At Bohemian Caverns last night, I overheard the following coversation, which was most distrubing.
Wow, this is great!
I know! I’ve never heard of it before!
Bingo, problem! How can anyone not have heard of Bohemian Caverns? It’s like nothing else in the city, and probably like nothing else in the Mid Atlantic region. If you’re thinking to yourself, Ummm, so what is Bohemian Caverns? I will tell you very quickly, then pretend it didn’t happen.
Bohemian Caverns is a magical place, hidden away below Hominy restaurant at 11th and U, NW. Enter the intricately carved wooden door and go down the steps, noticing but not being distracted by the walls made to look like a dripping cave. Faces in the wall stare out at you from unexpected places. Stand in the entryway for a few moments and jostle past the musicians setting up between two stalagmites, then lay claim to one of the rapidly disappearing tables covered with white tablecloths.
Granted, there is a lot of good jazz in this city. DC is the home of Duke Ellington, after all, and there is music to be had at Twins Jazz, Blues Alley, HR-57 (and who knows when they’re going to reopen?), and on and on. But what I like about Bohemian Caverns, besides the surroundings, is the accessibility of location and price. Right off the metro, you don’t have to trek all the way to Georgetown or Southeast. And for around $7-$30 cover (way less after midnight), you can sit around and listen to jazz to your heart’s content. When have you done that lately (or at all)?
My favorite performers are the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra. They are a 17 piece big band, $7 goes for two sets of music, and they are superb. The orchestra plays classic jazz , but you’ve probably never heard these songs before. Not knowing where the tune is going to go allows you to relax and let the music wash over you. They play Monday nights and feature musicians who are well known elsewhere but come together every week, sometimes playing completely unpracticed.
Food comes from the restaurant upstairs and drinks are best bought at the bar. The times I’ve been there the one waitress has been way overtaxed, so if you’re ready to have a nice beverage with your jazz, belly up to the bar and get a Brother Thelonious (dark and sweet) or the Lucifer (deceptively smooth), or any of the more well known beers they offer.
So what are you waiting for? Go!