A tiny little joint just off Pennsylvania, Tune Inn has seen a thing or two in its storied past: It was once a candy kitchen, then a speakeasy (they smuggled bottles one at a time through a secret staircase), then a tailor to the gentlemen of the US Congress. Right before the 1900s, the Nardellis of West Virginia took it over—and it’s now owned by the family’s third generation.
Grab a seat at the bar or snag a cozy booth in the back, and take a moment to let the volume of taxidermy sink in. The walls are also covered with sarcastic signs, old pictures, and DC paraphernalia. Hand-drawn pictures from local kids take up an entire mirror. Patrons in suits, plaid shirts, and dresses are relaxed and content: You can tell they feel at home in the locally-revered spot.
Our waitress clues us in on the specials, but we go straight for standbys, starting with “cheese wedges” AKA the fried mac ‘n’ cheese bites. These take me straight back to college, the slightly gooey triangles of mac deep fried and served with 1000 Islands dressing. A touch crunchy and just the right size for devouring in two bites. Or one.
The Tune Inn burger is what everyone comes for, especially those seeking a hangover cure. They’re 100% meaty, greasy, and cooked to that elusive diner medium-rare. A big slice of American cheese sits atop thin, super crisp onion strings. The soft potato bun squishes just so, with lettuce, a tomato, two crunchy pickles, the 1000 Islands holding everything together.
Next, the Joe’s West Virginia. Named after the original owner, Joe, and his original home, this sandwich is simple, delicious, and comforting. Grilled rye holds a generous portion of fresh roast beef, American cheese, and signature sauce. Word is, it’s a “bon ton” sauce — a combination of mayo, ketchup, pepper, paprika, and horseradish. I don’t taste the horseradish, but it certainly is delicious, the flavors and textures complementing each other nicely. We get both the sweet potato and regular fries and both are good enough.
With the second-oldest liquor license in Washington, D.C., the bar serves strong drinks and cold beers. With an all-day breakfast, patrons come and go starting at 10 AM, and a dollar-off happy hour is a pleasant surprise.