Longtime friends Tristan Magee and Andrew Stuart just wanted to open a dive bar, but slightly fancier. Hence the name of their new Adams Morgan spot, opening tonight: the High Dive.
"We wanted to make a nice place to make bad decisions," Magee explains.
But the Twitterati balked at the term "dive" given that the place will serve cocktails (granted, there are only three) and that Stuart is a certified sommelier. "The idea that having a cocktail in there somehow makes this not a dive, sure, whatever," Stuart says. "We didn't know there was such a strict set of rules about what a dive bar is... We thought we would design a bar that was no-frills and you would go and get laid."
Stuart and Magee admit the High Dive, which has a light nautical theme (dive, get it?), turned out much more beautiful than they had planned. But the place is ultimately just meant to be cheap and fun. "Maybe we should have just started mopping the floors with urine or something and then it would have been acceptable," Stuart says.
About those apparently-too-fancy-for-a-dive cocktails: they include a dark and stormy, a jalapeño Moscow mule, and something called the Thousand Churches. For that last one, Stuart wanted to make a Long Island ice tea using only the clear versions of alcohol—plus Midori to turn it green. But he admits it sucked, so the actual recipe is a work in progress. Regardless of what ends up in it, he promises it will be strong.
Stuart may be a sommelier, but wine is definitely not a focus. There will be one red, one white, and one sparkling wine. The beer menu—if you could be so generous to call it a menu—is equally bare bones with Abita Purple Haze, DC Brau, Guinness, and a rotating seasonal on tap. There will also be some bottles, the highlight of which will be Miller High Life—an homage to the space's previous occupant, Pharmacy Bar. Miller High Life will be $2 during happy hour during weekdays from 4 to 7 p.m. The bar is cash only during its opening week.
"You'll be able to get in and out after a night of heavy drinking for under $30," Stuart promises. "For me, that's a good deal."
The High Dive will serve no food, except snacks like Doritos, Cheetos, Slim Jims, and Sour Patch Kids. Guests are welcome to bring grub from elsewhere.
Helping to bolster its dive-ish cred is Street Fighter II and a juke box that will play tons of Guns N' Roses, old school hip-hop, grunge, metal, punk rock, and some "guilty pleasures" like Bobbi Brown and Milli Vanilli. Stuart and Magee have selected three favorite songs that if someone plays, they will buy that person a drink.
The place is filled with lots of little inside jokes. Just try calling the bar and getting its answering machine. Magee and Stuart hired Johnny Brennan from the Jerky Boys—famed for their prank call comedy—to record a rambling message as his character Sol Rosenberg. "It's our favorite character that he does," Stuart says, who's been a Jerky Boys fan since he was a kid.
Whether you think all this adds up to dive or not, Stuart says whatever the bar is now won't necessarily be what it is years later. "That's what we're looking forward to. We want people to make it something else," he says. "The community that we serve is going to design that bar."
The High Dive, 2337 18th St. NW; (202) 701-8147; facebook.com/TheHighDiveDC
Photo courtesy the High Dive