Right before the 2022 Winter Olympics, there’s a silly new spectator sport in town that involves throwing an empty, ice-cold shot glass at an easy target: a big brass bell a few feet away.
Find the random drinking game on the roof of Salazar, Logan Circle’s anticipated Tex-Mex bar that opens this weekend in the three-story space that once housed the trendy El Centro DF (1819 14th Street NW) taqueria. For starters, the hours are 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday, January 14 and Saturday, January 15. The following weekend, Salazar opens at 4 p.m. from Thursday, January 20 to Saturday, January 22. Weekday hours and bottomless brunch will join the mix in February.
Salazar, meaning “assembly hall,” is the latest member of the DC Empire led by the Millennial Mission Group, which includes Mission (Navy Yard and Dupont); Hawthorne on U Street NW; The Admiral to Dupont; and Royal Palm Social Club, open in May at Navy Yard. Planting a bar down the hallway of bustling 14th Street NW nightlife was still in the cards, but lack of availability delayed that plan, co-founder Reed Landry told Eater.
So when the rowdy Mexican mainstay of Richard Sandoval Hospitality closed during the pandemic after a 10-year run, Mission Group quickly called dibs on prime real estate with year-round roofing. Like El Centro, tequila remains the spirit of choice in Salazar’s four updated bars. A new neon sign with subliminal undertones reads: “Drink Tequila Daily. “
There are 50 types of tequila to choose from, but only four are officially part of the ice luge-style “bell challenge”: Sauza Hacienda, Milagro, Don Julio, and Casamigos ($ 10- $ 15), with an additional charge of $2 for everything else. Because no one likes a hot shot of tequila, a frozen drinking container is pretty smart (not to mention the environment). The idea already exists in tourist spots like Minus5 Ice Bar in Vegas, where everything – down to the bar and the chairs – is frozen, but swapping the glass for ice is a rare bar feature for DC.
“We’ve been talking about doing it for a while, but you have to have the right space to do something like this,” Landry says. “We found a perfect little corner at the back of the bar. We’ll let people take it and run with it.
Tacos and bells also collide in Salazar. The opening menu includes tortillas with protein like chimichurri steak, chipotle chicken, mango shrimp and crispy pork belly. Original pulled pork nachos submarine in pork rinds for tortilla chips, and entrees also include bacon corn fritters and black bean sopes with a base of fried masa. There’s also quesadillas, a cubano sandwich, and a Mexican hot dog topped with bacon jam, pico, homemade pickles, mashed avocado, cotija, and cream.
Happy hour (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily; 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekends) includes $ 1 fries and salsa, half-price quesadillas, $ 4 crowns, and $ 24 jugs of margaritas.
Mission Group’s busy bottomless brunches stand out, Landry says, because the deal includes margaritas, not just mimosas. In addition to Mission’s familiar margaritas on tap, Salazar cocktails include a ‘skinny smoky’ option with mezcal and a dark stormy one.
El Centro’s iconic basement bar, which has morphed into a sweaty salsa club on weekends, will also be living in Salazar. This time around, the refreshed tavern will host rotating DJs on Fridays and Saturdays and provide additional seating at brunch.
El Centro regulars should feel right at home, he says. Mission Group’s largely cosmetic makeover included fresh paint, updated lighting and some greenery.
“El Centro went well, but it was an older building – our main interest was to refresh it,” he says.
In 2017, El Centro was criticized for refusing entry by a black man at the door for wearing Converse sneakers on a Saturday night. In response, El Centro fired the bouncer who refused customer entry – and removed the no-sneaker policy.
At Salazar, “there is no dress code, no cover,” says Landry.
The multi-level configuration can accommodate 75 people and has a capacity of 260 people. He says the large exterior component at the top should be a big selling point.
“We only open places with large roofs and large patios,” he says. Mission will then bring Navy Yard a massive new beach bar called the Royal Palm Social Club, which has just started construction. An opening is scheduled for May, he says.
Salazar’s opening weekend coincides with DC’s new proof of vaccination requirement to enter bars and restaurants.
“People are definitely ready to go out,” he says. “We rolled with the punches on the various policies and changes. The vast majority of our clients are understanding.