with coconut lime foam.
Erich Morse
The downstairs bar top, covered in vintage postcards and surf shop decals, plays up the travel theme.
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC

To start, hours are 4 p.m. to midnight on Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15. Thursday joins the mix next week, along with extended hours from 4 p.m. until 3 a.m. on weekends (Swayze’s opens at 10 p.m.). Daily hours and weekend brunch (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) will come later.

Southern bourbon bar Rebellion closed in 2020 and Heidenberger bought the whole building in 2021, which includes dive bar Larry’s next door.

Builder Matthew Shannon-Browne was tasked with rehabbing the aging space, which included refreshing and expanding downstairs bathrooms with tiger print wallpaper and smoky mirrors. A DJ booth and playlist connects to the same high-quality sound system used by Miami nightclub E11EVEN.

Movie quotes inspire cocktail names down at Swayze’s, with a huge graffiti mural from artist Randi Kontner.
Leo Lee

Heidenberger also plans to use Swayze’s as a private events space and host themed nights around its famous namesake. Recreating a scene out of Ghost with clay-spinning classes is just one idea.

“We are looking forward to having some fun down there,” he says.

Coconut ice cream at Vagabond.
Erich Morse
A tiled stairwell leads to a breezy rooftop deck.
Erich Morse
A rooftop bar will fully come to life next summer.
Erich Morse
Vagabond’s outdoor patio is covered with fringed umbrellas.
Erich Morse

Bali graphic design firm Studio Sedano put together Vagabond’s branding and menus. Here’s a first look:

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