Column #31 Washington D.C.
January 1, 1997
Two things are guaranteed if you ever hail a cab in Washington, D.C. The first (as anyone who has visited this city will quickly confirm) is that your driver will be a genius.
His name will be Abdul. He will have a degree in physics from the University of Kuwait (in fact, he’ll almost certainly have a pile of his college books on the front seat of the car). He will happily tell you everything you never wanted to know about the speed and shape of various sub-atomic particles. He will know more about the American political system than the President (not that this is particularly surprising). And he’ll have memorized the latitude and longitude of every building in the city — and know the longest (and most expensive) way to get to each of them. This is all guaranteed stuff. The only mystery (other than why the hell these guys can barely understand a word of English) is why they are driving taxis instead of running the country.
The second certainty, and this is based on my own personal experience — just last night, is that Abdul won’t have a clue what a dart is let alone where the best places are in town to get a game. Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps last night Abdul was just confused. Perhaps he thought I was looking for a place named “Art’s” and was just extremely conscientious about trying to find it. All I can say is that my best efforts to explain what I was after were rewarded with a roundabout tour that I didn’t want or need.
You have three options if you’re looking for a game of darts in Washington, D.C. The first, of course, is to catch a ride with Abdul and pretty much blow off your evening. The second is to read the rest of this column and head to the first of the two places I finally ended up at. The third is to call the Washington Area Darts Association (WADA) and ask for advice (which is what I eventually did from a phone booth somewhere in Georgetown while Abdul waited in the taxi). The people at WADA (202-232-9232) were extremely helpful and pointed me to a couple of excellent bars in the Dupont Circle area, close to my hotel.
Far and away the best of the two (and possibly the best in the city), is the Black Rooster Pub (1919 “L” Street, NW). The bartender here (Kevin “The Legend” Spillan) hands out business cards that tout the joint as “D.C.’s Best Darts Pub.” One would be hard pressed to find a better venue for either a game of darts or a relaxing beer. Except for a long rail bar and a few wooden tables and chairs there’s not much to be found here. It’s a simple, quiet, friendly darts establishment. Nothing more.
The Rooster’s a small place but when it comes to darts its got a big reputation. Open since 1970, it’s fielded some of the better of the area’s teams for over two decades. Today it’s still the stop to make if one wants to test their skills against the best of the local shooters. There are five boards in the place but the action is on the two challenge boards immediately to the left as you walk in the door.
I spent a couple of enjoyable hours throwing (and drinking Pete’s Wicked Ale at just $2.25 a mug) with a guy named Jason Morton. He claimed to have finished in the top eight in Cricket at Witch City a year or so back. Let’s just say I have no reason to doubt him!
Up the road a ways and around the corner is another bar that’s worth a brief — very brief — stop, but only if pool is your specialty. Buffalo Billiard’s (1330 19th Street, NW) has six dart boards, hung in two groupings of three and separated by a gulf of pool tables — twenty-nine in all. I practiced here for an hour or so but, despite a reasonably nice darts set up, the focus seems to be almost entirely on pool. It’s a shame actually. The Buffalo has potential. The crowd isn’t quite my type (sort of pretentious and way over-dressed for the darts scene). The music blasts from speakers that I would have loved to find and smash. But the food is good and the Budweiser is cold and priced fair. There’s room here for a whole lot more than eight-ball. Imagine shooting pool in a coat and tie!
It appears there once was some organized darts activity at the Buffalo. The boards are fraying. The tape oche’s are wearing off the floor. I had the sense that if I’d arrived a a few months earlier I may have found some competition. Unfortunately, last night it seemed as if the lowly darters had been run off by the pack of suited young lawyers at the pool tables which now seem to run the show.
It was as I prepared to leave that I noticed the lonely plaque on the wall. It sort of dangled from a nail in an isolated corner, overwhelmed by the dark and a sea of green felt and smoke. It honored one of the strangest-named darts teams I have yet to come across. And in an odd way it sort of gave perspective to the adventure of my evening … it was won by the Buffalo Billiards “Particles.” Perhaps there was more to Abdul than met the eye…
It was at this moment that I realized the highlight of my trip had, in fact, been my ride with Abdul. The White House. The Capitol. The Jefferson Memorial. The glitter of history upon the Reflecting Pool. There isn’t a city in the world that’s more beautiful, more captivating, than Washington, D.C. in the moonlight.
From the Field,
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