Named for Felix Leiter, James Bond’s CIA straight man, the Felix and Spy Lounge might be thought of as a boho-meets-cosmo lounge bar and restaurant, located in the heart of the funky-chic Adams Morgan area in Northwest Washington, D.C. The street address is 2406 18th St. NW, right across from Crush, but you won’t need it. The bright red vertical neon sign can be seen up and down Adams Morgan, and the lines of patrons on Friday and Saturday night – sometimes a block long – can’t be missed.
Inside, a stylized mural of the city greets you from behind the bar, while the high ceilings, mirrors, and art deco lighting combine to give Felix a film noir kind of mood. Up the stairs is the Spy Lounge, a loft space that does double duty as both an event space for the restaurant and a schmoozy suite for the club. There are video monitors laid out along the walls and behind the bar. When the club first opened in 1996, they played Bond films exclusively. That, together with the extensive menu of martinis, mojitos, and Sinatra nights, formed the original Bond “theme” for the place. That theme has been relaxed quite a bit now, with a definite Asian-chic feel to the place, but the mojito is still the best drink there, with just the right mix of rum, mint leaves, sugar and bitters.
While Felix may look more like a nightclub than a restaurant, the staff still takes the food seriously. The menu changes daily, but is devoted mostly to small plates (about $9 each), with just a handful of entrées. For example, you could start with a tuna spring roll or New England clam chowder. Other small plates include a trio of miniburgers or minipizzas, while some favorite entrées include seared tuna with wasabi cream and grilled flank steak with roasted potato salad. Call in advance and the chef just might whip up a classic Jewish Friday night feast -- challah, matzo-ball soup, and brisket.
Somewhere between 9 and 11 PM on most nights, Felix switches over from a restaurant to a club. The music is cranked up, the downstairs lounge starts serving upscale bar food, and a modest dance floor opens up. On weekends there is usually live music, most often some kind of jazz, world, or fusion group.
Felix draws an attractive, upscale crowd, and is full most nights. Despite the crowds, the bar staff is quite good, remembering your order, and sometimes even your name, for the next round. It’s rare to find a beautiful style bar with a crowd whose heads aren’t stuck in their Prada handbags or up their Armani pants. But if that’s what you’re looking for, Felix may be your choice.