The Saloon

The SaloonThe Saloon
The SaloonThe Saloon
Bar, Eatery

1207 U St NW
Washington, District of Columbia, 20009-4442
United States

(202) 462-2640 | map
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Photo of PhilsPils
Reviewed by PhilsPils from Texas

4.36/5  rDev +6.9%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.75
Profits from beer sales help to build schools around the world. Who is not down with that? Good selection of mostly German and Belgian beers. Decent service, I didn't have food. They didn't serve Guinness and were PROUD of it. I like this place a lot!
May 16, 2016
Rated: 4.16 by polopaul20 from Maryland

May 14, 2015
Rated: 4.5 by CB2maltygoodness from District of Columbia

Nov 18, 2014
Rated: 3.75 by Casterbridge from Connecticut

Aug 24, 2014
Rated: 4.25 by Ngntjp from Virginia

Aug 07, 2014
Rated: 3 by starrdogg from District of Columbia

Jan 27, 2014
Rated: 4.25 by seanchai from Virginia

Dec 31, 2013
Photo of FrizWhiz
Reviewed by FrizWhiz from Texas

4.38/5  rDev +7.4%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5
The no standing rule means that everyone gets a good seat. We walked in with a group of five people and they actually moved things around for us so that we could all sit at a table together. Our waiter was courteous and knowledgeable. The service could not have been better.

If you like German or Belgian beers, you'll be very pleased with the selection here. My group was a mix of everyone from beer snobs to people who claimed to not like beer, and everyone found something they enjoyed, poured into appropriate glassware. Just don't ask for a mixed drink.

A quarter is added to every bill to help fund their school construction projects in impoverished countries. The pictures of their projects line the walls and are pretty remarkable.
Jul 23, 2013
Photo of ybba
Reviewed by ybba from District of Columbia

3.3/5  rDev -19.1%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3.5 | service: 2 | selection: 4.5
Usually I'm not too particular about service, but both of the times I've been to the Saloon I've been treated with poor service. The staff is very extremely concerned with seating space, and so they pack customers into their establishment like sardines. Even if you're sitting down for a while, they'll move you to another place to accomodate new guests. My party ended up feeling awkward and uncomfortable. We were happy to leave.

On the good side - The Saloon offers a unique atmosphere with a wide selection of beers; not much on tap though.
Mar 02, 2012
Photo of drabmuh
Reviewed by drabmuh from Maryland

3.93/5  rDev -3.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5
Popped into this place with the wife after eating dinner on U street. I will visit every bar and shop in the district and review it on Beerfly, my beerfly ticking goals.

This looked like a dive and I wasn't expecting much, its nice to be surprised sometimes. First thing you may notice, you have to be seated, please no cell phones at the bar, 5% will be added to your bill if you are rude, no TV. It is a custom at this bar to strike up a conversation with the person next to you. Its a brick bar with wooden beams and there are names on the bricks (some of them). There are tables and seats at the bar, the "bouncer" sat us at the bar.

The beer selection is OK. Nothing too odd or rare, several German ales and lagers on draft, if you like Spaten, this is your place. There are about 20 bottles of Belgian beers available as well.

We didn't order food but the bartender, that turned out to be the owner, was very attentive and helpful. The value was good but most of the beers are served in 0.5L wheat beer glasses, be prepared.

I would definitely go back. The owner of the bar donates a ton of money to charity, approximately 200,000$ over the past 7 years. I can respect someone that does that much.
Sep 27, 2010
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Reviewed by IMZep from Maryland

4.33/5  rDev +6.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4
The first thing most people notice when walking in are the rules: No TV, No Standing. They want you to drink your beer and enjoy it. If that's not your thing, go elsewhere.

The people who work there are great. Friendly, knowledgeable, and most concerned with your enjoying yourself and your beer. Not necessarily in that order. Better still, they sponsor a number of charitable projects and help build schools in Central America and Asia, which they describe with various ads and murals on the walls. So, drinking there, you feel good about yourself even if you don't drink too much.

Selection is mostly German and Belgian beers, with a heavy focus on the Belgians in the back of the menu. There are a few domestics available, as well. All are served in fine glassware, appropriate to the style (did I mention that these people care about what they do?). Reasonable prices overall, from the $4ish Leinenkugel to $9 for a small glass of Urbock 23.

Food is surprisingly good, if basic. The one caveat is that there are more notable places to eat on that block (Ben's...).

Overall a great place and one of my first recommendations for a good beer bar in DC.
Jul 31, 2010
Photo of Travlr
Reviewed by Travlr from District of Columbia

4/5  rDev -2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 3.5
Great atmosphere - no standing, no TVs, no martinis. Don't ask. Bricks are covered with the names of people who have donated to their charitable projects - they build schools in Central America and Asia, and close for a month in August to do it (DC is empty then anyway). The bartender is from Tehran, the server is from Addis Ababa and the cook is from the Caribbean. Smallish selection of decent Belgian and German beers that does not rotate. Friendly staff. Great local crowd. Decent and interesting food. Nice place.
Oct 31, 2009
Photo of Clydesdale
Reviewed by Clydesdale from District of Columbia

3.98/5  rDev -2.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | food: 3
The atmosphere is unique and pretty enjoyable. Laid back, no TVs, no standing. All the rules can be slightly off-putting, but you can't really argue with the results.

Beer selection is definitely very nice. Plenty of interesting German and Belgian options on tap and in bottles. Glassware is appropriate and definitely a nice touch.

Service is quick and curt. Emphasis seems to be on efficiency and staying out of people's conversations.

The selection is high-quality, as mentioned. Beers tend toward a European character, and do a nice job of presenting different styles.

Food was pretty average. The bar food my table ordered was fine but uninspired. Portions were on the smallish side.

In terms of value, definitely not cheap, but you can do worse in DC. Some tasty and uncommon beers available, and for the most part, the prices reflect that pretty fairly.

Overall, a nice place if you'd rather grab a good European beer and chat with friends than stand in a crowd next to blaring speakers drinking $8 Bud Lights.
Aug 04, 2009
Photo of thekanna
Reviewed by thekanna from Maryland

3.9/5  rDev -4.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4
Went here on a Friday night and the place was packed. As you descend into it, there's definitely the dank basement pub feel, not that I'm complaining: they got the right atmosphere down pat.

The beer selection is quite good: mostly high-quality Belgians and Germans. They hype up the Urbock 23, which is a decent brew in its own right, but nothing to wet your pants about, and definitely not worth the high price they charge you. However, I got an extremely fresh Petrus Bruin Dubbel here, practically as fresh as what I had in Belgium. Service was rushed and brusque, so I can't say that it was too great. However, they do manage to keep the bar very European in atmosphere, and I have to say that for sampling the beers they serve, I can't imagine anywhere else more suitable.
Feb 01, 2009
Photo of ZappaCat
Reviewed by ZappaCat from Massachusetts

4.56/5  rDev +11.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4
This was the last stop of my long-weekend tour of DC beer bars, and was BY FAR my favorite. The Saloon manages to be both completely unpretentious while still giving a damn about what they are doing. Most DC establishments seem to be lacking one or both of these very important qualities. Both are absolutely essential to run what I consider to be a successful beer bar.

The first thing you may notice is all of the rules: No standing, no yelling, no cell phones at the bar (among others). Many of these rules are delivered via witty notes in the headers and footers of the menu, as well as by way of signs behind the bar. Definitely a charming touch that lets you know what sort of atmosphere they are looking to present.

The tap list is almost exclusively German, while the bottles are almost entirely Belgian. There is a solid selection on both accounts. Prices run too high for me for the Belgians, and a bit on the high side for the Germans. This is DC, however, and over the course of my tour I've learned that overpricing is standard procedure. I assume real estate prices are absurd...

A few "Saloon exclusive" beers adorn the tap-list. The Amber Lager, for example, is made by blending a marzen and another style of beer (sorry forgot which). Every beer is served in its proper glassware.

The service was excellent. We sat at the bar, and the bartender never missed a beat. Just watching him serve others indicated that he took his job very seriously. Always scanning the bar, keeping on top of who was drinking what and when they might need another; always ready with a thoughtful suggestion. Good bartenders are not always easy to come by so this was a big treat.

I would definitely recommend this place to anyone who wants a relaxing evening filled with delicious beer. I have a feeling if you get too sloppy you'll get cut off quick, but as long as you can hold your beer, you should be fine.
Jan 05, 2009
Photo of blackie
Reviewed by blackie from Oregon

4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4
visited while in the 'hood to pick up some tickets at the Black Cat, and I'll certainly visit again

atmosphere: a few steps down from the sidewalk, smell is musky wood and brick and the construction the same, the only windows are the two facing the sidewalk, a few tables and booths on one side with a ten seat bar on the other and a nice display of glassware, old european signs and various rules hang from the walls behind the bar, pleasantly low lighting gives the place a sort of calming vibe, very rustic and unique, completely lacking in pretense

as for the rules, and I others have mentioned, there are a few...most stressed is the no standing rule, which I like it as it keeps the place uncrowded and relatively quiet, so don't expect to be guaranteed a spot if it's a busy night, and be open to walking to one of the other beerflied spots down the street...others include No TV, no loud talking, and "if you don't like the rules you are free to leave"

quality: seemed fine, good use of glassware

service: the bartender was quick to refill my water and didn't give me any shit for breaking the first rule as I stood at the bar trying to figure out if I wanted to stay or go, though he did gesture towards the stool I was beside, seemed like a nice guy overall and I get the feeling he's the only bartender

selection: thirteen taps mostly German/Austrian, about twenty-five bottles mostly Belgian, Liney's Sunset Wheat and Stella are the closest to macro I found, a few Eggenberg beers on tap including the Urbock which the bar feels the need to boast excessively about

food: on a return visit after my initial review, I had a reuben served with fries, the fries were quite good and very crispy, and the reuben was pretty tasty but way too fatty and greasy

value: my little, and by little I mean about 5 ounce, glass of Urbock was $7...a rip-off for sure, other beers were more reasonably priced but still generally expensive...second visit I had a 0.5 Litre glass of Eggenberg Dunkel that ran about $8
Sep 28, 2008
Photo of alysmith4
Reviewed by alysmith4 from District of Columbia

3.2/5  rDev -21.6%
vibe: 2 | quality: 4 | service: 2 | selection: 4
This place attracted me with the sign advertised outside that mentioned the beer that has such a high alcohol content that patrons are only allowed to order one per visit. So, my friends and I went in and thought we'd give it a try, but of course - they were out of stock.

The place is definitely sparse and there are a lot of "rules" on the menu.. no standing or ordering at the bar, etc. And they were out of a lot of things that we wanted to try and the replacements didn't seem on par with what we were looking for. I don't get the impression that the servers understand beer all that well.
Feb 16, 2008
Photo of VoodooBrew
Reviewed by VoodooBrew from South Carolina

4.3/5  rDev +5.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4
This place is down the street from my brother's house. He had told me about it not too long ago. We stopped in the other night.

The first thing that strikes you is all the rules and disclaimers. No TVs. No Standing. That's right on the front door. I suppose I've heard of bars without TVs before -- that's no big deal -- but no standing? Now that's a new one.

We sat down at the bar and the bartender, an older guy with graying hair and whose ethnicity I couldn't quite place, opened up some menus and set them in front of us. More funny rules in the menu. I wish I could remember them all.

The bartender took our orders and then folded up the menus and set them aside. More than once I grabbed for the menu to peruse it only to have the bartender take it up again. Not with malice; just because it's part of their service I guess.

I ordered an Optimator on tap. The beer selection is mostly German and Belgian options -- tap and bottle. Good glassware with careful pours. Somewhere in the middle of our round the bartender laid down a plate with some pistachios on it. Nice.

Prices were not terribly bad for D.C. I wish we could have spent more time there but last call arrived and we got the boot.

Check this place out. Just don't stand.
Jan 08, 2008
Photo of shivtim
Reviewed by shivtim from Georgia

3.86/5  rDev -5.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5
This place is one of the few beer bars in DC without TVs, so that can be a big plus depending on what you're looking for. It's a relatively small space with low ceilings and a very cozy feel. Lots of beer stuff on the walls. There's 12 on tap and 11 in bottles. I didn't see a separate bottled list, and the bartender didn't tell me about one; it was just those 11 that were advertised. It's a decent (odd) selection, that has some interesting stuff but could use some more options. It's heavily German/European. The crowd is a great mix of people; there seemed to be a lot of regulars. Good glassware is used, and service was average to good.
May 12, 2007
Photo of jslot38
Reviewed by jslot38 from South Carolina

4.33/5  rDev +6.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4
This is certainly a place to stop if you are in the U-Street or Adams Morgan districts of DC. Went here with pbr85 and had a very pleasant experience. We went on a thursday night at around 7pm. We walked in and the bar to the left had mostly people that looked like regulars in conversation with the bar tender who seemed very nice. We were eating so we choose to grab a table. It took a few moments for our waiter to come over, not a big deal we weren't in a rush and knew that this place is pretty laid back.

Our waiter was very nice and very prompt with our beer and food. My first beer was a black lager, Kostritzer. This was nice, as I can't find too many black lagers in the stores. Second beer was Spaten Dunkel. This too was good. Both were served in the proper glassware (although there was ice in my second one, a simple mistake that they quickly fixed). The selection is primarily german and belgian (with the tap exception of Brooklyn's Pennant Ale). The bottles remain the same, but there are a few american's thrown in here and there. They have a nice selection, one that is proud of its quality and not quantity, a nice respit from many beer bars. The food was good, and the prices are reasonable (they do offer $2 off tap beers for happy hour too).

All in all, after a nice game of chess around a nice beer this was a more than pleasant experience and one that I will look forward to having again. A top notch place.
Jan 17, 2007
Photo of pbr85
Reviewed by pbr85 from New York

4.33/5  rDev +6.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4
As other reviewers mentioned, don't go to this bar if you enjoy sitting around drinking beer and watching tv. There is a nicely setup bar as you walk in to the left and a fair amount of seating on the left. We went around 6:30 on a Thursday and the place was pretty empty but started to get more crowded as we ate. Beer list is alot of German and Belgian stuff, with some rareties on tap. Food was good and came out quickly and the beer came out quickly too. They have some chess and backgammon sets to play too. Had a Leinenkugel and a Spaten Maibock. Both came in proper glassware and were fresh and delicious
Jan 12, 2007
Photo of jaluria
Reviewed by jaluria from Connecticut

4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4
I happened to stop by this place before a show at the 9:30 club on a Friday, having noticed it a few times before. The place is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

From the outside, the bar looks small and can easily be overlooked. The tap list is on display just outside the front door which is a few steps down from the sidewalk. When you walk in, the atmosphere is cozy with a number of tables scattered about and a small bar lined with stools. Dark wood furniture, brass and metal accents, and a large number of emptied bottles decorate the interior.
The space is not very wide, but rather deep with the bathrooms and kitchen all the way in the back. On a Friday, around 8:30pm, there were several tables unoccupied as well as 1 or 2 seats at the bar.
The beer list is impressive in quality with pages of bottled beers. The main focus seems to be on Belgian and German beers. The tap list was not as impressive with 2 out of the 10 taps out. Of the remaining taps, three were of Spaten beers (Maibock, Lager, and Dunkel). I enjoyed both the Maibock and the Dunkel and I was happy to see both beers served in the proper glassware (the dunkel was served in a tall, curvy, 0.5L glass).
I didn't try the food, but it looked good as nearby tables received their orders.
It should be noted that there are no TVs, pool tables, etc. in this and conversation are the center of attention. Our server was very friendly and knowledgeable. He made a few recommendations for my wife as she is partial to Scottish ales, but none were on-tap. He brought us a glass of water when he saw that we had tasted each others' beers, saying that the water would help cleanse the palate. He was also eager to hear what we thought of the beers we ordered and that was nice.
Overall, I really liked the atmosphere of the place and would definitely go back again.
Apr 17, 2006
Photo of mtullius
Reviewed by mtullius from Minnesota

4.6/5  rDev +12.7%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5
For the 2 years that I lived in DC (up until 6 months ago), this was without question my favorite bar. Does it have the best beer selection in DC? Nope-- for that, go to RFD or the Brickskeller. Does it have the best food? Probably not, though what I've had has been good.

What makes the Saloon great? Its atmosphere, which, as other reviewers have noted, is the closest thing to a neighborhood, old world pub you'll find in DC or most other big cities.

They have a varied and unique selection of drafts (complemented by a fairly extensive bottle list), mostly German stuff. The regular bartender, Robert, is the best bartender I've ever met and generally a great guy-- he loves beer, is ridiculously well-travelled and well-read, and is generous and kind. Some time spent chatting with him will be time well spent.

The overall atmosphere of the place varies tremendously depending on when you're there. U Street tends to heat up rather late in the evening-- if you're at the Saloon any time before midnight, it's likely to be fairly quiet. Come back after catching a show at the 9:30 Club (a short walk away) and it'll likely be crowded and loud.

As other folks have mentioned, good beer and good conversation are paramount here. Most times I was there, it appeared that at least half of the patrons at the bar were regulars, chatting with each other and the bartender. All the folks I met there were friendly and beer-loving. Good people.

If I had lived closer to the Saloon, I would have spent all my free time there. Now that I live hundreds of miles away, I miss it terribly... Go, and tell Robert that Eric sent you.
Dec 12, 2005
Photo of Starchild
Reviewed by Starchild from New Jersey

4.24/5  rDev +3.9%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4
After about a month of thinking about The Saloon, I finally made my way on the green line over to U street. I fantasied about a western theme bars complete with swinging doors and a hitching post for my horse, but no such luck. Still, I did find a wonderful beer bar with quaint ambiance. The bar reminded me of a local European watering hole thats had former lives.

They had about 12 taps of mostly European lagers, which is not my strongest suit. I’m more of an American ale drinker, but the lagers ran the gamut from pale lagers to black lagers and from maibocks to eisbocks. I don’t recall seeing any American beers on tap besides Flying Fish dubbel, which seemed out of place ..but lets not let one bad beer undermine a whole establishment. They had about eight different glasses to go along with beers on tap and serving were around 22 oz. They also offered a few bottles like Delium Tremens, which seems to be all over the place and is most likely a clever Republican marketing ploy.

The bald bartender wasn’t too talkative about the beers, but gladly offered samples. He kept the beers coming and used proper one point moving from a smaller goblet into a sniffer about two ounces smaller....which both impressed me and seemed a little much, as I’ve never made such a minor adjustment in my glassware selection.

In conclusion, the Saloon seems like a friendly bar to saddle up with you friends and enjoy some beer. The patrons seemed both young and old, yet not as upwardly mobile as some trendier places down the U St. strip I had a black lager and an Eggenberg brew and wished I could of paired these brews with the Bens chili dog with cheese which came later in the night. Check it out.
Apr 23, 2005
Photo of eldondre
Reviewed by eldondre from Pennsylvania

4.14/5  rDev +1.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5
As a Philadelphia beer drinker, (a city with a well developed pub culture), this is the place I've been most impressed with in DC. This the closest thing to a pub feel I've seen in the city. The selection was pretty varied. The waitstaff was pretty friendly and knowledgable. They concentrated on Belgians but also had a compliment of regional beer. The bar does not have a TV, it is definitely all about the beer and conversation. A welcome respite from the DC scene which can tend towards appearance.
Apr 15, 2005
The Saloon in Washington, DC
Place rating: 4.08 out of 5 with 25 ratings