Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Where to Eat and Drink THIS Saturday!

If you hadn't noticed, I love my little corner of D.C. Turns out, science does too -- sort of. Researchers at The Brookings Institution recently released a study on the walkability of the city's various neighborhoods. No surprise, Georgetown was at the top.

Within 2 blocks of my apartment, I can find dozens of the city's best restaurants, bars, clothing and shoe stores, dry cleaners, coffee shops, nail and hair salons, liquor stores, card shops, furniture and art galleries, a post office and shipping stores, etc. After living in the far northeastern (read: isolated) section of the city for more than two years, I can't tell you how amazing this is! I even sent my car home to FL to live with my parents, because it would just cramp my pedestrian lifestyle.

Here's the downside: I'm often indecisive, and some nights the staggering number of dinner options cripples me, leaving me standing on the corner starving, not knowing where to go. Yes, sometimes that means I end up eating yogurt and granola at home instead. Don't judge me.

Here's the solution: The Taste of Georgetown. Rather than facing the nearly impossible-for-me decision of where to eat/drink, some of the best local spots all gather in one place for our enjoyment this Saturday, June 2, from 11am - 4pm. 

I've never been before, but I'm super excited and already have a handful of food and drink tickets (don't worry; I'm sharing with friends!). You can get your own here.

My neighbor, Appealing Kate, is no stranger to this popular event and assures me that my tummy will be happy, and I tend to trust her opinion, especially when it comes to drinking and eating well in the district!

Some of my favorite places (namely Baked and Wired, Paolo's, and Cafe Bonaparte) will be there, and there are several other participating restaurants that I'm excited to try (Sequoia and Sea Catch, specifically).

As for the "Wine, Ale, & Spirits Pavilion," you can expect a hefty selection of craft beers (because, really, I might not show up otherwise). Also, did you know that Dave Matthews (yes that one) owns wineries? Well, he does, and the CA label is named after a song. Guess which one?! No, you're wrong. It's not called Tripping Billies.

Anyway... I hear that The Dreaming Tree wines will be featured in the booze pavilion, and I'll admit it - I'm curious.

I'll definitely be avoiding this dude - people on stilts scare me!
Photo source

Did I mention that there's live music and beautiful weather planned too (for now, the weekend weather looks amazing and hyperthermia-alert free!)? All ingredients for one hell of a good and delicious Saturday!

As if that weren't enough, the event also gives back to the community. The Taste of Georgetown benefits the Georgetown Ministry Center's services supporting the homeless. (The GMC is also in the neighborhood, tucked in Waters Alley off of Wisconsin Avenue.)

I recommend walking, busing, or biking. Weekends in Georgetown are always a bit crowded. Add a street festival and blocked-off routes into the mix, and driving is sure to be unpleasant. If you're headed to the Nats' game that afternoon as well, you should look into the ferry. It leaves from the Georgetown Waterfront and takes the truly scenic route to the stadium.

Welcome to my neighborhood!


Where to Eat: Central

I love fried chicken. I could it eat it for every meal, 7 days a week. But, since I don’t want to end up with diabetes, or star on My 600 Pound Life, I am forced to eat it in moderation. Growing up, I remember eating fried chicken after church with my family on Sunday afternoons. Yes, I realize that my life sounds like a stereotypical country music song, so it would make you laugh to know that I actually grew up on a farm.

Now, before I give you the wrong idea, Central Michel Richard (hint: it’s pronounced Sin-Trawl) does not serve southern food. Instead, the website describes it as “Traditional American cuisine with a French flair.” But, regardless of what type of food it is, delicious is the most accurate description.

photo credit:
On Thursday afternoon, my craving for fried chicken kicked in so I called Lexi and asked if she wanted to meet at Central for lunch. She naturally agreed, as resisting Central is nearly an impossible task. Our friend Jen, also a Central fan, wanted to join us as well, so we all agreed to meet at 12:30 and I was more excited than anyone could imagine.

One of the most important things to know about Central is that I have never eaten there when it is not busy. While there is minimal first come, first served, bar-are seating available, if you have a party of more than 4 guests I recommend calling ahead for reservations. Central is generally able to squeeze small parties in for same day reservations, but for larger parties I suggest calling a few days in advance. You can also make reservations using Open Table.

photo credit:
When we arrived at Central, Lexi, Jen, and I snagged one of the few bar-area tables and didn’t even bother checking the menu. The fried chicken is their most popular dish, and in my opinion, the best. Therefore, Jen and I chose the chicken, and Lexi had the chopped salad (we are frequents guests at Central and these are our standing orders). We ordered our drinks and meals, and munched on the warm bread while we waited for our food.

Not long after we ordered, our food arrived and we immediately dug in; we were not disappointed! The chicken was perfectly prepared, pan fried, and amazingly light and crispy; served with a mustard dipping sauce, buttery mashed potatoes and a lightly dressed green salad, it makes a fantastic meal. And naturally, I am quite particular about my fried chicken, so my rave review is saying something. I don’t give out compliments easily, as my standards are quite high. Similarly, Lexi had only wonderful things to say about the chopped salad.

While I always order the fried chicken when eating at Central, I have never dined with any guest that is disappointed, regardless of their order. The lobster burger is one of their specialties, and my friends have also said wonderful things about the rotisserie chicken, regular burger and reuben sandwich. In terms of appetizers, you can’t go wrong with the cheese balls or onion soup, and for dessert, the chocolate bar is divine. Overall, everything on the menu is fantastic!

Central is open for lunch and dinner and also is a great place to visit for happy hour. Additionally, there is private dining space available for corporate meals. And recently, Central launched a to-go menu that includes chicken to-go buckets, served with mashed potatoes and nuggets. That is absolutely on my must try list.

The only warning I give about Central is that it can be quite loud, no matter what time you dine. So if you are looking to have an intimate conversation, it will be quite difficult. Other than that, however, Central is one of my favorite places to eat in the District.

Central, located at 1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, is easily accessed by Metro Center and Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter, Metro stations. For my fellow drivers, valet parking is also available for dinner.

So whether you are meeting friends for lunch, looking for a great happy hour, or need a place to eat dinner before catching a show, I absolutely recommend Central, it won’t let you down!

Cheers to Fried Chicken Even My Girl Paula Deen Would Love,

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Where to Dine, Drink, and Date: Dirty Martini

I've been to Dirty Martini more times that I can remember.  The most recent was a few weeks ago.  For a second date with a very charming and attractive man.  I had an event to attend earlier in the evening in Dupont, so he told me to "pick the place" and that he'd meet me there.  It took me all of two seconds to suggest Dirty Martini.

As we sat at the bar sipping on our dirty martinis (mine vodka, his gin) it occurred to me that I've never written a blog post about Dirty Martini.

So, without further ado-- below is the history of my love story with my favorite Dupont/ Midtown spot:

I first discovered Dirty Martini in January 2011.  I was working in Dupont at the time and my friend  suggested we meet up for dinner.  We each googled places, hoping to find a new spot.  Voila- Dirty Martini popped up.  It was new-- had just opened a few months before-- and close to my office and the Metro.  Perfect.

We made reservations, met at the Dupont Metro, and walked two blocks south on Connecticut Avenue to Dirty Martini.  As we approached the restaurant I said, "wait a minute...isn't this where the old MCCXXIII used to be?"  "Oh, god," my friend replied.  We spent the next few minutes reminiscing about all the bad decisions we made at MCCXXIII when we were 23 and 24 years old.  Some of you might remember that MCCXXIII used to have an all you can drink happy hour on Friday nights for $20.  Let's just say that we definitely got our moneys worth each time we went. 

But, back to classier subjects.
View of the bar from the second floor
We entered Dirty Martini and I was immediately impressed.  What had once been dark and club like, was now classy and sophisticated.  Clean lines, modern designs, and unique architecture.  The first floor has a dramatic vaulted ceiling yet doesn't feel airy or cold.  Instead the dim lights, dark wood floors, and neutral colors invoke a feeling of coziness. 

A long bar runs the length of the left side of the restaurant.  A long community high top table runs parallel with the bar, and booths run along the other wall and are scattered throughout the first floor.  There is another bar and more seating on the second floor.

Now, I'm a bit embarrassed to say this, but the first time I went to Dirty Martini I did not order a martini (I know, even my bio says how much I like dirty martinis).  Sadly, my friend and I each only drank water that night because we both had to be at our respective gyms early the next morning. 

But the food?  The food was delicious.  Even though it was a year and a half ago, I still remember what we ordered.  We split a trio of dips--- hummus, bruscetta, and tapenade.  The dips were served with a variety of fresh bread and crackers.  And then we each ordered a salad.  I remember joking that we should have split a salad because they were ginormous.  But we left full and happy.

I went back a few weeks later for a friend's birthday dinner.  Then again with a couple girlfriends for drinks before a date one night.  Then I went there on a date.  Then again when my best friend came into town.  Every single time I loved it.  The cocktail list is expansive and creative.  The menu has everything from entree salads to burgers to fish dishes.  The food isn't gourmet but it's creative and better than other options in the area.  The prices are reasonable.

It was no surprise to any of my friends that when my parents said they wanted to throw me a birthday party in D.C. last summer that I called up Dirty Martini and reserved the upstairs bar.  The space is perfect for a small cocktail party.  The staff was extremely helpful in planning my party and I've always been impressed with the level of customer service.

So, there you have it.  Whether it's a girls night out, a romantic night with your significant other, or a small party-- Dirty Martini is a great venue for all.  And, as luck would have it, even for a second date.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Where To Visit: Arlington National Cemetery

It’s officially summertime! Memorial Day weekend means pools are open, grills are hot, and if you are a girl, this weekend signifies that it is that time of year when our bangs stick to our face after being outside for more than thirty seconds. In fact, as you are reading this I am (hopefully) sitting by the pool, drinking a cool beverage, and attempting to transform my pale skin from translucent to tan. Fortunately, my family is only an hour-ish away so when Lola and I need to escape the hot and sticky nation’s capital, we head west where family pools are Pug friendly. (Yes, Lola wears a life jacket. What kind of Pug mama do you think I am? Safety first, people!)


But, per usual, I am getting off topic. Memorial Day is so much more than grilling out and welcoming summer. I would be remiss if I didn’t take time to recognize the reason we have this holiday - honoring the men and women that bravely serve our country. Thank you to everyone reading that serves, or has served, our great nation; I am extremely grateful for your service! A special thank you goes to Travis and Luke, two very good friends that served several tours of duty in Iraq. I am proud to know you, gentlemen.
If you are staying in D.C. this weekend, I recommend taking time to visit Arlington National Cemetery. The Arlington Cemetery is one of those places we tend to run by, or take tourists when they come to town, but rarely stop to appreciate ourselves; and during Memorial Day weekend, it’s even more special. For nearly 50 years, The Old Guard has been honoring America’s fallen heroes by placing a flag at the grave of service men and women buried in Arlington. Not only do soldiers place flags on each grave in a three hour "Flags In" ceremony, but they also remain in the cemetery throughout the weekend to ensure that a flag remains at each gravestone.

In addition to Flags In, a group of volunteers will also place a rose on each grave, as well. According to an article on, volunteers will hand out roses from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. on Monday. The two main stations are in front of the visitors center and in section 60, which is the burial ground for those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Anyone interested in donating or volunteering should contact Memorial Day Flowers through its website.

Finally, Arlington Cemetery also hosts several Memorial Day events throughout the day, including various ceremonies and choir performances. A full schedule is found here.

So this weekend as you drink a beer and cheers to the long weekend, consider visiting Arlington Cemetery and paying your respects to those men and women that bravely served our country. The Arlington National Cemetery Station is accessed by the Blue Line. There is also a Metrobus stop on Memorial Drive. Public parking is available, as well.

Thank you again to all the members of our military, and happy start of summer!

It's A Smile... It's A Kiss... It's a Sip of Wine - It's Summertime (Kenny Chesney, for all of you that are not fans),

Friday, May 25, 2012

Where to Drink Wine and Eat Food: Screwtop


Now that many of my friends live in Court House and Clarendon,  I've stopped kicking and screaming whenever one of them suggests meeting up in Virginia and just started to accept that at least one or two nights a week I'm going to be crossing the river.  But places like Screwtop make it a hell of a lot easier to do that.
Screwtop is a small wine bar about two blocks from the Clarendon metro on North Fillmore Street.  Actually, it's part wine bar, part wine store, part cheese shop, and part amazingness. 
The wine list, as you can expect, is expansive.  The food is de-fucking-licious.  And despite Screwtop's location--- on the first floor of one of the many high rise apartment buildings in Clarendon---as soon as you walk in the door, it's charming and has that "cozy neighborhood bar" vibe.

Source: The Washingtonian

I first discovered Screwtop last July when some girlfriends suggested we meet there for drinks after work one night. 
I was skeptical, but it far exceeded my expectations.  In fact, I've since been back many times.  Sometimes I even suggest going there
I know, I suggest going to Virginia.  Craziness.
One of the things I love about Screwtop is the flight options--- wine flights, cheese flights, meat flights--- or all of the above.  I love options and I hate decisions, so these flights let you try a little bit of everything. 
But, it's true, you can really drink wine anywhere.  So, what makes Screwtop stand out?  So much so that I'll gladly cross the river to yuppie-ville?  The food.
Every single time I go, it's so hard to decide what to order because everything on the menu is just soo amazing.
There's the Baked Goat--- warm chevre and goat cheese rolled in herbs and served with a spicy chutney and crispy baguette (perfect for sharing). 
There's the warm and cozy tomato soup and grilled cheese sliders. 
There's the refreshing Strawberry Salad--- fresh strawberries, spinach, pecans, and goat cheese tossed with a homemade bacon vinaigrette. 
And of course there's the Mac'n'Cheese Trio.  What's that you ask?  Oh, just the most cozy meal ever-- chipotle goat cheese, tangy blue cheese, and truffle mac and cheese baked until it oozes with deliciousness in the middle and is crispy golden brown on top. 
Am I making you hungry yet? 
Then get into Screwtop.  Stat.  With your girlfriends.  With that new date you're trying to impress.  Hell, I've even gone in alone before and sat at the bar. 
Some additional tips- there's free parking in the adjacent garage.  Also, Screwtop does not take reservations--- it's first come, first serve.  If you go on a Friday or Saturday night, you will have to wait for a table.  But, you can order a glass of wine and then peruse the wine store while you wait.  There's also outdoor seating, two community tables, and a monthly wine club patrons can join.  All good things.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Where to Shop: Turquoise, Violet, and Tangerine

This post is mostly for the ladies, because I have no idea where men in D.C. can find nice but inexpensive clothing and accessories.  Sorry, gents.  But hey, if you need a gift for your gal pal, I've got you covered.  

One of the things I love about living in D.C. is being able to forgo a car or the Metro and walk home from work.  On nice days, anyway -- I'd rather light my hair on fire than walk three miles home in 100 degree humidity.

Such walks have led to the discovery of some surprisingly affordable boutiques in Adams Morgan and Woodley Park.  This area tends to be known more for late night debauchery than trendy shopping, but next time you find yourself nearby and remember your need for new earrings or a sundress, check out the finds below.  It's probably best if you're sober while doing so, as drunken shopping can lead to things like trying on dresses backwards or purchasing neon jeggings.  These are hypothetical examples, okay?  I mean, I'm asking for a friend.    

Turquoise - 2118 18th Street NW   

On the southern end of the bar strip on18th Street, you'll find a treasure trove of accessories at Turquoise.  

This gem of a shop (ugh, puns!) is wonderfully organized and fun to browse.  All the necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings are laid out on tables and boards by color, making them easy to sort through and reach (I'm not a tall person -- this is a legitimate concern).  The styles range from classic to trendy and prices are generally in the $15-50 range.  The staff is friendly but leaves you to do your own thing, which is especially nice on days when you are sleep deprived and feeling a little murdery.  But most importantly, the jewelry is beautiful -- I challenge any accessory loving lady to visit and walk out empty handed.  

Violet Boutique - 2439 18th Street NW

A few blocks north you'll find Violet Boutique, which features trendy clothing and accessories at extremely reasonable prices.  

Call me crazy, but I get overwhelmed by the rows and rows of rompers and sweaters crammed into Forever 21 and H&M.  Here, you'll find a carefully edited selection of trendy pieces, from drapey tank tops to maxi dresses to jaunty hats I would never even attempt to pull off.  Lucky Magazine featured Violet in a recent issue, and with good reason -- few other places enable you to look on trend with so little effort and strain on your wallet.             

Tangerine Boutique - 2643 Connecticut Avenue

Further north, across from the Woodley Park metro, is the newest addition to the area boutiques.  Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of Tangerine to show you, as my plans to stop by yesterday were derailed by a sudden downpour and lack of umbrella, but just imagine long rows of colorful clothing in a spacious room with a hot blond lady manning the register.

Tangerine has a similar set of offerings as Violet, with a larger selection of more classic pieces, a nice display of shoes, and a handful of accessories.  I slightly prefer Tangerine, whereas Violet is Samantha's go-to shop.  The clothes here seem to run ever so slightly more expensive than those at Violet, but are still quite affordable.            

Happy shopping!      


Monday, May 21, 2012

Where to Take Your Pet to the Vet: Columbia Pike Animal Hospital

My Baby Girl, Lola
If you have spoken to me for even three minutes, chances are I will find a way to mention my dog, Lola. Whether it is a funny story or an “Oh my gosh, you have to see this picture,” I generally can find a reason to work Lols into conversation; what can I say, this little Pug has me wrapped around her little paw.

One of the many things I love about living in the D.C. area is the dog-friendly nature of the city. No matter where I go, or what I’m doing, I will always pass at least one person with a dog. Whether it is walking to Teddy Roosevelt Island, or going to shop in Georgetown, I love that I always encounter fellow dog owners. Because there are so many pet owners in the city, I know how the search for a great veterinarian can be a tough one.

There are so many things to consider when choosing a veterinarian for your pet: location, hours, price, customer service, services offered and cleanliness. Just as selecting a doctor for ourselves can be complicated, choosing a good veterinarian can be equally as tricky. If you are currently looking for an excellent veterinarian for your pet, I recommend Columbia Pike Animal Hospital.
First I need to make a disclaimer, Columbia Pike Animal Hospital is in Annandale, VA. I live in Rosslyn and it is about a 20 minute drive from my house. However, before you quit reading, let me assure you, the staff at Columbia Pike will not let you down.

The main convenience of Columbia Pike Animal Hospital is its flexible hours, open seven days a week. The clinic is open 7 AM - 10 PM Monday through Friday; 7 AM - 7 PM on Saturday and 8 AM - 7 PM on Sunday. It is great to have an option for not only late night appointments, but also an alternative to the high-priced emergency clinics.

Additionally, this veterinary hospital is extremely affordable. Unlike many clinics in the DC-metro area, appointments are reasonably-priced. I grew up in a really small town and the prices are very similar to vet clinics in that area, which is surprisingly great!
Plus, the staff cannot be beat. I personally am a client of Dr. Kirchart because she owns two Pugs. But I have visited the vet for non-scheduled appointments and every veterinarian I’ve worked with is exceptional!

Finally, Columbia Pike Animal hopsital offers other services as well. Whether you need to schedule a grooming appointment for your dirty doggie, or are going out of town, and need a place to board your pet, the staff at Columbia Pike will help!

All things considered, I am extremely happy with Columbia Pike Animal Hospital. I have also recommended the veterinarians to several friends in the area and they are now clients, as well.
Whether you prefer the convenient hours, friendly staff, or knowledgeable doctors, you will not be disappointed!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Where to Eat: Cuba Libre

As a D.C. woman on the go, I've totally drunk the Kool-Aid on the idea that I can "have it all." That means a kick-ass job, a killer apartment, an awesome man and, of course, delicious dining options that will offer me the finest service while simultaneously not forcing me into finding a second kick-ass job in order to pay the tab.

So when I was given the task of finding a lunch destination for myself and some co-workers the other day, I made it a point to look for something centrally located, delicious and budget-conscious.

That place ended up being Cuba Libre, which is a little haven of Havana within striking distance of the Chinatown arch.

Editor's note: To get the full effect of this blog post, you'll need to click here and listen to this song for the duration of your reading.

Cuba Libre, which in September will celebrate its second birthday in the District, is meant to evoke the golden age of Havana in the 1950s, when mobsters placed bets in the seedy back rooms of nightclubs where sweat from gyrating bodies hung heavy in the humid air. In truth, the place is a tad less Cuban corruption, a tad more Disney World -- Cuba Libre is to Cuba what Fado is to Ireland, for some perspective.

That doesn't mean I didn't love the old-world ambiance any less:

The whole place makes my hair curl because of how summery and humid I think it's going to be in there based on the architecture. It is so intricately detailed that my attention-deficit-disorder-riddled brain was never wanting for visual stimulation.

Even better than the design was the service we received. In a word, IMPECCABLE. My co-workers joked that it seemed like every single person who worked at Cuba Libre came over to our table at one point or another to ensure that our glasses were filled and that we were completely satisfied. I have dined at a string of restaurants lately where we practically had to bribe the servers to fill our water glasses even once during the meal, so this was a welcome change.

But what good is a beautiful exterior and impeccable service if the food isn't equally scrumptious? At a restaurant, it's what goes inside you that counts, after all.

On that front, Cuba Libre certainly doesn't disappoint. I ordered the Cuban Bento Box, a combination platter of small plates, and every bite was perfectly spiced and succulent. It tasted so good that I forgot to take a picture until it was too late.

That platter had three savory dishes and a dessert for $16, by the way. Considering small plates in the District tend to go for $6 or $7 each, I felt like this was very reasonably priced/quite the bargain.

A final nice touch: They served our checks in a cigar box.

For the ambiance, service, delicious food and reasonable prices, you can bet your rumba shoes and frilly-armed shirts that I will be back to swill grilled pineapple mojitos again in the very near future.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Where to Celebrate American Craft Beer Week

Is it just me or does every food, drink, cause, and activity have its own "official" day of celebration now? It's getting really difficult to keep up with everything, and I won't even pretend to care about whether National Hot Dog Day is real or not (it's July 23, FYI). BUT American Craft Beer Week (ACBW) is something I can totally get behind, and it's happening RIGHT NOW!

I know what you're thinking: "how is this week different from any other for Thirsty Ivy?" I'll tell you ... this week is different because some of the best beer spots in D.C. are celebrating with me!!

I'll leave the calendar-keeping and specials-tracking up to the knowledgeable dudes over at DCBeer, but I thought I'd take this time to answer some questions I receive frequently that can help YOU decide where to celebrate ACBW.

Via Twitter and email, several of our loyal readers have asked me what my favorite beer bar is and where they should go if they don't know what kind of beer to try. D.C. has become quite the beer town, so you're likely to find at least one decent craft beer on tap at most bars and restaurants. That's not the kind of place I'm prone to recommend though, especially not for ACBW.

When I'm not convincing my local beer shop to order something they've never heard of and don't particularly want to (which they then fell in love with, because I have GREAT taste) or waiting anxiously for SAVOR (aka my birthday party!), you can find me sucking back the hops at many/most/all of D.C.'s best beer joints -- the kinds of places that put D.C. on the beer map; places where the beer directors and staff are incredibly knowledgeable, where the sheer volume of choices will make you go cross-eyed.

Just for fun, I've ranked them. Ask me tomorrow, and their positions might shift -- but, really, you can't go wrong with any of these.

1. Churchkey is an obvious choice ... and for good reason. Even if this place didn't have one of the best beer menus in the country, I'd probably still hang out here for the relaxed yet sophisticated vibe. It also doesn't hurt that the clientele is just as cool; I'm constantly meeting quality people at the big, shared tables by the window. Truth be told, I seriously considered moving to Logan Circle last year only to have this place as a neighbor. This made total sense to me at the time, but that could've been BAD NEWS.

2. Pizzeria Paradiso is also high on my list ... and not just because there's one in my neighborhood. Pizza and beer is the kind of natural marriage God intended! I've become a creature of habit, almost always ordering the Quattro Formaggi pie with mushrooms (it's one of my favorite pizzas in the entire city!). The beer pairing, however, is rarely the same. With their rolling list and location-specific choices (in bottles, on draught, and in casks), it's nearly impossible for me to fall into a rut.

3. RFD is a spot I really didn't want to like at all -- for the atmosphere, the crowds, its proximity to the Verizon Center, the tourist volume, unimpressive food, etc. But then I set my sights on that monster beer fridge and discovered the back courtyard and was sold. Ever since then, I've found myself here more often than I ever intended. Hell, I've even been on TWO first and a few second dates at RFD. None of the dudes turned out to be quality choices, but I've yet to regret by beer order.

4. Meridian Pint is lower on the list that you'd expect. Why? Because it's too difficult to get there from my 'hood ... and that makes me sad. I miss sitting by the roll-up windows watching the pups walk their humans, and I really miss hiding out at the basement bar with friends, where the lack of cell reception is eerily freeing.

The last time I was at the Pint, my friend's mother was in town and we convinced her that she'd fit right in. AND SHE DID. I love that about this place -- it's hip but it's still a neighborhood joint that welcomes and appeals to a wide variety of people. My friend and I were able to taste some new brews while his mom indulged her sweet tooth with a gourmet-looking piece of chocolaty dessert. Everybody wins.

5 -TIE: 
Breadsoda has all the appeal of a dive bar but isn't dirty. I'm not much into the games, but if pool, shuffleboard, darts, or even yahtzee are your thing you might want to check this place out! In addition to the pretty solid craft beer list, they have delicious sandwiches ... and that's really all this girl needs most nights. Plus, it's really close to my house; all I have to do is roll back down the hill to Georgetown.

Bourbon is conveniently located RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from Breadsoda, which makes bar-hopping pretty painless. Appealing Kate has already explained to you how much we love this place and why. All I have to say is "ditto!" It's cozy, the food is delicious, the staff have grown to love/hate us, and the beer list is well-above average. They do have a bad habit of running out of what I want (seriously, people, stop hogging all the beer!), but I can always find something to quench my thirst.

Clearly, this isn't an exhaustive list. Heck, I haven't even mentioned The Pug, The Big Hunt, Scion, The Black Squirrel, Dodge City, or American Ice Company yet ... but life is about choices, and picking and ranking five (okay six) was hard enough!

So now, here's a question for y'all, our loyal readers: where are you celebrating American Craft Beer Week? 


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Where to Visit: Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Monet's dreamlike depictions of water lilies are among the most revered and recognizable pieces of art worldwide.  But you don't have to travel to Giverny to see the beauties that inspired these masterpieces -- D.C. has its own collection of majestic water lilies right on the ponds by the Anascostia river.

I know what you're thinking -- one does not typically think of "Northeast D.C." and "nature's splendor" as synonymous terms.  I had to see it to believe it myself.  But much like the gardens of Dumbarton Oaks evoke the feel of some faraway oasis, the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens will transport you from the crowds and grime of D.C. to a quiet, magical world spotted with bright and unusual flowers and wildlife.
The Aquatic Gardens are home to a number of plants and creatures rarely encountered in daily city life.  Visitors can explore the gardens by walking along embankments between ponds, across small bridges that overlook the protected wetland marshes, and down a boardwalk that runs along the Anacostia River.  Bring your camera, as you'll want to get shots of the snapping turtles that glide by water lilies as neon dragonflies flit about.


Visiting hours are from 7:00-5:00, and there is no cost of admission.  Mid- to late-May is an ideal time to visit, as the flowers have begun to bloom but it's not yet oppressively hot -- an important factor to keep in mind as the lilies will close when temperatures are high.  Lilies typically begin blooming in mid-May, though early bloom dates are expected after an unusually mild winter.  They will stay in bloom throughout the summer, but those who visit on hotter days and wish to see the lilies before they close should plan to arrive in the morning, while temperatures are still cool.            

The gardens are about a ten minute walk from both the Minnesota Avenue and Deanwood metro stops, and there is a free parking lot for visitors.  For those concerned about safety, if you bring a friend and go during daylight, there is little to worry about.   

Beautiful, free of charge, and metro-accessible -- what better diversion could you ask for in the spring than a trip to the Aquatic Gardens?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What to Get Excited About: H Street

As you may know, after six years as a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I have finally officially moved to our fair nation's capital.

But some could argue about my usage of the word "fair" in that last sentence, considering which part of the city I chose to move to: H Street Northeast, where my neighbor's car got broken into in our "secure" parking lot and where I'm pretty sure I heard the disturbing "pop! pop! pop!" of gunshots a few weeks ago. There's a healthy amount of litter on the streets, and for every swinging hot spot, there is also a boarded-up storefront.

But when I scan the horizon of the Atlas District, I don't see boarded-up storefronts; I see possibilities. The revitalization of H Street has only just begun, and there are so many places in the works right now that you probably ought to start house-hunting now so you can get in while one-bedroom apartments are still affordable.

I took a walk down H Street the other day and made note of the various spots under construction. What I found was a veritable cornucopia of bars, restaurants and lounges boasting world cuisine, garden seating, and even live music!

Stroll with me, if you will:

1421 H St. NE

This storefront nearing the very end of H Street has plans for a full-service restaurant with 171 seats on the first floor and 24 seats on the second. No word yet on what the restaurant's name will be.

1413 H St. NE

Apparently, D.C. Conscious & Cafe will soon be occupying this spot. The work permits in the window indicate that they've applied for a liquor license and will be serving a world-fusion menu and will play host to social gatherings, book readings and speakers from the community.

1387 H St. NE 

I can't wait for this place to have something, mostly because its corner location makes it ideal for snagging a sunny window seat. This place has permits that would indicate plans for a restaurant, but the name and type of restaurant are not listed.

1358 H St. NE

As the banner proudly proclaims, Impala Cantina Y Taqueria is on its way, set to feature new Mexican-style cuisine and alcoholic beverages with indoor seating for 150, a summer garden with 49 seats and a ROOFTOP with 49 seats. If there's one thing I love, it's rooftop seating, and right now H Street doesn't have a whole lot of that (the Queen Vic and Smith Commons both have back decks, but they're technically not rooftops).

The website I linked to says this place will open this month, but based on what the windows look like and the fact that it's been delayed several times before now, I'm not optimistic about that. But, it will be glorious when it does open.

1324 H St. NE

This storefront has applied to become Chicken Tortilla, a fast-casual, family-style dining establishment.

1251 H St. NE

Apparently Mexican-style restaurants are all the rage among would-be restaurateurs on H Street, as this place will one day be the home of Sol Mexican Grill, a new tavern serving Tex-Mex cuisine with a full bar. A deejay will play on Fridays and Saturdays, and there will be seating for 35 indoors and 10 seats in their summer garden.

1242 H St. NE

Boasting probably the dumbest name I've ever heard of in my life for an alcohol-slinging establishment, Da Luft Restaurant and Lounge will soon be occupying this space. Why oh why did they choose that name? It's awful. Let's hope the American cuisine and seafood they plan to serve won't be. Also, Da Luft plans to feature a deejay and a four-piece musical combo with a dance floor, which could be cool. There will be indoor seating for 80 and a summer garden with 30 seats.

1128 H St. NE

An Indian/Pakistani restaurant called "The Casbah" is supposed to come into this lovely space on the corner of H and 12th. This place will also feature a deejay and live music, with 44 indoor seats and a sidewalk cafe for 40.

1118 H St. NE

After backing away from a storefront on Barracks Row, IMA Pizza apparently has chosen this spot to serve their new gourmet pizza.

1110 H St. NE

This place hasn't chosen a name yet for their Asian cuisine food concept, but they plan on nights of deejays, live music and KARAOKE. HELL YES.

1007 H St. NE

Who needs a church when you can have jazz music a la Preservation Hall in New Orleans? H Street's jazz club HR-57 is apparently planning to move from their current spot down the street to this place, where they'll feature a short Southern menu and live jazz performances.

1001 H St. NE

No word yet on what will take up the old George's Place, but the people who own Ben's Chili Bowl bought it. Apparently, they were taking some time to do "market research" to see what the people of H Street really need.

If I may speak for all of us, it's another Ben's Chili Bowl location. Hop to it.

Editor's note: Elyse over at Capitol Bites blog has alerted me to the fact that this place will, in fact, become a Ben's Chili Bowl. UNRESTRAINED JOY!

709 H St. NE

Picture this place as a satellite bayou: Po Boys Kitchen has applied for permits for a restaurant with po boys subs, light dinners and other gourmet foods. They'll have live jazz/reggae bands as well as a summer garden.

Side note: I'm loving all these places with outdoor seating! Woohoo!

707 H St. NE

This is another one with a dumb name: Xclusive Restaurant & Lounge. If there's anywhere I'm not going ever, it's a place called Xclusive, intentional misspelling. Yikes.

Editorializing aside, permits would indicate they'll have new upscale international cuisine with American Caribbean and African dishes, as well as more jazz/reggae bands. An outdoor garden, too.

644 H St. NE

The scrolling electric sign here tells me this place will open soon, which has me majorly psyched. Hikari Sushi & Sake Bar will be a Japanese restaurant with "family-oriented dining" (whatever that means), with indoor seating for 55 and outdoor seating for 16.

523 H St. NE

Another one with indeterminate restaurant permits. Cool corner location, though, so hopefully it'll be something good.

502 H St. NE

Wash off the graffiti and roll up the security grate and you've got Le Grenier, a modern French restaurant with 60 seats and a sidewalk cafe for four. Word on the street is that this place is being held up by lack of funding, though, so don't start picturing delicious baguettes and coq au vin just yet.

407 and 405 H St. NE

Both of these places have applied for retail licenses. Sweet! I'm hoping for a boutique clothing store like Gossip in Crystal City. I love that place.

And there you have it! SO much to get excited about. And there are plenty more open storefronts to be snatched up, and with the advent of the streetcar, which is slated to begin service in the summer of 2013, you can bet even MORE stuff will be gracing this fair street soon enough.

I can't wait!