The Airedale: Your Neighborhood Bar
“A pint is 16 fluid ounces,” says Ben Jordan, owner and general manager at the Airedale, a new gastropub on 14th and Perry NW. “Too many bars say they’re giving you a pint, but only pour you 12 ounces of beer. Every day Washingtonians are swindled out of four ounces of beer they paid for. We won’t do that to you. If you order a pint at our bar, you’ll get a proper 16 ounces. No exceptions.” At Columbia Heights Initiative, we appreciate Ben’s integrity, as we’ll be hosting a happy hour at his pub on Friday, January XYZ.
Last week I had the chance to meet Ben to ask him about the story behind the Airedale. The pub radiated warmth when I entered. Burgundy brick walls, rich wood floors, and abundant soccer (futbol) paraphernalia compelled me to hang my coat and get comfortable. On the top floor, I came upon a beer garden and a balcony overlooking 14th. It’s a dark yet cozy joint. It has a neighbourly feel to it. And it should feel neighborly because that was Ben’s intention.
“I simply wanted to create a neighbourhood bar,” said Ben, who shares ownership with his dad Harold, his twin brother Izaak, and friend Boback.
Ben hails from DC. His African American-Native American father and Finnish-Italian mother raised his brother and him at 17th and U NW. Before launching the Airedale in August, Ben taught TV production and photography for 11 years at TC Williams High School in Alexandria. So when he says he wanted to create a neighbourhood bar, he’s not an outside mogul capitalizing on market demand for this type of establishment; he’s a local guy who followed a dream.
I asked Ben about the European flavour in the restaurant, from the food to the decorations to the sporting bouts shown on the big screen TVs.
“During summers growing up, my parents took my brother and me to France,” Ben explained. “At a young age, I got a taste for both tourist Europe and everyday Europe. My parents now own a place in Paris, and my brother works in Germany. I’ve travelled to many other places in Europe as well. In short, European culture is ingrained in my family’s history.”
When I met Ben, he was wearing a black cap with the word “DEAD” stitched to it and a matching black sweater with “MEAT” patched to the chest in wool white letters. “Dudes Factory makes these,” he said of the ensemble. “They’re a German fashion company, but most of their product line is based on the work of French artist McBess.”
It was fitting that Ben sported Dudes Factory apparel because the brand influenced some of the visual concepts for the Airedale. The clothing company owns a bar in Berlin called “Dudes Delikatessen.” Bits of the Airedale’s interior echo that of the Berlin-based bar.
And no one will miss the pub’s religious fervour for soccer! English Premier League bouts monopolize the televisions. Stencilled team logos and woven banners occupy the walls. “I always thought of a local bar as a place you can go to watch a game,” said Ben. “I wanted to create a space for people to do that. Plus, I’m a big soccer fan, so I like having the games on.”
When asked about his favourite team, he steered my attention to a hidden Chelsea logo painted low on a wall in the corner. Enough said.
Ben is a laidback, friendly guy who I imagine could quickly become friends with just about anyone. He’s also a man of conviction. As it relates to his restaurant, he holds two convictions: 1) if you say you serve European pub food, then you should serve food that you’d actually find at a pub in Europe; and 2) beer should be served in the appropriate glass (e.g. Barley wine belongs in a snifter, not a pilsner glass. Anything else is an abomination).
Head chef Mark Lum – Ben’s cousin who moved from Hawaii to help him open the Airedale – makes most of the ingredients in-house and ensures that patrons get proper European cuisine. And if you don’t believe me about Ben’s zeal for beer glass precision, just order the Weihenstephan Hefeweissbier. See what happens.
We’re thrilled to get to host our January happy hour at the Airedale. Come meet your neighbours, hear more stories from Ben, catch a soccer match, scarf some Currywurst, and treat yourself to a beer at the right size in the right glass.