WASHINGTON — It's a frigid Friday night, and the entertainment centers of the city — Chinatown, U Street, Georgetown, H Street, Capitol Hill, Adams Morgan and Barracks Row — are flourishing with people crowded into bars and restaurants, eager to warm their fingers and enjoy good food and interesting chatter.
In the southeast neighborhood of Anacostia, however, the streets are dead. The only exception is on the 2200 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.
That is the home of Uniontown Bar and Grill, one of only two sit-down restaurants in the neighborhood.
Anchoring the corner of King Avenue and W Street, Uniontown sits across for the neighborhood’s iconic Big Chair and the Big Chair Coffee and Grill, the only other sit-down restaurant. Like Uniontown, it also recently reopened after being closed.
Uniontown is unassuming on the outside. The only indication that something is going on inside come from the few patrons standing outside have a smoke.
Inside is a multi-aged crowd. People are buying drinks, chatting, laughing and dancing to deafening music as a disco ball shoots multicolored lights across the walls and floors.
Now under new management following the conviction on drug charges of the previous owner, Uniontown has an authentic Washington feel.
It offers themed drinks, like the Marion Barry, the Chuck Brown and the Ballou Knight, named after the mascot of nearby Ballou High School. On the second level patrons, listen and dance to go-go, a form of music that which originated in Washington, and enjoy hookah.
Tonight, Jackie Maddox and her daughter, Christine Montgomery collect entrance fee at the front door and give out wristbands for re-entry. They both frequent the bar throughout the week.
“The people draw me here,” said Montgomery, a meeting planner who lives in the neighborhood. “It’s a family atmosphere.”
Montgomery is greeted by almost every customer with a hug and a promise to meet later.
The restaurant opens everyday at 11 a.m. closes at midnight, with the except of Sundays when they open at 1 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays when they stay open until 2:30 in the morning. Happy hour is Monday through Friday from four to eight, and each night is a new attraction— comedy nights on Wednesdays, motorcycle night on Mondays.
"On the weekdays, it’s a mature crowd and everyone comes after work to unwind," Maddox, 54, said. "They have karaoke and jazz here. It's really nice atmosphere."
In 2012, the restaurant closed after being open for about a year after the owner pled guilty to selling cocaine.
Aftermath, which plays R&B, Pop and Go Go, have been playing at Uniontown for three weeks.
Female vocalist Tiny lives in Ward 8 and was coming to the bar well before her band started playing there.
"It's a decent bar," she said. "It's in the community so you can get something to eat, watch the game. It’s a nice stop."
Dmaz Iumukanda, 39, is a native Californian, but he said feels completely immersed in the culture whenever he’s at Uniontown.
"Pure and uncut" are how the Howard University graduate describe Uniontown.
"I'm not from D.C.," lumukanda said. "But I love a unique authentic experience and this is it. It doesn't get more D.C. than this."
Ayenubizu Yimenu, the owner of The Big Chair Coffee N’ Grill across the street at 2122 King Ave. says that people come eat at her restaurant, then head over to Uniontown for dancing.
The Big Chair Coffee N’ Grill was one of the first sit down restaurants in the neighborhood, and similar to Uniontown was shut down for a brief stint of time due to some legal issues.
Since it first opened in 2010, Yimenu has had trouble getting an entertainment license so she can get a DJ as well but she isn’t fretting over lost business.
“People still come in here,” she said. “They like my food.”