Whitlow’s Bar & Grill, the historic watering hole that debuted in downtown D.C. around the end of World War II before eventually moving to Clarendon and closing last summer, resurfaces inside city limits on Tuesday, August 23.
Now called Whitlow’s DC, the relocated neighborhood hangout starts a new chapter at 5 p.m. in the Shaw space that formerly housed Echo Park (2012 Ninth Street NW). The Hilton hospitality brothers’ short-lived replacement to Gaslight Tavern opened across from the 9:30 Club in early 2020 with a fireplace room, two wood-paneled bars, and airy patio out back.
With room for 200, the D.C. reboot is dramatically smaller than its Whitlow’s on Wilson Clarendon predecessor that fit around 1,000 across its first floor and tiki-styled rooftop.
“Things are going to be different but the same core principles are there,” co-owner Jon Williams tells Eater. “Being laid back, not taking yourself too seriously.”
And of course, ice cold beer. A 10-count draft list makes room for lots of locals like Atlas, Right Proper, and Solace. Cocktails are affordable, at least by D.C. standards ($10-$12). That includes fresh-squeezed crushes with Smirnoff orange vodka and Sprite that cater to its Ocean City-loving regulars. Weekday happy hour also runs later than most (5 p.m. to 8 p.m.) with $5 beers and rail drinks and $8 draft cocktails. Specials run all day on Mondays, and weekly events include “Singo Bingo” Tuesdays and whiskey Wednesdays.
A $10 whiskey “Shaw’t and a beer” combo — a Budweiser or PBR tall boy with a shot of Four Roses Yellow — is a cute nod to its new neighborhood. During a pre-opening training day last week, Williams says members of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office made a surprise cameo appearance to induct the bar back to D.C. An official welcome letter signed by Bowser already hangs up front.
The relatively turnkey-ready space got a Whitlow’s-styled makeover filled with whimsical decor, retro art, mirrors tagged with stickers, and all kinds of treasured trinkets salvaged from its first days in D.C. up until its final hours in Clarendon. Devoted fans might recall the same Elvis-shaped lamp at the back bar or ceramic drinking vessels up above.
Neon signs spelling out old-school beer brands like Stegmaier and Meister Brau perch above the back bar. The doorway connecting the two is framed with an ‘80s-cool “Cocktails” sign with blinking olives. Unfortunately, says Williams, that iconic vertical “Grill” sign that prominently hung out front of its last two iterations was way too large — at 14-feet tall — to install either indoors or out in Shaw.
Founder David Whitlow opened the original Whitlow’s on the corner of 11th and E Streets NW in 1946.
“You’d have FBI agents and factory workers sitting next to federal judges. It was all walks of life. That was what he always instilled in me — to capture that spirit,” says Williams.
The legendary bar relocated across the Potomac River to Arlington, where Whitlow’s On Wilson sat as a 25-year nightlife attraction with live music several nights a week. Whitlow’s 3.0 plans to keep tradition going with DJs and bands playing up front. In a wild coincidence, Echo Park’s existing art deco-styled light fixtures hovering above the copper-topped bar are carbon copies of the Whitlow’s ones in Clarendon.
“This place feels like home,” says Williams.
The whole Shaw bar is set to dimmers that go down as the night goes on.
Framed newspaper articles about Whitlows’ legacy join displayed sports memorabilia like Washington Capitals pendants and framed Nationals prints that honor each D.C. team’s national championship wins. As an ode to its proximity to the 9:30 Club, bathroom artwork showcases music greats like Lizzo, James Brown, and Dave Grohl. Williams says he’s a huge fan of the Foo Fighters frontman, and lucky for him, Grohl plans to open a bar right next to the 9:30 Club.
To start, hours are 5 p.m. on weekdays and 4 p.m. on weekends (which will expand to noon once football season starts). Next-door Andy’s pizza supplies slices for now, and Whitlow’s will roll out its own menu this fall. Look for greatest hits like wings, burgers, grilled cheese, and salads (but days of its all-you-can-eat buffet, complete with crab legs, are over).