Sure we’ve seen it in Swingers, Anchorman, That Thing You Do and others (Two Jakes anyone?), but perhaps the reason folks continue flocking to The Dresden has to do with the lively atmosphere, strong drinks and time warp décor all set to the dulcet tones of Marty and Elayne’s nightly jam.
Yes the Dresden is packed most every night of the week, yet there is a certain victory in claiming one of the red vinyl booths or caster footed chairs just as the previous occupants are leaving, a kind of comfortable contentment when situated and a subtle knowing that the evening has taken a refreshing detour. It is safe to say that the Dresden has reached the level of institution. One could make the case that the whole neighborhood would feel different if the Dresden were not helping to anchor the nightlife on Vermont Avenue providing its unique spin on an evening’s entertainment options…and one would be right.
The history of the place is pretty cut-and-dried. The joint opened in 1954 as a continental style restaurant with lounge and hasn’t changed much since. Entertainers Marty and Elayne started receiving nightly billing in the early 1980s and the restaurant launched into the public eye when it played itself in 1996’s Swingers staring Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn. Marty and Elayne’s on screen cameo featuring their version of The Bee Gee’s Stayin’ Alive was either hated or heralded and soon everyone wanted to stop by and check out the action. This brings us roughly up to present day when the early afternoon crowd is small and quiet and the evening scene is pitched and heaving. The sweet spot in between, around 7 or so, is a good time to come by and stake a claim at one of the tables.
Food at the Dresden is strictly continental: steaks, prime rib, salmon, Caesar salads and the like. Not many options for the vegetarian unless you’re the kind of vegetarian that has no qualms about making a meal of fried zucchini, onion rings and something leafy. That being said, few items on the menu are knock- your- socks- off (gotta try that prime rib though…) but it’s well known that the food isn’t what routinely puts this place on lists.
That would be the atmosphere and a close second would be the drinks, more specifically the Blood and Sand cocktail that the place lays claim to. Damn fine version. Other classics like Sidecars and Manhattans are done well, but don’t expect the obsessive care that you find at a place where the ‘tenders are gartered and gallused. This is the bartending your grandparents knew, nothing fussy and fairly quick. Wine and beer are available, nothing that rare but usually something can be found that pleases.
For all the ink (cyber and otherwise) that has been spilled speaking about the Dresden, it has remained humble and accessible, the kind of place you can take your parents to and later meet up with your friends at. Perhaps that’s another reason why folks keep coming back. The place continues to age but never really seems to get old. Enjoy.