Monday, August 9, 2010

Celebrating six years of Wonderland

Yesterday was neighborhood institution Wonderland's sixth anniversary party. I wasn't able to make it unfortunately, but it reminded me to write about it. When it opened, the Wonderland Ballroom was maybe the only place to get a beer in the area: I have friends who lived here before then, and the closest spot for them was Chief Ike's Mambo Room on Columbia Road in Adams Morgan, kind of a hike.

Since then the place has grown and gotten crowded, but I think it still retains its charm and attitude. It's a place where you can go and either see somebody you know or see something funny and random: I remember a couple of years ago I was hanging out downstairs and a guy in an inflatable penis costume walked in for no good reason. Another story I think speaks to the laid-back attitude is that about five years ago, some guys in ski masks walked in and said they were robbing the place. The bartender and all the patrons thought they were joking and laughed. The guys insisted, "no, really, we're here to rob it" and everybody continued to laugh, and the bartender asked them what they wanted to drink. Eventually they did get some money, but most people just kept on drinking and hanging out, no big deal.

There's a lots of fun events at the place, like the Monday trivia (fun aside from a couple obnoxious teams), Tuesday live-band karaoke (formerly Tuesday Rock Band video game night), the See You Next Tuesday dance party, Pink Sock gay dance night, live music on the weekends, the annual Sundress Fest, and more. The owners, Matt and Rose, also do a lot with the local community, like hosting fundraisers and helping organize Columbia Heights Day. They own the Looking Glass Lounge too in Petworth.

In the past few years, Wonderland has gotten more crowded, and I've heard people complain about the crowd -- either it's too hipstery now, or it's too suburban. I suppose that depends on who's complaining, and to me, the variety of complaints shows that it's still a diverse crowd. Sure, it's packed on weekends, but if you just want to go somewhere nearby and get sweaty dancing, then it's perfect. During the week it's not too bad, and you can often get a spot on the patio. The bartenders and door staff get to know you once you've been in a few times, and it's a great place to start or end the night. The food, aside from the sausages, isn't great, but I've also heard they're working on improving it, and the beer list is substantial and changes frequently.

Friendly folks, good place to hang out, nearby: pretty much all I can ask for in a local bar. Thanks for six years, Wonderland.


  1. Chief Ike's? What about the Raven?

  2. i have been in the hood for 6 years. i went to wonderlands during the opening week. i am glad its doing well. i havent been in ages b/c it is too crowded. but i am glad its crowded and crowded w/ suburban people. this brings more money to the area and helps CH maintain more businesses. its very comforting to see wonderland, room 11, red rocks, and merdian pint all crowded during the same night. thats means we can have more businesses.

  3. Yeah, that's true Matt. My buddy's preference I guess.

  4. I was there one of the first weekends. I remember these beautiful girls dancing on the bar. I swore I would never go back, as every subsequent visit would be a disappointment compared to the first night.

  5. It's still an all right place. Just gotta avoid the weekends, which suck but pay the bills for the rest of the week.

    Can't believe it's been 6 years -- my first visit must've been in 2004, when I had no idea I'd ever end up living near there.

  6. i think it's important to note that there was a place where you could get a beer at this spot for decades.

    nob hill was the oldest black gay bar in the city, and had been there for 35 years, closing earlier in the year that wonderland opened.


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