It’s Monday afternoon, and I’m sitting at the end of the bar at the Post Pub, the downtown eatery left for dead in the early months of the pandemic. As far as I know, I’m the only person at the bar having a glass of water with lunch. The rest of the crew are daytime drinkers, the kind that fueled this place for decades, back when a few midday martinis marked you as a red-blooded American, not a slacker looking to take a nap. the afternoon in a comfortable chair.
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“Cold Heart” by Elton John and Dua Lipa, with its “Rocket Man” riff, plays over the sound system, which is almost also on the nose for a historic pub that has been swept into the modern era, with a distinctly electronic pulse. The Post Pub’s new owner, Jeremy Wladis, is a New Yorker who wanted to give the place a second life. He was not a pub regular. You wouldn’t find him perched on a bar stool on a random Saturday, watching the game with a cold pint in hand. He’s too busy. He has pizzerias, taverns and neighborhood restaurants to manage, in three cities, including Washington and Charlotte.
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But Wladis has a habit of saving restaurants that have reached their golden years, unsure whether they are still viable for a younger generation. He came on the scene too late to save the Post Pub before its former owner, Bob Beaulieu, handed over his keys to the owner. But as soon as he signed a lease for the L Street NW space, Wladis contacted Beaulieu, hoping to resuscitate the pub’s reputation. Wladis went through a middleman, the Budweiser rep at the Post Pub, who is so perfect.
Wladis bought the business in Beaulieu and hired the previous owner as a consultant, although the New Yorker had his own ideas on how to run the pub. The first thing Wladis did was rip up the carpet, probably still wet from all the spilled beer. He decluttered the walls and painted them white, which effectively stripped the pub of its man-cave vibe, circa 1971. He even installed an international collection of beer cans on narrow shelves that wrap around some parts from the dining room. The cans were collected over many decades by her father-in-law, the late Bob Seefeldt, husband of Kathy, former chairwoman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.
The new owner has also revamped the menu. He added an organic brick chicken, a tuna steak and kimchi sandwich and a Beyond Burger. He set up a Wow Bao ghost kitchen, which packs pot stickers, bao buns and bowls for delivery, but also allows seated diners to order the dishes. There’s a QR code on the cover of the menu, in the space where you once watched an illustration of a Victorian gentleman posing with his penny.
The changes have a strange effect: the name of the place remains the same, and you can still feel the presence of old ghosts of dive bars, smokers and all, hovering just below the surface of these efforts to classify the joint. There is a tension that remains unresolved with the new Post Pub. He clings to the past and embraces the future, seemingly unsure of the best path forward.
I am nice. A universal truth about aging, whether it’s a person or a place, is that you adapt or die. Behaviors that worked when you were young may not necessarily work in your later years. The pandemic killed the Beaulieu business. It did something different to me: it killed my urge to drink. I haven’t had a beer or a cocktail since November 2020, after recovering from covid. My mind sometimes aches for the free, uninhibited booze-fueled highs, but my body knows best. I listen to my body.
I mention this because of a fear that haunts me as much as any dive bar ghost of the past: that it is impossible to enjoy a dive without alcohol. It’s very meta, but I wondered not only if I would like the changes in Post Pub, but if I would like the changes in me at Post Pub. Or would all of this just make me yearn for a past that is no longer attainable?
While I believe a good IPA goes well with a burger, its bitter edge cutting through the grease, I was more than happy with my Stella Artois Liberté (0 percent alcohol) to wash down the Len Hochberg burger, a juicy patty topped with blue cheese and a dark mass of sautéed mushrooms. It’s worth noting that most of the sandwiches here are named after columnists, editors, and reporters (with an emphasis on sports beat) who once worked at the Washington Post.
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The standard burger is named after – who else? “Tom Hamburger, the investigative reporter who might want to find out what happened to the seasoning on his pancake. Shirley Povich’s fried chicken sandwich is as tasty as the time the sportswriter poked fun at Washington’s all-white hometown team by noting that “Jim Brown, born ineligible to play for the Redskins, came into their zone goal three times yesterday”. Pedestrian burger Ben Bradlee offers a Beyond Meat patty, which must be a cosmic joke about the legendary editor whose favorite dish was ground beef at Nora.
The Organic Lemon-Thyme Brick Chicken looks the part, its exterior a luscious shade of golden brown, but the meat suffers from the same lack of seasoning that plagued the Tom Hamburger. A similar distraction also seeps into the Wow Bao dishes: my anemic chicken and vegetable pot stickers, possibly freezer burnt, were served without sauce, and my spicy kung pao chicken bowl had no peanuts and only traces of the star protein. I had to settle for the hand-breaded onion rings from the Post Pub, which were always so easy to beat.
As I sat in the pub one afternoon talking to bartender Adam Stinelli about his fondness for George Pelecanos novels, I realized that you can seek refuge in a dive bar without the aid of alcohol. You can get lost in people and their stories. This can take time with the new Post Pub: its staff understands no vestige of the first incarnation, and its owner makes infrequent appearances, unlike Beaulieu, who was a daily presence at his bar.
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But as Stinelli explains the anarchic vibe of U Street from “The Sweet Forever” while I sip ginger ale, perhaps I see the real purpose of neighborhood pubs, dives, and the like: fostering connection with a mate. travel, if only for a few minutes. . Alcohol often facilitates these relationships, but it is not necessary. And a space no longer linked to another era. With any luck, the new Post Pub will find its own audience, an audience that won’t be able to live without it in 40 years.
1422 L St. NW, 202-990-7782; postpubdc.com.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
Nearest metro: Farragut Square or McPherson Square, a short walk from the pub.
Prices: $5.99 to $29 for all menu items.