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DC Dives: American Ice Company

DC Dives: American Ice Company

A turn-of-the-century ice company is reinvented as a “beers and steers” hangout. Whiskey, mason jars, and barbecue abound.
By Lauren Clason

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At American Ice Company, a barbecue and whiskey spot across the street from DC’s most popular live-music venue, 9:30 Club, the garage-style front door has been rolled up for the warm weather.

On a clear Saturday afternoon, the inside tables sit undisturbed as the locals who came for the pork swachos (read: swine nachos) and barbecue sandwiches soak up the welcome sunlight on the outdoor patio.

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The exposed brick and industrial designs were the brainchild of owner Joe Reza, who also owns a furniture store and has worked in commercial design for 15 years. The space had gone through several reincarnations over the decades, starting out as an ice company, then rotating through a few auto garages and a roofing company before sitting vacant for several years.

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Reza battled the contractors to preserve the brick walls, which still shows the tar used to insulate the tiny building and lends the bar an authentic, old-school, blue-collar feel that’s only capable of being replicated at other similar concept restaurants.

The kitchen space is very limited, so all prep work takes place off-site, across the street in one of the many row houses that line the neighborhood. As a result, the menu is limited to items that can be transported easily without skimping on quality: sausages, half-smokes, chili and baked beans are all served up quickly.

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The restaurant specializes in a putting a slight twist on something simple without pretension (see the aforementioned swachos). One of their weekday happy hour specials is a can of Tecate and a shot of rye whiskey, and the side options include a pickle sampler, bowl o’chili and chips and queso.

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Reza started American Ice Company with brothers Eric and Ian Hilton in 2010 with the aim to provide a casual refinement to the classic dive bar. With their prime location one block away from from the U Street corridor, as well as their low-key exterior, the bar packs a good crowd on the weekends while managing to avoid a line at the door. And the best part, their food falls in line with their atmosphere.

“We’ve gone through a lot of trial and error to get it where we want it,” Reza said. “Simply put, it’s meat and sauce. We hope you like it.”

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