Have Another Round

Some of DC’s best bars also serve some of DC’s best food.

Room 11 is about halfway between the Columbia Heights and Georgia Avenue metro stations. It’s a tiny space, but they are in the middle of an expansion. Grab a seat on the patio and enjoy a few of the small plates with your inventive cocktail or wine, or come by for Sunday brunch.

In Logan Circle, we love Estadio. Right across from the Studio Theatre, where Kate teaches, it’s a great spot to eat before catching a show. If you like gin & tonic, this is the place for you. The multiple choices are all mixed with house-made tonics. We love sitting at the bar and indulging in whatever small plates are recommended to us.

A Manhattan You Shake to Fox-Trot Time

There are a number of terrific hotel bars in DC. If you want a taste of the Irish, you’ll only have to walk through the Phoenix Park lobby into the Dubliner. They have live music 7 nights a week. Our favorite smaller hotel bar is located near Dupont Circle at the Tabard Inn. If it’s chilly outside, there will be a blazing fire in a lovely fireplace in the lounge. Their weekend brunch is also terrific (try the donuts).

For a more “DC experience,” we have a few suggestions near the White House. The term “lobbyist” was supposedly coined at the Willard Hotel. Check out its Round Robin bar to see where politicians of yore grabbed a drink. Across 14th Street from the Willard is the J.W. Marriott hotel, which has an otherwise unremarkable bar but sits on the location of Shoomaker’s Bar, birthplace of DC’s official cocktail, the Rickey. There’s now a plaque.

Just north of the White House, Off the Record at the Hay Adams is another DC institution. Who knows, you may meet a White House staffer at the bar. We’re also pretty certain the head bartender was the inspiration for Phil in Murphy Brown. And for the best views, you’ll want to check out the aptly named P.O.V. at the W Hotel. This bar, one of DC’s hottest spots to see-and-be-seen, has a semi-covered deck overlooking the Washington Monument and the White House.

By the way, stir a Manhattan, don’t shake it. It’s only okay when Nick Charles says it.

Pull Up a Stool & Grab a Drink

Ed is, among other things, a writer for We Love DC, a local web site.  His focus is on cocktails, which are in ample supply in DC. We’ve been lucky to get to know some of the best bartenders in the city (if in doubt, visit any member of the DC Craft Bartenders Guild). While you’re here, be sure to try a Rickey, the official drink of DC. We’ll be listing some of our favorite places for cocktails in DC. These are located in the Penn Quarter area, not far from the hotel.

The Passenger has become well known in two short years, and we’re regulars at its “hangover brunch” on Sundays, which runs from 2pm until 11pm. We’ll even be holding our after-party there (think of it as the day-after brunch, only immediately following the reception). It’s a low key atmosphere with great bar food, drinks, and people. Unlike many cocktail bars, a the Passenger there’s no set cocktail list. There’s a board with a few specials listed each night, but the best way to order is to say what you’re in the mood for.  You can name a classic cocktail, or just suggest a general idea, like “gin and citrusy.” Your drink is usually exactly what you didn’t quite know you wanted. Not in the mood for a cocktail? See if you can get co-owner Tom Brown to choose a bottle of wine for you, or just order a beer on tap or from the extensive selection of cans and bottles.

If you’re feeling fancy, try to get a reservation for the Columbia Room, the hidden bar-within-the-bar. Tom’s brother (and co-owner) Derek dreamed up this quiet, 10-seat shrine to the craft cocktail, now recognized by GQ and Food and Wine, among others. It’s a more mellow atmosphere influenced by Japanese cocktail bars, with quiet music, hand-carved ice, and house made bitters, tinctures, and aromatized wines. The standard offering is a tasting menu with paired bites, but you can also order à la carte.

Our other go-to in the area is Fiola, named one of Esquire’s best new restaurants of 2011. The dining room is gorgeous, but we prefer to pull up a stool at the bar. Jeff Faile’s drinks are always spot on. If you’re “really into amaro,” Jeff has a drink for you. And while you’re there, you can also enjoy some of the best Italian food in the city.  The menu changes to reflect what’s seasonal and fresh so we can’t really recommend anything specific, but we’ve never had anything that wasn’t excellent.

If Only DC were a Tourist Destination…

We’re posting some of our favorite things to see and do in DC, but there are hundreds of things to do in the nation’s capital. Destination DC is the Visitors’ Bureau; you can find loads of travel and activity information here. Cultural Tourism DC strives for “experiences that are authentic to Washington.” Take a walking tour of historic neighborhoods or find some kid-friendly activities. And of course, DC has more than its fair share of historic buildings. Check out the guide to the local National Register of Historic Places.

Cheap Eats

Chinatown (also known as “Chinablock” in local lingo) and Penn Quarter are full of inexpensive chains you already know. Here are some of our favorite local cheap eats in the neighborhood. From the hotel, it is a 10-15 walk, or two stops on the Red Line.

Chinatown Express is known for its dumplings and fresh noodles; you can see them being made in the front window. To call it a hole-in-the-wall is generous, but the aforementioned items and accompanying green sauce are more than worth the $6. We’ve never tried the rest of the menu and have heard mixed reviews. If we’re in the mood for a full Chinese meal, we usually head to Eat First (also lacking in ambience). If you’re feeling adventurous, order off the specials listed on poster board.

For sandwiches, try Taylor Gourmet (apologies for their terrible website). They serve Philadelphia style hoagies made with fresh ingredients. The closest to Union Station is at 5th & K, in the City Vista complex. The 12″ sandwich is large enough for two.

If you’re in Adams Morgan, our favorite spot is Amsterdam Falafel. It’s known for its french fries (which are terrific, and large enough to share), and the extensive salad/toppings bar. Pro tip: pull out one or two balls of falafel, add toppings, and then return the removed falafel and top again.