Archipelago

Washington, D.C.
Bar
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1201 U Street NW
Washington, D.C.
Opened in February 2016
Tue-Thu 5pm-2am
Fri-Sat 5pm-3am
Sun 5pm-2am
closed Mondays
(202) 627-0794

Critiki ratings

Archipelago

7.5

Overall

by 63 people

1

10

Detail
Everyone You
Decor 6.9
Drink Quality 8.2
Drink Selection 8.2
Food Quality 8.4
Food Selection 7.4
Mood 6.5
Music 7.7
Service 8.1
Tikiness 7
Tilt 7.2
Vibe 6.8

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View all 99 Archipelago regulars & visitors

Humuhumu’s description

Archipelago opened in Washington, DC in February 2016. The bar's owners collected bits and bobs of Polynesian Pop in preparation for opening the bar, including a shrine to Magnum, PI. The focus is on cocktails, including both classics and modern inventions, but there is a small menu of food, as well. The decor includes a painted mural with palm scenes, and some thatch and lauhala touches.

Comments

okuma
okuma is a semi-regular at Archipelago.
April 12, 2019, 1:50 PM
Archipelago is the bar that made me recognize and grow my love of tiki culture, and it’s still one of my absolute favorite tiki bars. Unfortunately I don’t live in the DC area any more, so I don’t get to enjoy this wonderful gem full-time, but I always make a point of stopping in for at least one drink whenever I go back to visit. Don’t let the 7.5 rating fool you – their exotic cocktails and delicious Sichuan-inspired food are absolutely top-knotch.

Although the regular drink menu and the relative lack of decor in the main bar area might suggest that Archipelago is just another tiki-lite bar hopping on the bandwagon of the current tropical drink craze, taking a closer look will really make you appreciate the love that the owners have for Polynesian Pop. The pieces that they’ve displayed around the bar were all collected over the course of years, and unique little spins like the Magnum PI shrine and the surf films being projected on the wall provide a fun touch. However, while bar decor is obviously important my favorite aspect of tiki culture is the drinks, and this is where Archipelago really shines. The originals on their menu are great but as others have said, ask for the “Old School Tiki” drink menu (which also comes with a long list of sipping rums). All of the drinks that I’ve tried off of that menu over the years have been absolutely fantastic, including my favorite Jet Pilot in the world.

I think Archipelago’s somewhat low score is mostly due to 2 factors: one is the raucous after-work and weekend crowds that they attract (which are totally not their fault, and good for them that they’re so popular!), which might rub some tiki-philes the wrong way if they’re just looking for a dark, quiet corner to drink in. The other is the aforementioned lack of decor relative to other, more well-established tiki bars. However, both of these issues have been rendered moot with their new upstairs “speakeasy” space, Lost Island.

I got to check out Lost Island about a month ago, on the first weekend that they opened the space for regular reservations (you have to make advance reservations for upstairs tables using the online service Resy, which some people might think is gimmicky or over-burdensome but I thought it was cool that you really had to seek out if you wanted to find it). The space feels much more like a traditional quiet tiki bar, with rattan and bamboo everywhere (and no windows!). There’s a framed photo of Donn Beach on the wall and exotica playing over the speakers. It’s everything you could want it to be. I was so happy to be there, and doubly so because I was finally able to give Chris (one of the owners) a rare tiki mug from Okinawa that I had been saving for them for a long time. Opening the new space is a huge occasion and I’m so happy that business is booming for them!

What it boils down to is this: if you consider yourself a Polynesian Pop purist who values the decor and “authenticity” of long-established tiki bars over the quality of food and drinks offered, and who prefers a dark and quiet old place to a more modern and hopping bar experience, then Archipelago might not be for you. However, I for one am so incredibly happy that Archipelago is carrying on the tradition of making great tiki drinks while also creating a hip, modern bar experience for a new generation of tiki enthusiasts!
caliban
caliban is a semi-regular at Archipelago.
April 8, 2019, 12:07 PM
I just checked out the new Lost Island area upstairs on Friday night with my wife. We waded through the downstairs area, which was hopping. I'm tremendously grateful for Archipelago's success, but I was also quite relieved to be guided upstairs, through a closed door, and into a dark, quiet area filled with thatch and bamboo. Lost Island is the tiki bar inside the tiki bar that I've been waiting for. There was exotica playing, and the booths are lovely. They have their own menu, too, with three related, seasonal drinks, and about eight or so classics, like the Zombie, Pago Pago, Missionary's Downfall, and more.

The seasonal drinks all used scotch, with is pretty interesting, but I was there for the classics. The two I had were delightful, though I had a fair bit of ice shards in the cocktail that was served up. I don't know; I've never enjoyed having ice chunks in my beverage, and when I crush ice and flash blend it at home, I'm left with a much smoother result. Maybe that's subjective.

My cocktail served in a coupe was gorgeous; my cocktail served in a ceramic mug, on the other hand, was in a Spider-Man mug, the kind that comes in dozens of different pop-culture variations on ThinkGeek. I'm probably an old fuddy duddy, but I don't like those mugs. They make tiki a shallow pastiche, and bring a giant pop-culture product into what was previously my private island escape.

The décor so far is really lovely, but it's a little on the spare side. That's understandable: they just opened! But I hope that over the months and years ahead, it fills up and ends up being the kind of crowded, barely-any-space spot I know it can be.

Overall, it was a great experience: we're incredibly lucky that the Archipelago folks want to create an experience within an experience through Lost Island.
Magicscientist
Magicscientist is a semi-regular at Archipelago.
March 22, 2019, 9:44 PM
The Lost Island room is amazing! Go see for yourself. It’s almost the size of the main and area and has a special menu. You’ll need to reserve a table on their website...click around, you’ll find it. ;-)
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