Erin Nestor's bars beget regulars. Tommy Gun was a rare low-key watering hole on Capitol Hill, serving up mac and cheese and Whiskey Wednesdays until its closure earlier this year. In its eight years of life, The Bottleneck Lounge has drawn a steady stream of Central District and Madison Valley customers for community game nights and women's soccer marathons.
But over the years, many of the late-twentysomethings who once flocked to the bar have married and started families. They're still supportive, but they've drifted away.
It wasn’t just that her customers couldn’t hang out at their neighborhood bar as much as they once did. Spending time with her six-year-old niece, Nestor, and her business and life partner Rebecca Denk realized that there was a dearth of restaurants where both kids and adults could actually enjoy themselves.
Enter 2 Doors Down. Sure, there are Wikki Stix and Etch A Sketches at the pint-sized kids’ counter, but the intelligent burger lineup and 20 microbrews on tap keep this place firmly outside of Chuck E. Cheese territory.
“I’d like to stress that there is no play pit here,” says Nestor.
The space received extensive renovations to transform it from a cheesesteak shop into a glossy two-bar eatery. With the help of designer Christine Chaney, the split-level unit was outfitted with vintage fir walls, a hand-built reclaimed wood table, and a white subway tile back bar. By opening day, Nestor will have added colorful drop lights and a display for the 64-ounce growlers that will be available for sale (and fill) at the bar.
The lineup of hyperlocal beers and ciders—nearly half the opening draft list is produced within city limits—will change as quickly as they go through the beers, with just a few standing taps. One of these will be a dedicated gluten-free tap, currently Ghostfish Brewing’s grapefruit IPA.
Hip to the dietary restrictions and food allergies that today’s families deal with, Nestor kept the menu adaptable. Hers is a dedicated nut-free kitchen, and all burgers are available with veggie patties and gluten-free buns.
Burgers dominate the menu, from a $6 classic to a $16 “420 burger” (you'll understand when you’re older, kids) with deep-fried avocado and a brioche egg-in-the-hole for a bun. A banh mi burger has daikon slaw and housemade pickles, and the green chile burger is topped with an intriguing hopped garlic mayo. All are made with locally-sourced antibiotic- and hormone-free beef, the highest quality Nestor could source with a sensible price point in mind. There’s also a small selection of hot dogs and sandwiches, a simple kids’ menu, and gluten-free sweets. The walkup ordering system–over-21s at the bar, under-21s at the "kitchen counter" on the lower level–eliminates the need for a waitstaff, which Nestor says will keep wages high.
Non-beer beverages include Dry sodas, Crater Lake root beer on tap, Stumptown cold brew, and a housemade lemonade named for Nestor's beloved niece. Aww.
Two doors up at the Bottleneck Lounge, things will remain more or less the same. Hungry guests will be encouraged to go pick up a burger, and eventually Nestor hopes to create a streamlined ordering process between the two establishments. She's also planning to petition the city for the removal of a two-hour parking restriction to create a streatery connecting the spaces. When those patrons in turn decide to trade in shooters for strollers, she’ll be waiting for them, just two doors down the street.
Two Doors Down is open from 11am till 11pm weekdays, 11am to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 11am till 10pm Sunday. Closed on Tuesday.