Where to Escape the Crowds to Recharge This Weekend in D.C.
Here’s where to trade the chaos for dinner and a cocktail.
Whether you’re heading to Washington, D.C. this weekend for the 58th Presidential Inauguration or the Women’s March on Washington, you’re going to need a few things: A plan, a positive attitude about crowds, and a list of places to refuel away from the hubbub of the National Mall.
Getting off the beaten path will give you a local’s perspective of D.C.’s dining scene, as well as a much-needed break from the throngs of people flooding the area on Friday and Saturday.
Below are our favorite places to tuck in for dinner, a distillery pouring perfect pints, a high-end cocktail joint, and a down-and-dirty dive bar. Scattered between Northwest and Northeast Washington, you can expect to find yourself in and around neighborhoods like Logan Circle, Columbia Heights, and Shaw—all of which can be reached by the trusty D.C. Metro.
And for information on how to get around this weekend, check out the Washington, D.C. transit authority's guide.
The restaurant’s interior features local artists’ work, and the entrée prices are reasonable. Expect an array of global cuisines on the menu, which is composed of several sections: Pecking, Vegetables, Big Bird, Bird Bites, and Desserts. You’ll find everything from Goose Pasta (gemelli with confit goose and fennel pollen) to Ostrich Tartare (chopped raw ostrich filet, shallots, quail yolk, and duck fat crackers) and Roasted Guinea Fowl. Reservations are accepted.
1337 11th St. NW (Corner of 11th & O)
From the National Mall: 64 Bus Line
12th Street and Constitution Ave to 11th Street NW and N Street NW
Cotton & Reed
It’s not everyday that two former NASA strategists start a distillery. Head to D.C.’s Union Market complex and sit for a craft cocktail at Reed Walker and Jordan Cotton’s brainchild, Cotton & Reed Distillery. Walker and Cotton pride themselves on highlighting the rich, complex, and quirky flavors in their spirits. Drinks on the rum-inspired menu include the Redbeard (rum, Campari, ginger, lemon) and the White Lion (five spice dram, rum, lime). Tastings and tours are also available.
1330 5th Street NE
From the National Mall: Red Line
Gallery Place Chinatown Station to NoMa-Gallaudet U New York Ave Station
If you find yourself near Columbia Heights, here is a restaurant you can’t miss—but call and make a reservation quickly, as they book up fast. Born in Laos, chef and owner Seng Luangrath fled the country and settled in a refugee camp in Thailand during the Vietnam War. There, at the age of 12, she learned from her elders and neighbors how to cook. And lucky for D.C. residents, Luangrath decided to pursue her passion for food and in 2014 opened her second restaurant, Thip Khao. This bright and spicy menu serves some of the finest Laotian food D.C. has to offer. Order one of our favorites, the Naem Khao (crispy coconut rice lime, scallions, sour pork, peanuts, and cilantro served with lettuce wraps). This spot is also a good option for those in search of vegetarian, gluten-free, and soy-free dishes. Reservations are accepted.
3462 14th St NW
From the National Mall: Green Line
Archives-Navy Mem’l Station to Columbia Heights Station
Nominated twice for the James Beard Award, and helmed by cocktail expert Derek Brown, the team at Columbia Room means business when it comes to pouring a good drink. Here, in the so-called spirit library, you won’t find your run-of-the-mill cocktails or well drinks, but rather the ultimate cocktail experience, hyper-focused on ingredients, technique, and presentation.
Grab a seat at the Tasting Room, which only seats parties of six or less at a time (bookings are required in advance). Tasting Room guests can choose from one of the three prix fixe experiences (a Seasonal Cocktail Tasting Menu, Spirit Flight, or the Women Rule Takeover). You’ll enjoy multiple cocktails over the course of the evening, paired with various bites.
124 Blagden Alley NW
From the National Mall: Yellow Line
Archives-Navy Mem’l Station to MT Vernon Square/ 7th Street Convention Station
This no-frills neighborhood dive bar might be exactly what you need after a full day of standing, marching, and pushing through crowds. Head here for friendly conversation, local merry-makers, and a decidedly non-pretentious atmosphere. This is the spot for a well drink or a cold beer accompanied by a jukebox, several well-loved pinball machines, and—the best part—free popcorn for all.
3720 14th Street NW
From the National Mall: Green Line
Archives-Navy Mem’l Station to Georgia Ave-Petworth Station
If any of these don’t strike your fancy, here are a few more restaurants and watering holes to check out during your trip to Washington, D.C.
Thai Xing in Shaw Vibe: Authentic recipes and vegetarian specials.
Raven Grill in Mount Pleasant Vibe: Affordable beers and shots, board games, old movie reruns.
Red Derby, Northwest Washington Vibe: dollar beers from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Taqueria Habanero, Columbia Heights Vibe: authentic tacos, strong margaritas.
Ivey and Coney in Shaw Vibe: Friendly neighborhood bar with cheap beer and delicious hot dogs.
Himitsu in Petworth: Vibe: Upscale Japanese fare, mellow atmosphere, artisan cocktails.
Showtime in Bloomingdale Vibe: A hip atmosphere with a free jukebox and affordable cocktails.
Big Hunt in DuPont Vibe: Funky and low key downtown bar.
Little Miss Whiskey on H Street Vibe: A quirky and energetic bar, perfect for dancing.
McClellan's Retreat in Kalorama Heights Vibe: A cozy bar with unique decor and craft cocktails.
J Paul's in Georgetown Vibe: An iconic Georgetown bar with fresh oysters and fresh pours.
Duke's Grocery in DuPont Circle Vibe: A taste of East London.
Wonderland Ballroom in Columbia Heights Vibe: Lively atmosphere, great DJs, wide selection of beers.