Ayam Goreng Berempah at Thirsty Crow
Ayam Goreng Berempah at Thirsty Crow Credit: Laura Hayes

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Catch a game at Thirsty Crow once the sports bar reopens Sept. 9 in Columbia Heights. Instead of standard pub grub like wings and onion rings, fans will find a tight menu of fiery Southeast Asian fare from Chef James Wozniuk and his business partner Lukas Umana. The bar is located below its sister restaurant, Makan, which opened in March 2020 and specializes in Malaysian food. You might remember making memories in both spaces when they housed Meridian Pint

While Thirsty Crow was open for a stint in 2019, the basement bar has gotten a major reboot in the form of a collection of 14 flatscreen televisions, an updated sound system, fresh artwork, and a different bar configuration. “It’s 70 percent sports bar and 30 percent low-key lounge,” Wozniuk says. “Not everybody wants sports.” There’s a designated area that is more appropriate for a date night or catching up with friends.

If you do want sports, Thirsty Crow will have NFL Sunday Ticket, NBA League Pass, MLB Extra Innings, NHL Center Ice Packages, Premier League matches, and will air other high-profile soccer leagues and matches. The 2,000-square foot establishment, outfitted in neon murals by artist Fuck Luxury, has 21 seats at the bar, 24 seats in the cocktail lounge, and about 55 seats in the main bar area.

Wozniuk, who previously cooked at Maketto and Spoken English, will continue leaning on Malaysian dishes and ingredients like curry leaf, anchovies, and sambals, but he gave himself more leeway to experiment at Thirsty Crow. “Upstairs is straight Malaysian,” he says. “I keep it as close to what I was eating in Malaysia. Down here we can relax on that a little and touch on some other dishes I love.” 

There are some carry over dishes from upstairs and Wozniuk says he’ll add new dishes to the menu as Thirsty Crow finds more staff. He’s secured a pair of ovens that will eventually allow him to add roast chicken, roast duck, and crispy skin pork belly to the menu. 

For now, try bak kwa (Chinese pork jerky), ayam goreng berempah (spiced fried chicken with spicy crumble, tomato sambal, and cucumber), and nasi goreng (fried rice with Chinese sausage, egg, yu choy, scallion, and chili.)  

Try a cocktail ($15 each) from beverage director Suzanne Critchlow. She’s most proud of the “Asam Boi Sour,” which is inspired by a thirst quenching lime and salted plum Malaysian elixir. She combines bourbon, sweet vermouth, plum, mace, and lime for a slightly salty tipple. Another cocktail is inspired by the warming pineapple pickle Makan serves. The highball-style drink contains mezcal, coconut, sous vide pineapple, chili, hard spice, and allium.

There are 15 beers and ciders on draft, including a number of local picks from City-State Brewing Co., Silver Branch Brewing Company, Cushwa Brewing Co., Union Craft Brewing, Vasen Brewing, and Supreme Core. See the food and drink menus here or below.

Wozniuk also envisions Thirsty Crow as a place to grab a drink and play some free pool (first come, first served) while waiting for a table upstairs at Makan. The hours will be Mondays through Thursdays from 5 p.m. to midnight, Fridays from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to midnight. Reservations will be available in the future.

Thirsty Crow, 3400 11th St. NW; (202) 730-2295; thirstycrowdc.com