Out-of-towners often ask about the District’s unusual history; something along the lines of ‘Are you a state or a city or what? Does your mayor still do crack? And why is it shaped so weird?’ Meaning, we assume, the District, not our mayor.
Pass on the first two. But true story! The District was once nearly almost completely diamond-shaped, straddling both sides of the Potomac, until some fancyboys in the Commonwealth got a little snippy and took back their side, turning it into Arlington.
Today it’s home to over 200,000 people, and notably features many many little group homes where underpaid Capitol interns share their sad nights. But this is a good thing, because many underpaid interns equals many fun places to hang out, sample local cuisine, build friendships and drink. Who are we kidding…it’s just the drinking part.
Today’s tour guide is the amazing Jason Rogers – world traveler, captain of the now defunct Arlington Sperm Whales, and, as he explains, “can recite Sartre in three languages just as fast as he can put a puck past your ear.”
Congratulations on your purchase of tickets to the 2014 Bridgestone Winter Classic, and welcome to Washington D.C.! This great city is home to our nation’s capital, the seat of power of our mighty government, the environs of some of the most exquisite civil architecture in the world, and the address of many of the finest restaurants, hotels, nightlife, and cultural landmarks on earth.
Oh, wait. You’re staying in Arlington?
I have a dirty little secret, Washingtonians: I live in Arlington. That’s right, the cubic zirconia of cities. Some people buy fake Shelby Cobra replicas; I live in Arlington. Some people wear clip-on bow ties because they can’t tie the real ones; I live in Arlington. Some people lie and tell out-of-towners they live in D.C.; so do I, because I live in Arlington.
But if your Winter Classic experience involves bunking down in A-Town, you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained on this side of the Potomac. So grab your four-dollar cigarettes and your concealed carry license, because we’re going to Virginia!
WHERE TO EAT
Pedro and Vinny’s Burritos; 2559 Columbia Pike
You know what makes America great? Our god-given and constitutionally-guaranteed right to cram potentially questionable meat stuffs of dubious and possibly clandestine origin into our face holes from structures ranging in code-compliance from “Maybe” to “Surely you jest.”
Pedro and Vinny’s operates out of a shack so small, it sits within a CVS parking lot and is technically registered as a food truck. Don’t let that fool you, though. This admittedly dusty diamond serves the highest-rated burrito in D.C. on Yelp, and represented the region when Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog did a comparison of the best burritos in America.
Open until 3AM and happily catering to the inebriated, intoxicated, elevated, and otherwise cognitively compromised, Pedro and Vinny’s offers burritos the size of well-swaddled toddlers that taste ridiculously delightful, all for less than Chipotle charges for their Tex-Mex á la afterbirth.
Bob and Edith’s Diner; 2310 Columbia Pike
Located just a block from Pedro and Vinny’s on Columbia Pike is Arlington institution Bob and Edith’s. This plucky little diner has been in the same spot for forty years now – we’re talking the kind of place where they sell t-shirts and have framed photos of LBJ eating a BLT with the owner.
The food at Bob and Edith’s is just fine. It’s diner food, you’ve probably had it. From the same culinary braintrust as Messrs. Denny and Shoney, the real joy of B&E’s is the clientele. You see, Bob and Edith’s never closes. Ever. And peak hours for this little mom and pop diner are 1AM to 4AM.
So if you want some old-school corned beef hash slung onto a plate by a crocodilian cocktail waitress with cigarette paper skin, while commiserating with a clamoring diner of dozens of similarly sauced and jolly patrons, get on over to Bob and Edith’s.
WHERE TO DRINK
Freddie’s Beach Bar; 555 South 23rd Street, Crystal City
If you decide you need a break from the strictly buttoned-down hetero hockey crowd, then boy, is this bar for you.
Freddie’s Beach Bar is the only gay bar in Arlington, and their address is listed on their website as “Virginia (YES, honey, Virginia!)” which by the way uses the best web design company I have ever seen. Really more of a cursed drag queen reverse-anthropomorphized into a bar in a cruel Faustian irony than a place I can believe actually exists, Freddie’s currently has the following events penciled into their December calendar: “12/24: Xmas Eve Drag Pajama Bingo; 12/31: NYE 2015 feat. Steven Andrade as CHER and Karaoke.” This is the kind of bar a betweeded Capitol Hill paralegal would describe as “a total freakout.”
And that’s why it rocks. Because, dammit, if you’re going to be a gay bar in Virginia, then BE a GAY BAR in Virginia! Freddie’s does it right, too, with their staff being universally praised as some of the most friendly, professional, and fun in the business.
Hunan Number One; 3033 Wilson Blvd.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Arlington’s Hunan Number One. The term “dive bar” is thrown around too often today, but if your local watering hole is a standard dive, Hunan Number One is the Olympic ten-meter.
“Number One Hunan In All of Arlington!” their slogan (should) say, and…well, I suppose they live up to it. A comical anomaly of post-grad popular kid angst, Hunan Number One is the surest place to spot backwards hats, since-traded jerseys of favorite players, and boisterous, nonsensical sports-centric chatter. Part frat party, part stern Chinese uncle, this bar is weird.
“Chinese restaurant by day, college bar by night – lots of fakes [IDs] and underage Arlington trust fund kids. They serve massive beers that are dirt cheap – ten bucks for 32 ounces – and sometimes they serve Chinese food when they remember to. Bartenders are not friendly and mostly Chinese. They seem annoyed that the place is a hit.” Such was the description of Hunan Number One offered by an anonymous expert, a wanton wonton wunderkind.
“The only positive thing is the size and price of the beers,” but hey, isn’t that life, man? Snaps.
WHAT TO DO
Kettler Capitals Iceplex; Balston Common Mall
Part Manhattan Project bunker, part Kremlin-cum-shopping mall, Kettler Capitals Iceplex is the home of your beloved Washington Capitals hockey team. I think it’s between the L.L. Bean and the Cinnabon.
That’s right: in a world where NFL teams maintain no less than seventy-five potential practice fields and a dozen weatherproof bubbles at a time, the Capitals practice on the roof of a mall.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice mall. I think there’s a Gucci in there.
But aside from the crushing reminder of the financial realities that govern life, Kettler is great for fans. Practices are open, and fans can get right up against the glass to watch their favorite Caps practice the very skills they’ll fail to execute that night! Want to see Mike Green misplay a puck? See it at Kettler first! Wonder what Brooks Laich looks like gingerly leaving the ice after an injury? Wonder no more after a practice at Kettler!
But seriously: you can take in a practice, get autographs from your favorite players, and tour the very offices where they say the ghost of George McPhee still lingers, softly wailing “Forsberg…Erat…whyyy…”
Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse; 2903 Columbia Pike
You know those insufferable “vintage” movie houses, with their craft beers on tap, and their full kitchens, and…their super comfortable seats, and….okay yeah, they’re sort of awesome. And Arlington has a sweet one.
Resplendent in vertically arranged incandescent letters, the sign for the Arlington Cinema is a landmark of Columbia Pike. In addition to showing select first-run films and beloved cult classics (seriously, how many times can you show Rocky Horror?), it is also a great low-key place to see stand-up comedians and other various acts.
But seriously – did I mention the beer? Because waiters will literally bring you beers while you watch a movie or see a comedian. Like, lots of beers. More beers than they should bring you without gently putting a hand on your shoulder and asking if you need to talk. Enough beers that it really doesn’t matter what movie they’re showing – you’re quoting Caddyshack and loving it.
So if you’re looking for some entertainment of the Sitting and Boozing variety, swing by Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse.
Tell them beer sent you.
See? Life in Arlington isn’t so bad. It may not be Dupont Circle, but it ain’t Anacostia, either.
Enjoy the Winter Classic, and as always, Go Caps.