As one longstanding Capitol Hill spot goes out of business, a new place right across the street is just getting started. Across East 13th Avenue from the Gypsy House Cafe (which closes on March 14), the Marion Street Tavern has quietly opened its doors in the former Gabor's location. Four years ago, when Gabor's closed in preparation for the spot being turned into the Marion Street Tavern, an offshoot of the Providence Tavern in Edgewater, the lamentations of regulars were loud — but there's been little heard since. Now, after a major facelift that involved four years of renovations, this hallowed ground for local drinkers has been resurrected as a neighborhood bar.
The Marion Street Tavern, at 1223 East 13th Avenue, has a well-appointed, rustic Irish-pub-style interior, with deep-brown woodwork contrasting with exposed brick walls, staunch leather-upholstered chairs and an antique embossed tin ceiling, which a bartender says was repurposed from an old church. The bar boasts some fifteen microbrews on draft and only Coors Banquet and Lone Star in bottles. Boldly, there is no PBR in the place, which aligns with the bar's craft-beer-centric lineup — if not with thrifty Cap Hill pub crawlers.
Open from noon to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to midnight on Sundays, the bar offers daily drink specials with a cheap and varied happy-hour food menu. The full lunch and dinner board is eclectic, ranging from spicy tuna poke to pulled-pork sliders, but also offers pub standards like burgers, sandwiches and tacos.
During the day, warm sunlight pours in through large single-pane windows, giving the bar a bright, airy feel, perfect for an afternoon pint and far different from the noir-lounge aesthetic of the property’s previous tenant. Looking around, it’s hard to believe this was once Gabor's, but this reinvention from Sam Root, who owns the Providence Tavern, embraces its own style while respecting the storied location, the neighborhood and its residents (in other words, this is no gentrified invader). With its friendly staff, solid menu and good drinks, the Marion Street Tavern should fit right into the area — even if it takes a few minutes to figure out where the famous Gabor's jukebox used to stand in the entirely redone floor plan.
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While the tavern has been slowly introducing itself to its Capitol Hill neighbors, a formal grand-opening event is being planned for the near future. Like its Edgewater sibling, the Marion Street Tavern isn't much for social media, so the best way to learn more is to stop in for a pint and some good conversation — which seems like a perfect Capitol Hill way to pass the hours.