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Quigley’s brick building stood tall at G and 21st streets in 1910.

By Jaime Ciavarra

For more than eight decades, Quigley’s pharmacy at the corner of G and 21st streets satisfied the simple cravings of the college-weary Colonial.

Tonic at Quigley’s Pharmacy took over the building in May.

Inside the three-story brick building, students sipped Cokes and perused magazines, bought blue books and chewed candy, chatted with friends and played pinball. The small shop that grew from drugstore to social site provided a place on campus for students to call their own.

“For many years, there were no other social outlets on campus, and Quigley’s literally became the hang out,” says G. David Anderson, GW archivist and historian. “It continued to be fashionable and popular because of the student tradition.”

Increasing competition eventually pushed out the mom and pop shop. Quigley’s closed its doors in 1979, and the University’s geography department moved in.

But now, after 28 years, GW students have the chance to rekindle the historic drugstore’s social charm with the opening of a new eatery in its spot.

Tonic at Quigley’s Pharmacy, an American bistro that touts the apothecary-appropriate slogan “Cures what ails you!” is dedicated to becoming GW’s new neighborhood grill while keeping Quigley’s memories intact.

Visitors to Tonic’s lunch counter can watch the game on several flat screen TVs or play a song on the restaurant’s digital jukebox.

After years of searching for the right restaurant concept to take over the street corner building, students and officials say the University, which has owned the site since 1974, is regaining an important piece of campus character.

“Students have wanted more relaxed, sit-down dining experiences on campus, and Tonic definitely gives them that,” says junior Brand Kroeger, executive vice president of the Student Association.

Tonic, owned by Eric “Bernie” Bernstrom, Illias Nathanail, and alumnus Jeremy Pollok, BA ’94, opened its doors in May. The exterior of the building looks almost the same as it did nearly a century ago, while the inside has been renovated into a hip but homey restaurant with a first floor bar, second floor dining area, and third floor Internet accessible lounge.

Those who crave a classic Coke can still find one at Tonic, but visitors don’t have to venture far past the counter to notice that the times have changed.

Several flat screen TVs hang on the walls around the main floor seating area, and patrons can choose a song on the computerized, touch screen jukebox in the corner or surf the Net in a cushy, leather couch upstairs.

Students stop for a snack and a few laughs at their favorite hang out spot in 1948. Alumnus Dino Brugioni, BA ’47, MA ’48, snapped this photo while working for The Cherry Tree and The Hatchet.

Even with the restaurant’s new beginning, owner and alumnus Pollok says the place won’t lose its memorable past. He has already started hanging old GW sports photos on the walls and wants to mix in new memorabilia added by students.

“I get that look from people who remember Quigley’s and say, ‘Oh yeah, when I was there…’ I want this to be the same thing. I want people to come back here after 10 years for a reunion because they want to see it,” Pollok says.

The old brick building, which underwent extensive interior renovations, is well known throughout the GW community because of its storied past. Another GW alumnus, Richard Lucien Quigley, opened the pharmacy in 1891 among the mostly residential homes in Foggy Bottom. When GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences rented space across the street two decades later, “Doc” Quigley began selling school supplies and later Cokes and burgers to passing students.

Study break, 1971 (Below) Friends hang out around the counter in 1969.

“It was a meeting place between classes, and it was crowded all the time—you’d walk in there and hope that someone had class just so you could get a seat,” remembers Dino Brugioni, BA ’47, MA ’48. Burgers were 10 cents at the time, a Coke was a nickel. But Brugioni recalls stopping by Quigley’s for another reason: “Girls were always there looking for dates,” he says.

For some, it was more than a social spot. As a cashier at Quigley’s, Nic Lakas helped pay his tuition by working during the busy lunchtime hour, when swarms of students dropped by for a quick pastrami sandwich or—his favorite—a legendary ice cream soda.

“To this day, I still can’t replicate the taste,” says Lakas, BA ’46.

Over the years “Quig’s” attracted notable alumni to its cozy corners, and it played a role in the history that unfolded around campus. It is the place where famous alumna Margaret Truman shared sodas with her father, and the eatery where Sen. Hillary Clinton remembered stopping for lunch during her 1968 interning stint in Washington. The shop also stayed opened during the riots and ruckus of the late ’60s and early ’70s, when tear-gassed protests forced students off Washington’s streets.

Pollok acknowledges the good times and history that Quigley’s is often associated with as he points to old GW photos he wants to display on the restaurant’s trendy top floor. He hopes students will now make their own memories at Tonic, where a strong elixir of the present is blended with the past.

Tonic at Quigley’s Pharmacy

Now and Then


Tasty burgers, hot off Doc’s grill?


Now there’s the Thurston Hall pizza, a garlicky-crisp pie topped with diced chicken, bacon, fresh tomatoes, spinach, ricotta cheese, and red onion—inspired by the University’s largest residence hall.


Buying school supplies at “Quig’s,” such as notebooks and pencils?


Surf the Net at Tonic to research for the next big paper in the Wi-Fi accessible upstairs lounge.


Playing the pinball machine in the corner of Quigley’s between classes?


Catch the game on one of Tonic’s first floor flat screen TVs hanging above the lunch counter.

The New Apothecary

Jeremy Pollok, BA ’94, is part owner of Tonic at Quigley’s Pharmacy, which opened in May.

Jessica McConnell

As a student at GW in the early 1990s, Jeremy Pollok got a job as a server and spent his free time working for tips. Pollok thrived in the fast-paced D.C. restaurant environment, and he found he was better at mixing strong cocktails and conversing with customers than pushing paper in his first post-graduation office job. So Pollok, BA ’94, took what he learned while earning a psychology degree and went into business.

“I had been working in restaurants since high school, and I knew it was something that I liked,” Pollok says about ditching corporate America to pursue a food service career. “GW got me into the restaurant business because it taught me how to think, how to problem solve. If you can learn that, you can apply it to anything.”

Pollok, along with partners Eric “Bernie” Bernstrom and Ilias Nathanail, most recently opened the new Tonic restaurant at Quigley’s pharmacy in May. An American bistro housed in the original brick mom and pop shop, Tonic is a hip new take on an old GW classic. Like its predecessor, Tonic aims to be a student social spot as well as a community place, Pollok says.

“Certain parts of our bid proposal matched word for word what some of the student organizations said they wanted in that space—comfort food, neighborhood restaurant, a meeting place. That’s what we’re about,” says Pollok, 36.

When Pollok lived in a Sigma Pi Epsilon apartment down the street from Quigley’s in the 1990s, the University-owned building housed classroom and office space. More than a decade later, it has become his business gem.

Tonic at Quigley’s is one of several restaurant opportunities Pollok has pursued since graduating from GW. After a short career as a bartender and restaurant manager, Pollok partnered with friends to open two eateries in New York City in the late 1990s. When the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks affected business, the father of three returned to Washington in 2001, ready to share his restaurant ideas in the city where he got his start.

Pollok is now also part owner of three other D.C. businesses, including Tonic restaurant in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, Radius Pizza, and Palace of Wonders, a vaudeville-inspired stage, museum, and bar.

When he’s not making his rounds from restaurant to restaurant, Pollok says he can be found spending some quality time at Tonic snacking on his favorite lunch—the Cubano, a sandwich piled high with pork, ham, cheese, pickles, and hot yellow mustard.

Just like another alumnus, “Doc” Richard Lucien Quigley, Pollok plans to stay around campus, ready to cure what ails the hungry, thirsty, or study-break ready Colonial.

“After four years, our thinking is that we’ll go through an entire class,” Pollok says, “and the freshmen will feel like Tonic has always been here.”

—Jaime Ciavarra