Story & Photos by Nicole Pearo Taylor
Rhyd Davies may be from Northern Massachusetts, but he spent his childhood in Adams Morgan, visiting his mom’s family. He takes pride in the quality of the food at Black Squirrel and the abundance of beer, never hesitating to help a customer try out something new.
On Tap: When did you move to DC?
Rhyd Davies: 15 years ago. My aunt has been living in Adams Morgan since the 60s. I thought it was the coolest place on earth when I was a kid. I didn’t think I would end up here in my adult life. But I’m happy!
OT: How did you get into bartending?
RD: I was working in the kitchen here and I got lucky. The bartenders here took me in. It’s a lot better than being a bar back.
OT: How often to you change out the beers?
RD: It’s so busy here. That means we get to switch the beers about every week. We have 57 tap lines—it’s more than anyone else in the city. Other beer bars get a lot of attention because they are so flashy. But we are the real deal.
OT: Do you remember when you first got into craft beers?
RD: Yes, I was doing an internship in Greenville. I was strictly a light beer guy ‘til that point. We went to this Belgium beer bar. I’d never had anything like that before. We just thought the bartender was a wizard of beer. We spent all our money. From there I got into it.
OT: After working here for three years, what food item do you still crave?
RD: Oh my god. The mac ‘n’ cheese. Our chef has a fine dining background, and everything is made from scratch.
Catch Ryhd Saturday through Tuesday and Thursday nights.
In the early 1900s, 18 black Canadian squirrels were released from the National Zoo. They became a part of the neighborhood. Named after these same furry critters, the Black Squirrel is a much appreciated beer bar in the heart of Adams Morgan. Some patrons have chased the chef all around town, as he hopped from spot to spot. Stop by in July to taste their revamped menu.
Black Squirrel: 2427 18th St. NW, DC; 202-232-1011; www.blackquirreldc.com
Ranka Nicholas has been with the company for 15 years, or as she says, forever. This straight-shooting lady knows her way around the bar, and appreciates every walk of life that comes through her door, from the bar crawlers to the goths. On Tap visited on Karaoke night to learn more about her life behind the bar.
On Tap: How did you get into bartending?
Ranka Nicholas: I used to work in Adams Morgan. I’ve been around it since I was 19. It’s the only thing I know how to do.
OT: What is the best part about working here?
RN: Working with my brothers—Kaz and Mohammad. They are so caring. I mean, it’s like this is their house and they invited people over. They would give you the shirt off their back.
OT: Can you describe the regular crowd?
RN: We have a lot of lunch regulars. At night it’s GW students. We have all the kickball kids. They come and flip cups. I still haven’t figured that one out. We have a lot of bar crawlers in here too.
OT: Best item on the food menu?
RN: I like the Chicken Parmesan. Or the lamp chops—those are off the chain. But I’m a cheap date so I’m happy with the Chicken Parm. (laughs)
OT: What is your favorite shift?
RN: It’s goth night on Saturdays. Those girls are so hot. They are so fun to watch. They bring in amazing DJs that play great tunes.
Catch Ranka Monday and Thursday through Saturday.
Outside, an unassuming neon sign marks the entrance to Recessions, the basement bar on L Street. There is little to indicate the lively atmosphere to be found downstairs. With plenty of music, room at the bar, and a dark atmosphere to hide all sorts of mistakes, people flock to Recessions as a way to escape the busy streets outside. Stop in on the July 3rd bar crawl circuit.
Recessions: 1823 L St. NW, DC; 202-296-6686; www.recessionsdc.com
We caught Les Cherry fresh off a trip to Bonnaroo. The laid back local has been at the Tortoise and Hare since it opened five years ago in August. A traveler at heart, he brings a carefree ambiance to the bar.
On Tap: Where are you from?
Les Cherry: I was born in DC. Lived here all my life, with a ‘lil stint in Hawaii.
OT: Why did you choose Hawaii?
LC: Why not? Some friends of mine were starting a bar, they wanted me to come out and help them run it.
OT: When did you get into bartending?
LC: Well, sort of when I was a kid. Ha. In elementary school, my best friend’s neighbors were these really cool vets. They hired us to come over and pour them drinks every Fourth of July. Right when I turned 21, I did catering and went to bartending school.
OT: Would you recommend bartending school to aspiring bartenders?
LC: It depends what sort of bartending you want to do. If you go straight into the clubs, you’ve gotta know every drink in the book and you gotta be fast. But at a neighborhood bar you need to work your way up or know somebody.
OT: What’s your favorite part of working here?
LC: The people I work for. They’ve ruined me for all other bars. This will probably be the last place I work. The owners bartend themselves. And they let me go to Hawaii for three week vacations. I’m very lucky.
OT: What is your favorite way to celebrate the 4th of July?
LC: Normally a few beers, fireworks and friends. I’m usually downtown or at Iwo Jima for the fireworks.
Catch Les behind the bar Tuesday and Friday through Sunday.
Tortoise and Hare was the brainchild of two men who were tired of the 9 to 5, fulfilling their dream of opening their own neighborhood pub. Nestled on the corner of 23rd and Fern in Crystal City, they were the first on the street to regularly feature live music. There is never a cover, and always a good time.
Tortoise and Hare: 567 23rd St. S. Arlington, VA; 703-979-1872; www.tortoiseandharebar.com