Everyone’s been talking about Darwin’s Theory.
The downtown favorite Darwin’s Theory has been a hot topic of popcorn-munching discussion lately, mostly for its new outdoor smoking shelter. But the changes that wowed me are the renovated bathrooms and countertops and the general fresh look of this former dive-bar awardee.
I’ve been to Darwin’s probably three times in my drinking life. I am much more likely to frequent the nearby Pioneer Bar, the preppy-chic version of Darwin’s. Why? Well, Darwin’s is … a dive bar. At least it was a dive bar. But is it now?
After I dealt with the slush, the sleet and the slippery walk from my car, the neon-yellow glow of Darwin’s sign was a beacon. I arrived on a Wednesday night, and my friends led me past the long, gleaming front bar to a seat at one of the round tables in the small back room.
I had no idea what I’d been missing. I ordered a glass of wine, only $3.75. My friends had the $3.25 bottled-beer special, which changes weekly and features beer Darwin’s doesn’t usually carry. Five brews for $16.25 plus tip ain’t bad. Plus I had never been in a bar where I could sit comfortably, have a 40-inch flat-screen TV showing the World Series in front of me, a jukebox and ATM within spitting distance and as much free popcorn as I want.
I had also been missing what is arguably the best female restroom facility downtown, besides the basement wonderland at the Captain Cook. Two words, ladies: four mirrors. And it’s private, so you can primp all you want without anyone bumping you while trying to reach the paper towels. You may have to wait in line, but it’s a lot nicer to see shiny tiles and gleaming sinks than dank wooden walls — or, in the guys’ case, a trough — that we get at the Pio.
A warning for ladies with long legs: The only drawback is that when you sit down, your knees almost touch the tiled wall across from you. I checked the men’s room too — peeking in when it was empty, of course — and they also have four large mirrors on the walls. This remodel is a sanitary success.
On my first visit, the tables in the back were nearly full and the front bar was bustling. When I returned later in the week the crowds had grown and it was even tougher to find a seat. This time I tried a vodka tonic for $4 — for a quarter more, you get a highball glass with a nice punch of vodka. I also sat in the front, next to the bar and the front door.
The infamous smoking shelter gleamed at us through the window. It rained lightly that night, yet no one used the shelter while we were there. My friends and I gave it a closer inspection, noticing the heating lamps, the wind-resistant barriers and the convenient bench that can seat up to six butts at a time. The rear-end kind, not the filtered kind. Meanwhile, a few patrons took a smoke break in the alley. The shelter seemed hardly worth the heated emotions that surround it.
Back inside, I noticed on the far back wall an inspirational poster with a basketball going through a hoop along with the word “Commitment” and the phrase, “You’re either in or you’re out. There’s no such thing as life in between.” It was an oddly appropriate statement regarding the clamor over the ordinances that currently surround Darwin’s, and I have a theory that it’s true — you can’t have it both ways.
You’re either committed to giving your customers an enjoyable time regardless of the cost or consequence, or you’re not. You’re either in, or you’re out. Darwin’s Theory is in.
Address: 426 G St.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday
-- by Jessica Bowman