Adams Morgan’s Bawdy, Bluesy Madam Deserves a Look

Madam's Organ

Woman at large: Madam’s Organ’s colorful “Madam,” a 35-foot tall painting that adorns the side of the building and overlooks 18th street, is tough to miss. (Photo: Google)

Adams Morgan is known as a capital hot spot for drinking, carousing and basically just losing yourself in a night of wanton revelry. Yes, it really is all that and more.

Among the many bars and clubs in the neighborhood, I’ve decided to focus on one local house of ill repute that serves up blues licks, soul food, free pool and the dirtiest mural that Northwest, D.C., has to offer: Madam’s Organ Blues Bar and Soul Food Restaurant. If you’re looking for an apartment in Adams Morgan, you’ll be staring at the mural more than once, maybe more than twice, and you’re probably going to go in there at some point, particularly after a few drinks. So, let’s get better acquainted with this edifice of sin.

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If you’ve read a certain Washington Post article posted on the bar’s website (which, honestly, needs an update like Snooki needs a ghostwriter for that new novel she’s “writing”), you’ll know about the downright convoluted – and harrowing – history of the place. Founded in the early ’90s, owner Bill Duggan had all types of problems with the previous owners, and allegedly was even the target of a proposed murder plot!

Madam’s Organ in Adams Morgan
2461 18th St., NW

Thankfully, with much consternation, that all worked itself out (though Blanca Fortiz, the owner who wanted him dead, was still at large at the time of the article’s publication and may still be for all I know). And it’s great it did, because now Duggan only has to deal with irate bureaucrats over his gigantic, iconic mural of “Madam,” the bar’s redheaded mascot. Work of art or merely crass advertising? That is the continuing question. Despite the controversy and distractions, this famous haunt has been entertaining patrons for nearly two decades now with live music seven days a week. Most of it is blues-based, but there are some other flavors played here as well.

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Among the great features of Madam’s Organ are “Drunkeoke” – their version of karaoke (there’s a two-drink minimum to participate) – on Sundays and Thursdays, open mic night every Wednesday, and the mere fact that you can shoot pool for free on the second level. Everyone likes something for free, except the IRS … well, they like your money for free, but we’ll get off that touchy subject until Ron Paul runs for president again.

Another curious feature about Madam’s Organ is that, at least according to its website, “Redheads forever drink 1/2 price Rolling Rocks!” I don’t know if having strawberry blond hair counts, or if a ridiculous fuchsia dye job works either. The food selection is both typical bar grub (burgers, fries, quesadillas) and soul food (fried chicken, barbecue, ribs, catfish). There are even vegetarian nachos. In fact, the menu’s pretty expansive and reasonably priced. This is just a wild guess, but I’m assuming they have plenty of liquor, too.

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Madam’s Organ has been featured in Playboy and Stuff, and was even touted by fakea … uh, faketail Brooke Burke on E!’s “Wild On…” a few moons ago. You owe it to yourself to check out this place the next time you’re running around with your friends and generally up to no good.

Check out apartments in the area on Apartment Showcase.

Scott D

Scott D

Scott is a local writer and has been with the Apartment Showcase blog since its inception in 2010.

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