Let's be honest, my mens- and womensfolk, there was a lot that was kind of effed-up about mid-Century America. Some major political injustices, some wars and the ushering in of an era that required Paul Newman to wear bell bottoms (I haven't been able to find a picture of this, but just watch The Towering Inferno, it happened).
Fortunately for America and Paul Newman, we grew out of a lot of that and now we can enjoy awesome retro design at cool cafes in Adams Morgan. I’m talking about Songbyrd, of course, which recently opened the second of what is soon to be a comprehensive chain of dining experiences that will take you from caffeinated to drunk with a stop-over for grub in between.
Let me break it down for you: The Songbyrd Record Cafe opened in April, serving coffee and sandwiches and housing a gorgeously-restored 1947 Voice-O-Graph recording booth, where you can record your own 45. This is some hipster shit and I freaking love it so you can all just shut up. Next door, the Songbyrd Music House has just opened, serving a dinner menu that features everything from pigs in a blanket to a chicken liver pate. Coming soon: A live music venue that will serve my favorite food group (booze).
The Music House interior has that just-the-right-amount-of-kitsch that I love in a restaurant—that is to say, it's got an earnest adherence to a theme without being slavish to it. The tufted seats and tile flooring are retro without being regurgitative and because I am a hipster sucker, I love the old mics that serve as tap handles. The menus are made of old gatefold album sleeves, the creation of which co-owner Joe Lapan assured Zagat did not involve the destruction of precious vinyl (Alisha Edmonson is the other half of the duo). Honestly, this is pretty much how I imagine T. Bone Burnett's house to be decorated:
On to the most important part, the drinks and the music: The Whiskey-Ade (kind of a lemonade-ginger-brown likker heaven) was great and the curated vinyl tunes were on-point for most of the two hours that I camped at the bar (think Johnny Cash songs other than "Hurt" and "Folsom," great songs but thank you lil' sweet baby Jesus). Songbyrd is actually named after the jazz musician Charlie Byrd, who apparently concepted his jazz/bossa nova album Jazz Samba at one of the many former occupants of this 18th Street Address, the Showboat Lounge.
Songbyrd Music House is open Tuesday through Sunday, 5 PM to midnight, and Friday and Saturday 5 PM to 2 AM. Get after it.