City Paper is not for tourists
The Drink: Bartender’s choice
The Location: The Space, 9th and N Streets NW
The Price: $11
The Buzz: I live in Shaw, a neighborhood desperate for bars, so I was naturally thrilled when I heard a bar was opening at 9th and N. It turns out this bar, The Space, has been shrouded in a bit of mystery, which some people seem to find offensive. It will eventually be a members-only joint, but it hasn’t jumped to that status quite yet. My boyfriend and I decided to check it out. The only sign that the bar even exists is the bouncers standing outside. We ask one if The Space is still open to the public. He raises an eyebrow. We say we read about the bar and thought it was still open. “You read about it?” he asks and looks us up and down. I was starting to feel like the last kid picked for kickball when he gives us a huge smile, opens the door, and says, “Welcome to the Space.”
The bar is in an old carriage house, elegantly decorated in white and black. We get our drinks and sit on a couch. The room is spacious, it’s not crowded, it’s soothing, and we are able to have a conversation and unwind. It’s a far cry from Vegetate, where we had just tried to get a drink. The bar was packed, the DJ was loud, people were yelling, there was barely room to stand, and the bartender was so busy we couldn’t even catch her eye. While I’m happy to see Vegetate busy and finally enjoying a liquor license, it didn’t fit our mood. Which is why I think it’s silly for people to have a problem with a bar requiring a membership. What’s crazy about paying for ambience? When you tip a waiter or bartender, you are paying for service. It makes sense that you can also pay for a bar where there’s room to sit down, a bar where the bartender can help you quickly, a bar where people aren’t slamming shots of SoCo and lime and puking in the bathroom. And yes, not everyone will be able to afford it. But not everyone can afford, say, courtside season tickets—-that’s just how it is. So while a membership probably isn’t in my future, I’m going to enjoy The Space while I can.
And the first night was a good start. Since they don’t have specialty cocktails, I ask the bartender to make me something of her choosing—-something I could/would never do at a bar slammed with happy-hour rushes like pretty much every other bar at that time of day. She shakes Hangar One Fraser River Raspberry vodka and strains it into a martini glass. (I’ve recently fallen in love with the creamy, smooth taste of Hangar One.) She tops it off with Veuve Clicquot and pours some Chambord down the side. For a garnish, she coats an orange twist with sugar and hangs it over the edge like a shrimp tail. The raspberry presence is strong but fresh-tasting, and the bubbly keeps it from being syrupy or too sweet. It’s delicious, and I’m able to enjoy every sip while sitting on a comfortable couch and having a quiet talk, and that is pretty valuable to me.