I can't really explain why I'm so obsessed with this place.
It's not for the decor. If you're looking for an Alice in Wonderland theme, you're going to have to look really hard to find posters from the children's book on the wall. Also, the long narrow set up means you inadvertantly cop a feel from the patrons standing in the way of your trip to the bathroom. The bar has a certain slickness that means you can slide your drink around in a satifactory manner, a point that has been much lauded by one of my friends, but that fact hardly makes it standout from other bars.
So what's with the obsession? I could resort to the cliched Cheers reference of "where everybody knows your name," but that just seems trite. However, most of the bartenders there do make an effort to learn your name when it's not busy, and it's not just because you end up staying longer than you should and spending more money on draft beer than neccessary in any given week. It's like your friends are working behind the bar, and you tend to forget you're giving them money for their company. Before you know it, you start wondering how close the bartenders are to ordering a restaining order on you and your friends because you just can't stay away. That right there, coupled with the fact that the bartenders aren't bad to look at, is the allure of Madhatter.
There's also the fact that they serve their mixed drinks in beer glasses, meaning you get plenty of bang for your buck. Or, if you want to bang a buck (get your mind out of the gutter), you can waste countless quarters on Big Buck Safari, accidentally shooting the cows. The best time to hit up the 'Hatter is during the week with friends, when you can grab a few bar stools and chat up the other regulars. You avoid the less than fantastic caliber of the weekend crowds, where people loudly slur along with 80's songs and flash boozy smiles around in hopes of looking charming.
Would I recommend 'Hatter? Definitely. Would I say it's the best bar in D.C.? Probably not. But I have a sick obsession with the place, kind of like the candy conversation hearts still sitting in my office from Valentine's Day. I just can't stop, and I can't think of any real good reason not to recommend them...except for maybe the way they'll leave you feeling the next day.
1831 M St. NW, Washington, D.C.
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