by Chason Gordon
– The Capitol Hill Times –
Let’s try to ballpark this. How many of the customers at Bait Shop, the new bar on Capitol Hill, have ever been to an actual bait shop? It can’t be more than 10 percent. 20? I don’t know. Sure, I’ve been to a bait shop, but I’m the salt of the earth (what?).
From the people (Linda Derschang) who brought you Smith, Oddfellows and Robocop 3, comes a new nautical-themed bar and restaurant on north Broadway. It’s right next to a gym, which is probably why I had trouble finding it.
The first thing you notice when entering Bait Shop is the dark lighting. It feels like a planetarium or the beginning of a murder mystery, like the lights are going to come on to reveal a dead body on the floor, except in this case it’s a fish, battered and served with fries.
I’ve heard Bait Shop occasionally referred to as a dive bar. This is not a dive bar; dive bars don’t have themes. And the nautical theme here is omnipresent, from ship’s wheels and life rings on the knotty pine walls to little plastic mermaids hanging off the edge of your cocktail glass. In the corner hangs the hood of a ’77 Firebird. Who cares if it doesn’t fit the nautical theme? It looks cool.
The menu is just big enough to find something you’ll like. It includes lighter fare like fried mushrooms and house-made BBQ pork rinds, as well as heavier items like fish and chips and a fried chicken sandwich (the salads are not fried, I think). You can wash them down with a unique array of cocktails that you may be able to order without being made fun of, depending on your friends. The Dark and Stormy has rum, Rachel’s Ginger Beer and lime. The Painkiller, a frozen drink, features rum, pineapple, coconut, orange and nutmeg. They also offer a small, but decent selection of beer.
I ordered a Painkiller (I have pain) and the fish and chips. The cocktail was properly refreshing and the fish had a crispy batter with a nice flaky inside (I mean “flaky” as in texture and not a person who doesn’t return emails). Is the fish as good as Pike Street Fish Fry? Of course not. You already knew that.
A word must be said for the fries. These are delicious thick cut fries, the kind that cause you to stop eating and recognize how good they are. Soft and crispy in all the right spots, they take much of the attention away from whatever’s on your plate and whomever you’re talking to. Well played, Bait Shop.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the hand dryers in the restrooms. They are absolutely frightening. When I reached down I thought it was a paper towel dispenser, but then a burst of air with a creepy blue light blasted my hands and I jumped back like an alien visiting earth. Next time I’ll just use my pants.
The windows of Bait Shop advertise that it has “Good Food” and “Cocktails.” I have no problem with that description (the staff is quite friendly as well). Is the atmosphere a little forced? Perhaps, but as a bar, it’s a nice, relaxing spot.
(As a bait shop, it’s utterly horrible. You can’t use anything there to catch a fish.)
606 Broadway E.