Rewarding myself by occasionally patronizing various local eateries is something I decided should be incorporated into my daytime D.C. biking adventures. So at the end of each month, I will be having lunch at a different restaurant, and then posting my review of it. For this final post of the inaugural month of this blog, I rode to The Tune Inn, located at 331 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of southeast D.C.
The legendary Tune Inn opened in 1947, and has been family owned for three generations. The bar has been the city’s best self-proclaimed “dive” for more than 60 years, and remains so despite being almost destroyed by a catastrophic fire just a couple of years ago. The subsequent renovation resulted in some big changes, such as an entirely modernized and upgraded kitchen. The bar also boasts an expanded beer selection with a new tap system that is light-years more advanced than the old, delivering beer as cold as it can get without freezing.
Fortunately, however, none of the significant changes during the massive renovation were aesthetic. The renovation seems to have turned back the clock at the decades-old Capitol Hill bar, returning it back to its quirky best. The bar, back bar, and decor remains original. Most of the bar’s iconic taxidermy displays were unscathed by the blaze, except for two stuffed deer rumps, which had been over the ladies’ room door. They perished in the fire. A deer’s hind quarters — shot by owner Lisa Nardelli’s father — is mounted over the men’s room door. A huge stuffed black bear — shot by Nardelli’s husband on a bow-hunting trip – has returned to its home, holding a can of beer behind the bar alongside a stuffed squirrel. And chandeliers made of antlers hangs again from the ceiling. Even the booths and tables, which sustained significant damage, were reordered in the same make and model.
But even more than the environment, it’s the staff, the clientele and the food that makes The Tune Inn what it is. For more than 60 years, loyal locals, politicians and hungry tourists have ventured into The Tune Inn for classic bar food such as Bacon and Cheddar Potato Skins, homemade Pulled BBQ Pork, or deep-fried Mac & Cheese Wedges. On my most recent trip I opted for one of my two favorites – a sandwich named Joe’s West Virginia. It consists of freshly cooked roast beef, piled high, with American cheese and their signature Bon Ton sauce, grilled on rye bread. My other favorite is Tony’s Beer Battered Burger. Falling clearly in the category of good but not good for you, Tony’s Burger is grilled, dipped in beer batter, dropped in the deep fryer and then topped with cheese. Order either of these sandwiches with a side of fresh-cut fries, and settle into a booth or take seat outside if the weather is accomodating, and enjoy. When it comes to classic bar food, it just doesn’t get much better.