ALEXANDRIA, VA – Anticipating their opening for almost two years, friends and business partners, Jack Caminos and Tim Prosser are looking forward to introducing Old Town to Old Hat Bar Friday, May 21.
Newly renovated 112 N. Saint Asaph Street, the former King Street Blues location, has kept some of the booths and has refinished the original bars along with adding their own artistic style to the location. Caminos, who started his career at 15, bartending once a week at the famous music club CBGB in New York City, recalls frequenting King Street Blues when he came to town.
While working on their restaurant during COVID, it became even more apparent that Old Town is the right choice for their business. According to Caminos, “there were a number of things that reinforced that this was the town we wanted to be in. From a city that was really trying to help, to neighbors who were asking all the time about our endeavor with genuine excitement.”
Caminos shared with me the history of the gastropub, about which he says the meaning has changed over time. Gastropubs originated in the UK decades ago. British bars didn’t sell food. At some point the snacks they did serve started to escalate, but it wasn’t quite a restaurant, it was still a pub. They took advantage of the seasonal harvest and there were chefs who really wanted to flex their muscles and show off their new dishes. So hence, the idea of “gastropub”. For him and Prosser this concept means the bar, food and drinks are equally important and in the sense of a public house.
Their shared goal is wanting their establishment to be an environment where you truly are having a good time. They really want their guests to connect with the server or the person behind the bar and the people around them. Their philosophy is if there is great value in the food, great value in the drink, this all goes toward cultivating an environment that says, “I want to be here. It’s fun to be here.” Prosser would love Old Hat “to be the every-night place”.
You most definitely can bring your family to dinner here as well as simply coming by to only have drinks. “That’s the gastropub. We’re not going to get upset if someone is coming in for a table to just have cocktails,” states Caminos. He hopes other guests understand that. There are no reservations; if people are enjoying themselves, they are allowed to stay and keep enjoying themselves.
Even though this team loves to bartend together, you will most likely find Caminos behind the downstairs, more traditional, dark and a little closed-off bar. Prosser will be upstairs in the more modern, bright and airy bar. “We do have fun behind the bar together, we’ve worked together for years in the club scene, restaurant scene and the neighborhood bar scene and I think we’re pretty good at showing people a good time,” says Caminos.
The two have a lot of knowledge of spirits and ingredients and have put so much thought into their drinks. Their cocktails are exciting blends of flavor that are perhaps unexpected or new but will have the wow factor. Their goal is for the drinks to be memorable. Although not what they first imagined because their crew is not as established as they had hoped, they have temporarily scaled back their menu. Two stand-out debut food items are their House Burger, which is ½ pound pasture finished black angus beef with charred scallion spread, cheddar cheese, bacon and a fried egg and their Pork Cemita, made of slow cooked pork shoulder, avocado, queso Oaxaca, onion, tomato and cilantro.
Curious about their logo of the chick carrying the fish? I think this just may be a great opportunity to chat with your neighbor in gastropub style and try to figure out its meaning.
Doors open May 21. Old Hat Bar, 112 N. Saint Asaph St., Alexandria. 703-567-2314.