Black Cat

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Black Cat A U Street Corridor staple since 1993, Black Cat is a cornerstone of the DC music and nightlife scene, and continues to feature an incredibly diverse mix of nightly acts. Washington, DC United States 38.914528 -77.031772
4.03 12
Black Cat - Bar | Club | Live Music Venue | Restaurant in Washington, DC.
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Party Earth Review A U Street Corridor staple since 1993, Black Cat is a cornerstone of the DC music and nightlife scene, and continues to feature an incredibly diverse mix of nightly acts. Lesser-known bands and DJs perform on the knee... ... read full review

  • Metro:

    Green, Yellow Lines: U-Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo

  • Phone:


  • Links:

  • Hours:

    M–Th, Su 8pm–2am, F–Sa 7pm–3am

  • Recommended as:

    • Night Spot

Party Earth Black Cat Review

The Scene

A U Street Corridor staple since 1993, Black Cat is a cornerstone of the DC music and nightlife scene, and continues to feature an incredibly diverse mix of nightly acts.

A U Street Corridor staple since 1993, Black Cat is a cornerstone of the DC music and nightlife scene, and continues to feature an incredibly diverse mix of nightly acts.

Lesser-known bands and DJs perform on the knee-high stage in the Backstage Concert Room, a purple-hued and sparsely decorated ground floor space that doubles as a makeshift theater for the weekly movie or TV screenings.

The crimson walls of the aptly named Red Room Bar form a backdrop for punk rockers and club kids alike who catch their breath on scattered couches or over a relaxed game of pinball or pool, while the adjoining Food for Thought Café keeps everyone well fed with diner fare and vegetarian dishes.

The biggest party, however, is in the dark Mainstage Room on the second level, where big names like the Flaming Lips and Moby pack the house with so many dedicated fans that the checkered floor disappears beneath seven hundred pairs of happy feet.

Two more bars on either side of the open room keep patrons well sauced, as major DJ parties keep the dancing at a frenzied pace.

While it’s often said that crossing paths with a Black Cat is bad luck, avid music lovers on the prowl for great music in DC know this Cat is damn near purrfect.

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Tip from Jonah:

Even though there are ATMs throughout the venue, Black Cat charges higher-than-normal fees to get cash. Bring a wad with you if you plan on drinking.

  • Crowd

    Diverse mix based on nightly event: punk rockers, students, artists, musicians, urban hipsters, club kids, movie lovers, raver-types, bohemians, and young professionals, 18 to early 30s.

  • Entertainment / Music

    Nightly live music on at least one of the two stages, ranging from acoustic and reggae to rock and hardcore punk. DJs spin with just as much diversity in their selection as the live acts, from 80s mash-ups to hip-hop and dance. Weekly movie or TV screenings in the Backstage Concert Room. Pinball, pool table and jukebox in the Red Room Bar.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    Food for Thought Café offers vegan and vegetarian fare and American pub grub, including vegan chili, vegan hot dogs, and a flame-grilled mahi mahi sandwich. Capacity is two hundred in the Backstage space and seven hundred in the Mainstage room. Cash only. Two ATMs on site. All ages in the concert rooms.

  • Prices

    Cover charge $0–$25/Backstage and Mainstage only. Appetizers $3–$5, salads $3.50–$7, vegan/vegetarian dishes $3–$7, entrées $3–$10, desserts $1–$3. Beer $3–$7, wine $4–$5, cocktails $5–$8.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Casual: jeans, t-shirts, Chuck Taylors, plaid button-downs, skinny jeans, studded belts, band shirts, and a sprinkling of collars.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Any night for live music, though Fridays and Saturdays are the go-to nights for the biggest-name bands and/or DJs.

  • Close By

    Café Saint-Ex (1847 14th Street NW) offers a similar party atmosphere, a popular menu, and a loud basement scene with regular DJs.

Black Cat User Reviews

Average rating:
Not Your Average Hole In The Wall
Jasmine S. Aug 5, 2013
Black Cat is an awesome intimate event for concerts and live music, it has a very laid back vibe. Good for cheap beers,good people, and frat house- college glory day type of partying. It's a hole in the wall but that's what I loved about it, I caught a Solange Knowles performance their and even though the sound booth couldn't get it quite right with the mics. It was still an awesome show. The bar is wallet- friendly, the dance floor...was packed! but they do have seating areas for those quick conversations before migrating to other areas of the hip-indie-rock-underground spot. Not one to pass up, definitely a weekend kick-off place too! Friday nights are the busiest, unless they are having performances in that case get there early for awesome parking.
My kinda dive...
Tiffani M. Jun 15, 2013
The sweet odor of stale, sticky floor-beer and the sounds of jovial drunks made me feel right at home. By mid-week of my lone travels in DC, I was in need of something familiar, and Black Cat's Red Room had exactly what I needed. A few moderately cheap beers, a friendly game of pool with strangers, and a cozy, well worn atmosphere, absolute perfection. The staff is polite, and the crowd is laid back. I wasn't able to see an official show here, however after a few pints... my new friends and I crashed a wedding reception in the adjacent room. They had hired a fantastically strange electronic group, so I got a little dancing in as well as made a few more acquaintences. Overall, it's a great place for those who enjoy dingy, hole in the wall, yet respectable establishments. Black Cat will be a go-to stop on my future trips to DC.
Black Cat: An Integral Part of D.C. Music Scene
Kelly M. Mar 27, 2013
My Take: There is never a dull night at Black Cat. From intimate concerts to themed happy hours, Black Cat is great weekend spot in the U Street area. The venue has multiple rooms which feature different events each evening: Mainstage is where most of the concerts take place, Backstage which has smaller forms of entertainment such as poetry, the fully stocked Red Room Bar features beer, bourbon, and scotch, and Food for Thought, a small café with a variety of simple foods. During my trip to Black Cat, I was only able to see Mainstage for the concert I was going to, but I will definetly head back at a future date to explore the rest of the venue. Mainstage is a bit of a dive, but it’s a great place to check out live music in Washington in an intimate setting. I’d say it’s a must see for any music lover in the D.C. area. The Scene: The scene changes based on the event that’s taking place at Black Cat, but the overall vibe consists of young adults, from college kids to those in their late 20s/early 30s, who are interested in checking out non-mainstream music. The crowd here is generally hipster, lots of chunky glasses and beanies, but is very accepting of all types of people. Cocktails & Cuisine: All of the rooms have some form of a bar, but the place to get drinks is in Black Cat’s aptly named Red Room where most of the patrons order craft beer. Black Cat prides its Red Room on having no cover charge. It is also well stocked in bourbon and scotch. Black Cat also has a small café entitled, Food for Thought which features different hours than the rest of the venue (8pm-1am Sunday through Thursday, 7pm-2am on Friday and Saturday). The food here is well priced and offers many vegetarian and vegan options. The café is quite small but it’s perfect for a quick bite to eat before a show. Prices: All in all, Black Cat is relatively well priced. The price of concert tickets is much lower in comparison to other venues in the area and food and drink is pretty well priced as well. A big complaint at Black Cat, however, was that it’s cash only but there are two ATM’s on site so it doesn’t serve to be too much of a problem. What to Wear: Wear whatever you’re comfortable with. It gets pretty hot during concerts and there is a coat check, but most don’t use it so just keep that in mind when getting dressed for the evening. Jeans and a t-shirt are a popular look as well as girls in casual dresses. Insider Info/When to go: If you’re going to a concert, I’d recommend either heading to the Red Room before the show or arriving about half an hour before the doors open to avoid waiting outside. Black Cat allows those in the Red Room to go in first, then ushers in the line from outside. That being said, both Mainstage and Backstage are relatively small, so there’s no bad view in the house!
Perfect Atmosphere for a Small Show or Dance Party
Kimberle D. Mar 25, 2013
The Black Cat offers a perfect venue for getting up close to the stage for a wide variety of concerts and shows. When there isn't a particular concert going on, the venue also hosts various themed dance parties, perfect for bringing friends who are visiting from out of town and want a night out in DC with good music and an upbeat crowd. The cash-only bars are reasonably priced and bartenders are friendly. The website also keeps you up to date with upcoming events so you can plan ahead for an exciting Saturday night. Its location on the U Street Corridor is also historically significant to DC and is perfect for bar hopping and finding late night restaurants.
A Must for D.C. Music Fans
Sarah W. Feb 22, 2013
Fans of indie music in Washington D.C will invariably end up at Black Cat. While the name of the U Street Corridor club is somewhat ominous, the venue is anything but. The ground floor Red Room Bar is the perfect place to enjoy a drink, throw some tunes on the juke box, shoot some pool or sit on couches with friends to compose a back story for the punk boy attempting to charm the prim girl on the other side of the room. While smaller bands and DJs frequently pack the backstage concert room, the venue’s signature space is its upstairs Mainstage. The Mainstage hosts a roster of diverse bands and offers several staple dance nights, including the annual “Cryfest,” which pits The Smiths against The Cure. The black and white checkered floor is regularly obscured by a crowd that is hip and informed, but never too cool for its boots. Those hungry for more than just music will find comfort food and vegetarian dishes at the adjoining Food for Thought Cafe. The venue is cash only and attracts acts from other spots in the city. Visitors may find themselves rubbing shoulders with acts that have just finished playing shows at the slightly larger 9:30 Club around the corner. Accidentally interfering with the pool shot of the lead singer from Interpol in not an unheard of occurrence.
Black Cat is a wide venue with beautiful music
Dennis W. Jan 22, 2013
This place has been around for a while and still remains to be one of my favorite venues for exciting live music and a relaxed experience. What I love about it is its large loft like feel which the music seems to carry through. The drinks aren’t expensive and the crowd is usually interactive. Unfortunately Black Cat only takes cash which may be sort of an inconvenience but on a positive note it requires you only spend what you have in hand. Black Cat is near several residential neighborhoods so finding parking is not hard. Regardless, the doors don't open on time so there is a wait being that this venue is underground.
A DC dance-party institution!
Lauren M. Dec 10, 2012
The bartenders are nice, the drinks are decently priced, and the music is well worth the trip. The music-offs are REQUIRED. Prince vs. Michael Jackson is an annual favorite, as are their 90s and 80s nights! A great place to go for a genuinely fun time with friends (and a great place to dance away your problems...). Not in the best area, but if you're aware of your surroundings, you'll be fine. Definitely a must (at least once) for anyone living in DC.
Fun venue for shows
Jody P. Nov 30, 2012
The Black Cat has a restaurant but the real reason to go here is to see a show. Although there are some big names that come here, in my opinion it is more fun to come and see the lesser known bands/dj's that have a serious cult following. The venue itself is dark and musty and looks as though it has not been updated in 30 years (and I mean that in a good way). The crowd at night tends to be die-hard fans of whoever is playing and people are packed in like sardines which, to me, is a fun way to see a show. There are two floors and a few different rooms - some more rowdy than others. Keep in mind that the venue is cash-only!
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