top of page

Washington, DC: McClellan's Retreat

Written by Megan McClintock


1. Verb. (of an army) withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power or after a defeat

2. Noun. A quiet or secluded place in which one can relax

3. Noun. A period of seclusion for the purposes of prayer and meditation

When I was a child, my dad used to regale me with stories from when he was an army ranger. We would talk over dinner and he would weave a tapestry of tales for me - of skydiving at night and wading through swamps in the Deep South. He would drink Drambuie over ice and joke about his friend who hallucinated dancing donuts after a week of sleep deprivation. He crafted fairy tales layered with camouflage and honey whiskey.

Sitting in McClellan’s Retreat, watching the outside world go by, I am intensely reminded of my father’s stories. It’s like I’m playing dress up in my parent’s closet, drinking my father’s whiskey in a cozy wooden bar that would make Ernest Hemingway proud.

I don’t think the bar makes me think of my father on purpose, though. Regardless of my own nostalgia, the establishment is more than worth the 10-minute walk from the Dupont metro.

A secluded bar tucked behind the Embassy of the Republic of Moldova, McClellan’s Retreat is named after a 19th century American soldier with an aesthetic to match its namesake. The small space is coated in dark wood from floor to ceiling and the bar runs the length of the room.

If the mahogany décor doesn’t convince you it’s a Bar with a capital B, then the happy hour menu sure will. You have three options for happy hour prices: wine, rail punch, or an old fashioned. Though the choices are sparse, the old fashioned delivers. If you order it with bourbon instead of rye, the result is slightly sweet and unabashedly strong.

The establishment may be the Ron Swanson of Dupont Circle bars, but it has just the right amount of Leslie Knope. The décor changes for each season, rotating from Tiki torches in July to Beetlejuice posters in October.

The drink specials are interesting and usually delicious, with creative ingredients and fun themes. Think 90’s-inspired specials named “You Got it Dude” and “Did I Do That,” or last September when the entire drink menu was named after foods you could expense at work (the “Cobb Salad” was a long island iced tea).

While it’s a great bar year-round, I have to say that my favorite McClellan’s Retreat reveals itself in the winter – when strands of multi-colored string lights stream across the low ceiling to set the bar in a hazy glow. In the biting cold of dark January, when I feel bone-weary and Vitamin D-deficient, the cozy space lives up to its name.

I sit by the window, watch snow drift across busy streets, and enjoy feeling steadfastly adult. It’s as if I finally grew into the dress up clothes from my parent’s closet, and somewhere along the way I grew into myself.

Written by Megan McClintock

Edited by Anna McCarthy

Photographed by Emi Lungmus


bottom of page