Am looking for a fun place to take a DC friend for her birthday after an event at MICA. I'd heard good things about Owl Bar as a bar -- how is the food? Any other suggestions in the area?
Hmmm. I'd say the food is average bar food. I think I remember my aunt and my mom enjoying their crab cakes, and they're MD natives so they know their 'cakes. The homemade chips are good too. Drinks were fine, but service is spotty. The room is cool, though. When I lived up there I used to love the Brewer's Art basement-- big plates of rosemary fries served with garlic mayo (it's at Chase and Charles). But it's kind of a dark, unrefined cement setting-- depends on what you want. Also, it can be crazy crowded. They do have an upstairs that serves real food-- kinda pricey as I recall, for what it was.
I would avoid the Owl Bar for food. I have been there a handful of times and have never had good service, the bartenders border on rude. The only reason that I eat there is because they are one of the only places in the area that stay open late and serve food. The hamburgers have some weird filler in them and lack the beefy taste of a good burger. The salads are decent, but nothing special.
I agree that the Brewers Art would be a good choice. I've never had a bad meal off the bar menu and the main menu. It does get pretty busy there on the weekends, but if you go mid week its not too bad. Here is their website so that you can check out their current menu and beer selection. http://www.thebrewersart.com/
Another restaurant in area that is good is Thai Landing. And I've heard good things about Sammy's Trattoria.
Brewer's Art: be prepared to wait a long time. there is no manager on the floor, and service is chaotic. We waited so long (over an hour for entree in a 3/4 filled restaurant that we had to take out. Servers would not tell us what was going on, but just avoided our table. The steak was not cooked as ordered either. I have enjoyed this place under the old chef, but I think it is out of control.
Definitely go to the Owl Bar for at least a drink. The food is just ok bar food, but the old atmosphere is fun. Mencken used to drink there.