With so many changes in the downtown dining scene, it can be hard to keep up with who's new, who's who and who has sadly sunk amidst the competition.
So, when I noticed The Astro Lounge had closed the doors of its former digs on Minnesota Avenue, I was happy to hear it had just moved around the corner to Bond Street. After all, who else would make my custom margarita-martini way past midnight, just how I want it, despite a packed bar, five people deep?The Astro's new locale is even swankier than the original.
I stopped in shortly after they opened on Bond Street this past July, and was relieved to see the same friendly faces, a similar menu of creative but simple healthy fare, and an even more extensive list of specialty cocktails - still laced with house-made infusions. And let's be honest here, I was relieved to maintain access to my margarita-martini makers, now blessed with a bigger bar and more room to muddle, shake and strain.
In the new spot, Photographer Derek Anderson's tasteful nudes line the wall above the high-back booth, which stretches half the length of the bar. Moveable tables and chairs along the booth accommodate parties both big and small. For privacy, try to grab one of the big hot-tub shaped booths in the back.
The tall brick walls make a perfect backdrop for the booze, and the vaulted ceilings give a spacious feel to the deep, narrow room. As the weather warms up, enjoy dining alfresco on the 600-square-foot patio, complete with fire pit for chilly summer nights.
Although I miss the beet salad and falafel pita from previous seasons, the menu at Astro continues not to disappoint. Inventive starters and entrée-sized salads top the menu, followed by sandwiches, wraps, pizzas and favorites including Mac and Cheese and the not-to-be-missed steamer clams, with Spanish chorizo and roasted red peppers in a broth of white wine and butter. Many of the menu items are discounted during happy hour, which goes all the way from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
On my most recent visit, I enjoyed the Arugula Salad ($8), tossed in a fennel-Parmesan dressing and studded with candied hazelnuts, pickled red onion and slivered green apple.
I also ordered the garden pie - which is big enough for two; but so is my appetite . I nearly ate it all, relishing the roasted garlic, caramelized onions and peppers.
It was lunchtime, but my throat was now dry, so I ordered an Italian Stallion Martini.
Just to make sure I didn't leave thirsty, Quilene, the lovely bartendress talked me into a Lavender Mojo Martini as well. What a gal, looking out for me like that.
Monday is music and margarita night. Margaritas are $3 from two to close, and the live music is almost always free - a nice contrast to the ubiquitous cover charges found elsewhere.
On Tuesdays, team up with friends for Trivia Night. The categories change weekly, so there's always something new to be stumped by. But don't forget to think up a clever team name like the recent foursome: "3 dudes and 2 boobs."
Wednesday is Reggae Night beginning at 9 p.m., when M.C. Mystic mixes up all Jah favorites from Dancehall to Roots to Dub.
Astro has survived the bursting of the bubble, waves of competitors who have come and gone, and now a change in location. So, it should come as no surprise that owner Josh Maquet has managed to attract a loyal following - possibly because his down-to-earth, laid-back attitude is just a veil. His genuine sense of service and his concern for the well being of his customers, employees, and fellow industry folks is obvious.
Don't believe me? Go to Trivia Night on Tuesdays, where he can be found behind the mic, smirking as he reads the answers to the trivia questions he created, and reminding patrons to take care of his hardworking staff. It's clear he enjoys his job, and that Bendites enjoy the easy-going atmosphere he's created and sustained.
The Astro Lounge
939 NW Bond Street
Open Monday to Saturday
11 a.m. to close