Not all bars have a mascot. In fact, most probably don’t. But there’s a lot that’s different about Lyman’s Tavern, a beloved neighborhood bar at the southern tip of Piney Branch Park on 14th Street NW in Petworth, and the most memorable may be their affinity for the (mythological) jackalope.
Stationed at various intervals throughout this dimly lit local watering hole, the jackalopes bring a little humor and campiness (as well as a few cobwebs).
People complain about the gentrification of Petworth, but Lyman’s Tavern, on the block for five years, isn’t to blame. They didn’t have to beat their furniture with chains to get that distressed, shabby-chic look — it was already like that. The paint is chipped, and the shelves are crowded with odds and ends, including a pencil holder, an old radio, a gumball machine, an old seltzer bottle and a cocktail shaker — it’s like a flea market or the Mansion on O Street.
It’s comforting. Not like the bar at the Four Seasons, where terror strikes your heart if you spill your drink or have to throw up.
The pinball machines at Lyman’s are another fun throwback. I was there on a fairly low-key Sunday evening, when most of the seats were taken by young hipsters who preferred conversation and laughs to flashing lights and flippers. In fact, this bar is so hip, local artist Robin Bell — extra-famous of late for getting hassled by Capitol Police for projecting “Discrimination is Wrong” onto the Capitol building — stopped by. He plugged his exhibition at the The Atrium Galleries at GWU to my companion before joining a jovial crowd out on the patio, despite the evening’s chill.
The bartenders at Lyman’s are efficient, friendly and helpful. Although I frequently drink Angry Orchard hard cider, they didn’t have that, so bartender Arnold Robles recommended Supreme Core’s Nother Mother, a grapefruity cider with hops that made it seem more beer, less apple juice.
It was actually a bit too beery for me, so next he offered me the locally brewed Anxo District Dry, which was more my speed. It was drier and less sweet than my go-to cider, but less bitter than the Nother Mother.
My companion, a repeat customer at Lyman’s, usually enjoys their tacos and well-considered whisky list, although he opted for local beers the night we were there.
If you enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, super-cheap happy hour specials and free popcorn, Lyman’s Tavern is the place for you.
Lyman’s Tavern, 3720 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20011