Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Where NOT to Eat or Drink (unless you want to get very, very pissed off): Dickson Wine Bar

As I write this blog post, it is Sunday morning.

What I should be doing is curling up with a cup of coffee, watching bad TV and daydreaming about the heirloom tomatoes I'm destined to purchase from Eastern Market this afternoon.

But instead, I'm still so utterly PISSED OFF after my experience at U Street's Dickson Wine Bar last night that I have no other choice but to sit down and write this blog post to tell anyone and everyone who will listen NOT to go there.

In truth, I was excited to try Dickson -- I'd passed its brick facade numerous times, seen the soft lights twinkling inside and the patrons sipping their wine, and thought, "That place looks lovely."

Only photo I could find of the outside. Imagine it dark, with twinkling lights inside.

Jules, two of her friends and I had reservations for dinner at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The place wasn't terribly crowded, and as we waited for drinks, we all took turns joking about how because the restaurant is so dark with the aforementioned soft lights that it'd be a good place to take an online date. 

We got the first round of drinks, including a seasonal special: mulled wine. If you're unfamiliar, it's served hot, like apple cider. And for reasons known only to them, Dickson served those hot drinks in standard glassware, the same glasses you would serve iced cocktails in. If you serve a hot drink in a glass not meant to carry hot liquids, the glass heats up to nuclear temperatures and you burn the ever living daylights out of your fingertips. We asked our server if we could get different glasses -- mugs, perhaps -- but were told that there was a large party upstairs and they had no other glassware they could give us.

This, however, was only a minor inconvenience... but sadly, it was all just a downward spiral from there.

- It took nearly 20 minutes for a server to visit our table to get a second drink order.

- It took an additional 20 minutes after that for us to get said drinks, and for them to ask us for our dinner order. We were never offered more drinks after that, nor did they even fill up our water glasses.

- We didn't even get any food until after 10 p.m., and the first time they visited our table they had the entirely wrong order.

The whole time, the servers just kept blaming the large party upstairs. They couldn't serve us on time because there was a 20-person party upstairs. They got everything confused because there was a 20-person party upstairs. If you have 20 seats, you should be able to serve 20 people, bottom line. We got tired of hearing excuses after excuses.


At some point, we needed to use the bathroom, which was downstairs. We descended and made our way around the corner and to the door at the end of the hall.

The bathroom is a single-toilet room and a locking door. As you open the door, at first you see nothing unusual -- toilet, sink, counter, etc.

And then you close the door.


This photo doesn't even do it justice because I had to use a flash in order to take a proper picture. But just imagine this shrouded figure, with milky white eyes, appearing behind the door of the restroom, where you go to retreat to have a private moment and are not expecting to see ANYONE.

It. Was. TERRIFYING! I screamed and bolted for the door as fast as I could flee. In the process, I caught my dress on the door lock and ripped a gigantic hole in it as well as scraping up my elbow.

Once I realized it was a decoration, I went from being terrified to levels of pissed off I have never before known. It is AFTER Halloween, and there were NO other decorations up. It'd have been one thing if the place were decked out, if it had still been Halloween season... I'd have had a good laugh and said, "Hey, got me!!!" But NO. None of those things were true.

After tearing my dress, scraping my elbow and enduring the rest of the poor service we got, I went to the manager and complained: 

"I gotta tell you, I'm really unhappy," I said. "That thing in the bathroom downstairs is really upsetting. It really scared me, and I wasn't expecting it at all because it's after Halloween and you guys don't have any other decorations up."

The manager was shitty with me. 

"We DO have other decorations up," he said with an irritated tone, pointing to a spider decoration that was hanging from the balcony above us -- so if you didn't cock your head back and directly look to the upstairs, you didn't see it (and oh, ONE other decoration. MY MISTAKE). "We leave them up for a few weeks after Halloween."

"OK, that may be true, but no one expects to see anything in the bathroom," I said. "It was just really upsetting, and I ripped my dress and scraped my elbow trying to escape. Also, we've been unhappy with the service tonight..."

I couldn't even get out that last complaint, because the manager waved me off, still acting irritated with me. 

"We'll comp your food," he said. And that was that.

You know what? Had he said, "I'm so sorry" AT ANY POINT in that exchange, I would not be writing this blog post. I'd have chalked it up to a shitty night on the town and moved on. But between the terrible service, the bathroom demon AND the manager's terrible customer-service response, I will NEVER, EVER go back to Dickson Wine Bar. 

And I am making it my PERSONAL CRUSADE that no one else ever patronize this horrible business. 

There are many other wine bars in town, so if you want wine, pick one of these:

Cork Wine Bar, 1720 14th St. NW

Proof, 775 G St. NW

Screwtop Wine Bar, 1025 N. Fillmore St., Arlington

Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar, 223 Pennsylvania Ave. SE

Urbana, 2121 P St. NW

Veritas Wine Bar, 2031 Florida Ave. NW

Vinoteca, 1940 11th St. NW



  1. meh, i wasn't happy with the place. it's so dark there that I had to use the candle to read the menu. and the food is very overpriced and not friendly to the gluten-free crowd.

  2. I went a year and a half ago and when it first opened. The service definitely got worse. But I always loved the atmosphere and the food was good- but overpriced. I cannot believe that figure was behind the door in the bathroom, that is horrifying. I wish it hadn't been so bad for you! I want to like that place! You should put this review on Yelp too.

  3. I started reading, wondering, meh, how bad could it be?

    But yes, the bathroom demon trumps all. I'm also laughing, because it's so hilariously awful. But if it had been me I would have been righteously pissed.

    1. And that is a good way to put what I currently feel: I'm righteously pissed!

  4. Yelp that shit up.

    Also, I'm super impressed that you spoke to the management about your bad experience. I usually don't have the guts to do that, which is ridiculous - I'm paying for the experience, and if it sucks I have the right to say something.

  5. Man, that sucks! I've always really like Dickson's, and haven't had the chance yet to use it for a first date, but thought about it. I'll probably keep going there unless I have a bad experience, but I'll think twice about chancing a date there.