Thursday, January 19, 2012


We meet a lot of people that grew up in the DC metro area who comment on the fact that we've seen and done more in our time here than they have. Some of that is because we actively seek out new experiences, and some of it is because we came to DC as adults and don't have our favorite places pre-established from childhood. Nevertheless, it is sad for us to hear that many locals have never toured the Capitol, been to the Smithsonian, or eaten at Ben's Chili Bowl. Washington is a world class city that draws millions of people to it every year. For locals to say that they've never found one afternoon to see what all the fuss is about just kills us.

But before we throw stones, we must admit that we, too, have missed some iconic gems of this vibrant city. Tops on the "we're ashamed that we've never been" list was HR-57. We can't blame ignorance (it was recommended to me within my first couple of months here) and we can't blame opportunity (it is only a couple of miles away from our home and is a favorite of many of our friends). It was just one of those things until M and A, pulled us out of the house for a great evening of food, wine, and jazz.

HR-57 takes its name from a 1987 House Resolution (H.Con.Res 57) that designated jazz as a "rare and valuable national American treasure." Chances are, my dad or the babysitter from Jerry Maguire authored the bill. Really, they are the same person... but that's another story.

After grooving for 18 years on 14th Street NW, HR-57 moved to a new location on the H Street corridor in April of last year. Finding their new digs too small, HR-57 is moving to a larger venue down the street later this year.

Modeled after the speakeasys of the 1930's, HR-57 allows patrons to BYOB (though who listens to jazz with a can of Coors Light?) for a small corkage fee. Armed with several bottles of wine, our group camped out with the Jimmy "Junebug" Jackson Quartet and let the hours slip away.

The highlight of the evening wasn't the wine and wasn't the jazz (the instrumentalists were quite good but the vocalist wasn't our favorite). Rather, it was a moment late in the evening following a break. While 3 members of the quartet heard "take 5," the pianist took 15. Jokingly, the audience was solicited for help. At least, I thought the offer to play on stage was a joke...

What a surprise when our buddy, who we'll call B2, jumped out of his chair and volunteered to play with the band. Not knowing that he's a rather good pianist, we assumed this was a byproduct of the BYOB policy. As B2 was leading the band in a jazz standard, the actual piano player returned, saw things were going fine, and settled into a chair to continue his text messaging.

The point of the story is that HR-57 seems to be at its best when it is casual, communal, and unscripted. It is cool and comfortable, and very much a part of DC's rich cultural fabric... and one more thing we can check off our list. Can you?

J Says

I am so thankful to M and A for getting our butts to HR-57. It had been sitting on our list for so long that I stopped seeing it whenever I looked at the list for something to do.

Since we had a fabulous dinner prepared by M and A, we did not partake in HR-57's culinary offerings (fried chicken, greens, red beans, and crepes for dessert). However, I snuck a peek at the other tables and the food looked pretty tasty. HR-57 is also in walking distance of so many great places to eat on H Street that you can have a dinner and music date without breaking the bank or crisscrossing the city.

Even though I took a jazz appreciation class in college (and B says I didn't get a "real" degree!), I'm not the world's biggest aficionado. This did not stop me from having a great time. I was bobbing my head along to the beat and, before I knew it, it was 1:00 a.m. I don't think you need to be a super jazz fan to love HR-57 and it's uniquely DC, completely cool, atmosphere.

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