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The Imperial (JackRoseinDC / Instagram)

The Imperial: a new bar from Jack Rose opens in Adams Morgan

Adams Morgan is set to welcome another bar to its already lively 18th Street strip. The Imperial, part of the Jack Rose Dining Saloon, officially opens on Wednesday, Nov. 13 to the delight of local residents and bar owners alike.

The 5,500-square-foot bar and restaurant located at 2001 18th St. NW aims for a dining menu focused on mid-Atlantic flavors. And for drinks, owner Bill Thomas brings his signature obsessively collected vintage whiskies to the table — this time with a twist in scenery.

Unlike its predecessor Jack Rose, a dark-tinted and smokey-vibed bar only two doors up 18th Street, the new three-story bar is naturally lit with open windows and a marble-heavy theme. 

The Imperial, however, will keep true to the grim-yet-elegant mantra of Jack Rose with a speakeasy basement, named Dram & Grain, all while forging a new image with an open rooftop overlooking U Street.

Jack Rose’s public relations director, Brittany Julep, highlighted that further changes from the mother establishment’s design revolve around food just as much as the change in scenery. 

The menu’s range, just as extensive as the alcoholic beverages selection, includes a variety of French inspired dishes. From the centuries-old foie de gras to a “whole fish of the day,” the Imperial will also serve a medley of vegetarian dishes as well as oysters.

Pricing, like the menu, covers a wide range: some plates cost between $11-$17 while others go for $39. 

As surrounding areas like the U Street corridor also grow, a shifting consumer base may prove to be an obstacle for Adams Morgan bar patrons. Over 150 new apartments are now available on the corridor, a residential growth that will likely demand a commercial one.

When asked about their bar consumption habits related to the growing interest in 14th and U Street, Adams Morgan locals don’t much mind the pricing or another bar on the strip.

Joe Qian, an Adams Morgan resident and World Bank officer, pointed to the “decent food and different vibes,” while also adding the importance of having “hundreds of alcohol varieties.” 

“It’s perfect for a scotch lover,” he said.

Another neighborhood local and George Washington University employee, Autumn Anthony, had a similar take but not entirely the same excitement for Jack Rose’s alcohol collection.

The self-described “wine or the occasional cocktail” consumer, who also lives less than two blocks away from The Imperial, said she’s excited for “something a bit more fancy than the bars on the strip.” 

Anthony said when relatives visit, she takes them to Georgetown for drinks and not the strip because “it’s not entirely the kind of place I want to take my mom or grandmother.”

“I’ve taken a few peeks inside when I walk by,” she said of the Imperial. “I’m excited to go, it just looks pleasant and I’m hoping their food is good enough for more than a drink. I like dark wine, I don’t like a dark place to drink it in.”

Other than the Imperial posing a more refined space for locals, Anthony expressed doubt that Adams Morgan residents would generally prefer to seek a “fun night out” elsewhere. She said the neighborhood holds a stronger sense of community that isn’t always visible.

The idea that Adams Morgan functions as a whole isn’t alien to local bar owners either. John McEntire, the owner of the local Irish pub Shenanigan’s, said he’s more than happy to see another bar open on Adams Morgan.

Like many of the bar’s on the 18th Street strip, Shenanigan’s was ready for Halloween with a grim reaper while others decorated their bars with spider webs and skeleton props. (Yousef Alshammari / The Wash)

McEntire said “a sense of community” is the norm among bar owners in the neighborhood as some bars will “fill up their responsibility” of keeping the bar scene functional and attractive to incoming customers.

After McEntire was asked whether bar owners keep in close contact to nurture this  communal sense, he laughed and said he had just got off the phone with Bill Duggan, the owner of the legendary Madam’s Organ bar.

As for competition, McEntire pointed to local bars and said “if they’re good, we’re good.” He explained that the strip succeeds as a whole because if one slips, customers would project that perception on the scene as a whole.

The communal efforts of Adams Morgan’s bar scene attracts visitors just as much as immediate locals, too.

Stuart Elnagdy, a Columbia Heights resident and a political researcher in the National Endowment for Democracy think tank, said he prefers the 18th Street bar scene over other Washington areas.

“14th and U is growing. It is a nicer place than when I moved here. I do go there because it’s fun,” he said. “But, when I’m in charge of a night out, I want Adam’s Morgan. It just has that vibe.”

Yousef Alshammari

I’m a DC-based Kuwaiti journalist working on a graduate degree in international journalism at American University. Politics and culture by day, insomnia and fiction by night.

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