So far, we’ve endeavored to take our our-of-towner Winter Classic visitors to some of DC’s most hippin’ and-a hoppin’-est neighborhoods: U Street, H Street, Barracks Row and Arlington. But there’s plenty of other places around town. Today, the best of the rest…best as determined by a somewhat random metric.
Time was if you wanted to go out in DC you went to Georgetown or Dupont Circle (assuming you didn’t really want to go to the gay go-go boy clubs down in Skankytown.) That’s changed. You don’t really need to know the neighborhoods listed here; any cab or Metro should get you pretty close.
Keep in mind that there’s great places around Nats Park – among them the Bluejacket brewery. But these places tend to get beyond full game days, and we expect on January 1 will be all but inaccessible. Hence, just a few other ideas within a few miles of the game.
Finally, this list is not comprehensive, and especially is not a fine-dining guide to DC. These are more the kind of comfy places you might wish you had in your neighborhood if you lived here: a Cheers bar with much more sawdust and much less light.
Petworth: This may be one of the District’s most diverse neighborhoods – demographically, economically and socially. It sits between the yuppified Columbia Heights, sleepy pricey Crestwood and the pretty-much-suburban Brightwood Park. It’s not cheap, but it’s not insanely priced like U Street, so you get some real DC flavor here; notably…
The Red Derby; 3718 14th Street NW. If you ever dreamed of opening up a bar while in college, this is likely what you were dreaming of. There’s nothing put-on about this place, nor generally the people who come here. Beers and grub. Best: New Year’s Eve is Old-Time Hollywood themed, with music from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s and those preposterous cellophane Derbys people used to wear.
The Hitching Post; 200 Upshur NW. Right across the street from the Old Soldiers Home, where President Lincoln used to reside during the summers, it’s easy to drive right past this place…but don’t. Inside it’s 1960, complete with old formica and booths that look like they’ve been here since Lincoln’s time. It’s old South and soul; some of THE best fried chicken and pork chops and mac-n-cheese and all the rest. They have liquor, but it’s not exactly a drinking spot. Look for the outdoor deck.
Columbia Heights: South of Petworth, this is a neighborhood that has what you might call great bones. The houses tend to be stately with large-by-DC standards yards. Good trees, decent infrastructure; a livable retail/home/bars mix. Maybe that’s why everyone started buying up houses here 10-15 years ago, leaving most of us just visitors here to places like…
Wonderland Ballroom; 1101 Kenyon Street NW. Woo-howdy, I love this place. It’s really small, and both levels can fill up in a flash, but whether crowded or not, this is an easy place to drink at. The place is a dump, and the bar does not boast 40 Belgian ales, but people are friendly and time passes very pleasantly here.
The Pinch; 3548 14th Street NW. Almost every other place on this list is good for drinking or good for eating; the Pinch is good for both. It’s at the corner of one of those weird DC intersections, making the building basically a wedge. The beers are pretty good and the food better – people rave about the sweet potato waffle fries, although I’ve not had them. A good place to spend an afternoon.
Adams Morgan: Back in the 90’s, this used to be the place for young Hill staffers and visitors to come and get blitzed. It’s since become the older, smaller, smellier brother to U Street, but you’ll still find young ‘uns drinking the hours away here, but probably not at…
Dan’s Cafe; 2315 18th Street NW. Diviest dive bar that ever dived in the District, hands down. It looks like some place you’d dump a body, and that’s from the front. All cash, drinks served in old squeeze-bottles, and you can be quite certain the floor hasn’t been cleaned in years. For dive enthusiasts, you won’t leave disappointed…or sober.
BUL; 2431 18th Street NW. Wanna be the first kid in your neighborhood to be the first to visit DC’s first Korean pojangmacha restaurant? Here’s your chance. Opening Tuesday, December 30th, this place is in the old Cafe Toulouse, with the giant Toulouse Lautrec mural on the front. They promise Korean comfort food, the kind you’d find on the steets of Seoul, and there’s not much more comforting on a cold day that Korean. If you go, let us know how it is.
Mt. Pleasant: While largely residential, Mt. Pleasant – and I’m extending this to the sliver of Connecticut Ave – is a delightful neighborhood, hemmed in by 16th Street on one side and the National Zoo/Rock Creek Park on the other. Speaking of animals…
The Raven; 3125 Mt. Pleasant Street NW. From the giant neon champagne glass with light bubbles that tries to evoke class but never does, you know exactly what you’re getting at the Raven. Booze, basically. Booze and decent people to talk to. You don’t eat here; you don’t show off about your job or your car or your vacation. You sit and you drink. Great jukebox.
Zoo Bar; 3000 Connecticut Ave NW. Technically not in Mt. Pleasant but close enough, Zoo Bar is right across the avenue from the National Zoo’s main entrance. I have good memories here, but I’m not sure how to describe this place so here’s some Yelper: “This place is a normal, no frills bar, great outside patio and wonderful, straightforward service (i.e. they are efficient, they don’t make small talk and they keep your table clean.”
Shaw/Cardozo: This was the affordable U Street before it became unaffordable. These days, Shaw is home to some of the hottest bars and original eateries in the area, and also the irreplaceable Florida Avenue Grill and Oohs and Aahs. But also on the list…
Ivy and Coney; 1537 7th Street NW. This place is a little bit of home for anyone from Chicago (Ivy) or Detroit (Coney.) Limited menu but if Black Hawks fans are in need of a bit of home, and want to go to a place where you KNOW everyone will be cheering on the Hawks, you’ve found your spot.
Bistro Bohem; 600 Florida Ave. NW. This is another almost gastro-pubish kinda place that usually makes me retch…almost, but not. Instead, Bistro Bohem is a clean place where the patrons are casual and the food is comforting. Probably the classiest joint in this entire list, and not a sports-bar by any stretch, it’s one of the best things to happen in town for a while.
Capitol Hill: When Pierre L’Enfant was laying out town, it’s said he looked at a prominent hill somewhere near the center of the District and proclaimed it a place in search of a monument. Then called Jenkins Hill, it eventually became the home for the U.S. Congress, and the neighborhood that grew up around it. Michele has this look at a number of the neighborhoods finer establishments, but I just wanted to point out one more…
Tune Inn; 331 Pennsylvania Ave SE. We almost lost this classic a few years ago in what became a series of odd fires around the Hill. The pub fare may not say “dive”, but the patrons likely will – especially on weekdays. I’ve spent more time here than I should publicly admit to, and I still love coming. Don’t judge me.
Downtown DC: Downtown is generally home to lobbyist restaurants and the people who can afford to go there. In other words, tool-tastic. But here’s only a couple ideas of places you might like that aren’t in the congestion of Chinatown:
The Passenger; 1021 7th Street NW. People love this place. I remember when it was a near-vacant abandoned retail store that hosted raves and weird art and probably lots of heroin. These days, it’s all dolled up and people love it. They especially love the “Columbia Room”, a 10-seat only backroom cocktail bar where you can blow lots of dough on drinks you probably won’t like. I’ve never been, and if it’s anywhere near as irritating as their website which In my opinion needs some SEO services, I’d hate it, but I don’t think that will worry them too much.
Post Pub; 1422 L Street NW. This relic gets its name from another relic down the street – the Washington Post. It’s sorta dark, lots of booths…the kind of place a bad screen-writer would set for a tense interview between reporter and anonymous source. But it does harken back to a certain time when bars were basically places you went to get drunk, and perhaps watch a little TV. Worth a visit if only to go before it closes forever…just like that other spot down the street.
Postscript: Before anyone starts writing to complain about how we left their favorite spot off, or totally ignored this or that neighborhood, or is just generally butt-hurt about something or other, this is nothing more than a few of the 1,000+ places you can visit here in town.