A Bar (West End)

When I heard about a new bar between the West End and Georgetown, I was immediately interested. Then I saw some pictures of their outdoor patio area, I cleared my schedule. When I heard about pitchers of punch, I was on my way! A Bar is located basically between Georgetown and Foggy Bottom, on Pennsylvania Ave in the Avenue Suites hotel. It’s an old condo building that has been very nicely updated and turned into a suites hotel.

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When we walked in, my first impression was that it was sleek and modern and I was drawn to it and wanted to spend time there. We tried to sit outside, but it was a bit steamy for me, so we moved inside to a couple of loungers. The staff was happy to accommodate. I want to go back in the fall and sit around the fire pit outside.

Normally on Thursdays, they have the grill fired up and are serving up hamburgers and hot dogs. There was a threat of rain all evening on the particular night we were there. Maybe next time!

We had to start with a pitcher, of course. Out of the 3 options,  we decided on the Wild One- Grey Goose Pear, Lemoncello, and ginger ale. It tasted like the most refreshing lemonade ever. Just enough tartness with the bonus of some bubbles from the ginger ale! The lady and I had no problem taking care of the GIANT pitcher between the 2 of us. And it’s only $15! It’s an awesome deal.

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For food we we decided to split the Fennel Sausage flat bread and the Caprese salad.

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The flatbread was crispy, and the sausage was flavorful and juicy, and the peppers were a touch sweet. The salad was nice and refreshing. They were a perfect combo together.

We were still a little hungry, so we decided to also try the Brie and Raspberry Phyllo puffs. We downed them so quickly! They were also balanced perfectly. A little bit of crunch, a little bit of salt, a little bit of sweet. Yum!

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We contemplated getting a second pitcher, but between the 2 of us, that would have been WAY too much for a school night. Next time, I’m bringing a group and getting multiple pitchers! 

The space is modern but still comfortable, the service was top notch and friendly, the drinks excellent, and the food was very tasty. It’s definitely a must try next time you find yourself at the Trader Joe’s in West End or anywhere near Foggy Bottom at all.

  • Favorite thing I had: The flatbread and the phyllo puffs tied for most delicious. Both very balanced and tasty.
  • Favorite thing she had:  The flatbread. The sausage and sweet peppers were really nice together.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: The other pitchers! The Sirloin skewers, a cheese board. And I HAVE to delve into the cocktail list.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): I have to try to get a work happy hour going here soon. Maybe within the next couple of weeks? Those pitchers of punch are perfect for a group outing like that.
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Weekend Round Up: Enjoying the Weather

The weather basically could not have been any more perfect this weekend, and we took full advantage of it and spent as much time as we possibly could outside.

Piola

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Friday after work, I hopped over the bridge to Rosslyn to meet the lady and her sister (who just moved here, I’m SO excited!), to scarf down some pizza at Piola. You all know how much I love pizza. We ordered Hawaiian and and Carbonara. I also ordered a Sgroppino Al Limone, which was basically a wine glass of vodka and lemon gelato. It was sort of like a tiny boozy milkshake. Tasty, but a bit thick to enjoy with pizza. The pizza was good! Not the best, but pretty good. The crust was nice and thin, not too heavy on the toppings. The best part- because it was happy hour, they were half price. We fed 3 people, with leftovers and a bev for $30, with tip. We will certainly be back for their bottomless brunch. Just all the pizza you can eat. Yeah, that’s my jam. 

Rosslyn Outdoor Film Festival

After dinner, we headed over to Gateway Park to grab a spot on the lawn and meet some friends for Office Space at the outdoor film festival. We always get there absurdly early, but it’s the best way to make sure you get a good spot. My advice is to make sure you have plenty of cozy, soft things. I am always over prepared, so I had a jacket, sweatshirt, blanket, sheet, and tarp. It was a little chilly, but even when it’s not, all those things will make for great pillows and padding from the ground. Because we’re getting old. I think next time we may picnic there beforehand. Maybe bring some cards? Before the movie they usually have some activities to occupy you while you wait.

 

On Saturday, we ended up bar hopping and spending the entire day outside (mostly) enjoying the perfect weather and accidentally drinking a lot. This is what living in DC is all about, right?

Nationals Game

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We had tickets for the Nats game and that was pretty much our only plan for the day. We were just going to take in the game then head home to do responsible adult stuff. Well, once you’re in the city, you might as well explore, right? We enjoyed the game and some sandwiches from G. Once it was clear that the Nats had this game in the bag- we headed out to beat the crowd. The lady had never been to Yards Park, so we strolled that direction. As we got closer, we noticed that there were bikes EVERYWHERE. Oh yes, it was Tour De Fat. Which I knew, but had totally forgotten about. We didn’t stick around long, even though it wasn’t too terribly crowded and could have been an enjoyable experience. That’s definitely something we’ll have to check out next year. Instead, we decided to head to U St. / Shaw and check out some things there.

Our initial idea was to check out Veritas. We had just had lunch, so a glass of wine and some small plates sounded perfect. Well, we got there and took a seat at the bar. It was clear it was still brunch, but no one paid us any attention. We weren’t in the mood for brunch, so we cut our losses and decided that this was not the place for us at this time. Maybe that’s more a post-work place for us. Better luck next time.

American Ice Co. 

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Instead, we headed over to American Ice Company. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too terribly crowded. We took a seat at a table in the outdoor area and perused the menu. I had heard about the nachos (Swachos) before, so we decided to give that a try. The pickled veggies on the menu also caught my eye. That and a couple of beers in a laid back environment was so perfect. We hung out there for quite some time, had a couple of beers and watched it fill up. Then, as it the case any time we end up within 5 blocks of Shaw, we decided that a trip to Mockingbird Hill was in order. We finished up our beers at American Ice but still had some time to kill. Where could we go and continue to drink outside and kill some time? Ah yes, El Rey. There was a pit stop there for one margarita, and then onto the DB3! (Derek Brown 3)

Mockingbird Hill

So, I know I’ve talked about how skeptical I was about the Derek Brown concepts.  Sherry and ham, what? Well, the lady and I have dropped our skepticism and officially decided that Mockingbird Hill is our favorite bar in the city. And for so many reasons. It seems like every time we go there, there’s always something new to discover. The lady is slowly exploring the world of sherry- and I’m really enjoying the cocktails on tap. Last time we were there about a month ago, we chatted up bartender Adriana. When we sat down this time, she immediately recognized us and remembered our names. Of course this makes you feel special and important and makes you feel like you belong there. The lady made such an awesome point while we were there- this is the kind of place that could so easily be a snooty, exclusive sort of bar, but it’s just not. The bartenders are friendly and willing to chat. You feel like you’re sitting down with friends.

I’ve also discovered my Drink Of the Summer. The PX Sherry Iced Tea on draft is one of the most amazing beverages I’ve ever tasted. It basically tastes like sweet tea. The southerner in me is so smitten. I was pretty sure that there was some simple syrup at play, and asked another one of the bartenders was it was. He said that actually, no, it was just a very sweet sherry- no simple syrup. He poured me a taste of the sherry and described the flavor profile to me. So perfect. I had 3.

I noticed that Derek Brown was in the bar that evening and geeked out a little bit. On the way back to my seat from the restroom, I caught Adriana’s attention and sort of whispered to her that I’d like to meet him. She made the intro and I was in! This man owns 4 of the most fantastic bars in the city and seemed more than happy to spend a couple minutes chatting with me. He was so friendly and gracious. I told him that I loved his bars and he mentioned sherry week and their one year anniversary to me. We will definitely be back this week to celebrate with them.

On the way to Mockingbird Hill, I texted an old friend of mine who lives in Bloomingdale. Luckily, she and her boyfriend were able to come out to meet us. We had a round or two of drinks and then decided it was time to move to the next place. They were meeting some friends at Dacha beer garden and invited us to come along.

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DACHA is somewhere we had been meaning to try for months and months. But any time we’d been past it, it was super crowded. I’m not one for elbowing my way to a bar, but after several drinks this particular day, I thought why not! If it was too crowded, we’d just stumble home. Well, we got there and while it was crowded, we were able to find a little spot to settle into. We made our way to the bar and I ordered the most giant raspberry beer for myself and a hefeweizen for the lady. They were huge and delicious.

During this time, my friend and I realized that we had been friends since like 2002 or 03 and talked about how awesome it was that we now lived in the same city and still hung out. It’s always really interesting to watch where life takes you and who follows a similar path as you. I have a few of those kinds of friends in DC. It’s so nice to have people here who understand Roanoke. We’re all here for similar reasons, we had bigger plans than Roanoke, but still love home.

Around 10-10:30, we decided that it was probably time to call it a night. We walked the few blocks from Dacha and hopped on the metro at Mt. Vernon Square and journeyed back to Alexandria.

 

We were going to brunch in the city on Sunday, but decided to stay close to home and recover instead. Cooking breakfast sounded really daunting, so we decided to tackle the few blocks to Buzz for a waffle and quiche instead. I really need someone to figure out the whole breakfast delivery thing, but in the meantime, the food from Buzz hit the spot. Since we had basically said “Screw responsibility” on Saturday, we spent most of the day catching up on all the stuff we had to do. We didn’t venture more than 2 miles from home and that was just fine with us. After dinner, we ended the evening hanging out in the courtyard with 6 of our other neighbors. (Hey guys!) It was a perfect end to the weekend.

It’s weekends like this that makes me realize how lucky I am to live here and have the friends that I do. This is a good life. Next weekend: PRIDE!!

 

Pork Barrel BBQ (Del Ray)

I decided to take last Friday off from work after having a couple of really long work weeks. I had all sorts of grand plans to take a bike ride and do things outdoors, but the weather gods had other plans and decided this would be perfect timing for a nice huge spring storm. It did clear up later in the day, but at that point, I realized that the lady had accidentally taken the key for the storage unit with her to work. That’s ok, I found plenty of other things to do to occupy my time.

At some point in the day, I started getting a ridiculous hankering for BBQ (chicken and potato salad in particular). I’ll blame it on all the summery thoughts brought on by visiting Nicecream Factory earlier in the day. I did some internet research and laid out all the BBQ options in the metro area. Since I was off from work, I was already in Alexandria, so Pork Barrel BBQ came up the obvious answer. When the lady got home from work we headed over to Del Ray.

When we walked into the restaurant, I was surprised at how… nice? it was. I’m not sure why, but I think I just assumed since it was a fast casual place, the finishings wouldn’t be so nice. Lots of stone and wood. There was also a full sized bar that ran the full length of one side of the restaurant. We decided to saddle up at the bar and take advantage of their happy hour specials.

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We started with a couple of $2 “Old School Cans.” They had a selection of about 6 different beers. Craft cans were $4. You really can’t beat that. We went with cheap beer because I was craving a Miller Lite (sometimes that just happens), but they have a pretty decent beer selection.

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Since they were also on special, we decided we’d start with an appetizer of nachos.

 

The cheese sauce on the nachos was a little strange. It sort of tasted like it had been mixed from a powder. But everything else about them was delicious! And whoever came up with the idea to put slaw on BBQ nachos is a genius.

Since the nachos were pretty sizable, we decided just to share on entree. We went with the Build A Platter Combo with beef brisket, ribs, potato salad, and baked beans. It also came with a piece of cornbread.

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It was actually a pretty absurd amount of food. And despite how delicious it all was, we could only finish about half of it between the two of us. The brisket was super tender and the ribs really flavorful, and huge! The potato salad hit the spot and added a nice cool element to the meal. The baked beans were delicious, nice and sweet. The other bonus was the 3 types of BBQ sauce on the bar in front of us. They had a NC vinegar style, a memphis vinegar style, and a classic sweeter BBQ. I like being able to choose, and take different bites with different sauces.

The food was great, the atmosphere really nice, and the server/ bartender was pretty fantastic. I can’t believe it took us so long to eat there. I’m pretty excited to go back.

  • Favorite thing I had: Everything was good, and it was exactly what I wanted. My fave was probably the baked beans. And the NC and Memphis-styled BBQ sauces.
  • Favorite thing she had:  The potato salad
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: The pulled pork! Well, we had it on the nachoes, but next time I’m craving a pulled pork sandwich, that’s it. the sausage also sounded good
  • What makes this place stand out: I wasn’t expecting such a nice, huge, fully stocked bar in a fast casual setting. This could double as a neighborhood bar! All that was missing was a cocktail menu. OH! I almost forgot! Since they’re connected, you can also order from Holy Cow’s menu from the bar there. Burgers or BBQ, take your pick!
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): Probably monthly in the lunch/ dinner rotation. It’s a good, affordable option.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Dairy Godmother would be our usual destination.

Ping Pong Dim Sum- Dupont (DC)

I had been talking about scheduling a happy hour with a few of my high school classmates/ friends who live in the area for a number of years now. It seems like the longer I live here, the more people move here. So, I finally got my stuff together to schedule one. My criteria for choosing a place was that it needed to be centrally located, easy to get to, and have decent happy hour specials. Ping Pong Dim Sum in Dupont Circle fit the bill perfectly. It was also a place I had been meaning to check out for a number of years. So, why not check off two Get On That Already tasks on my Life List at once? I’ve never done dim sum and the only dumplings I’ve ever had have been cheap Chinese delivery. The happy hour cocktail menu also looked promising.

I have this issue where I am chronically terribly early for everything all the time. I hopped the Circulator over from Georgetown to Dupont. Planning for rush hour traffic and hating to be late, I gave myself plenty of time. It ended up being totally unnecessary and I was over 30 minutes early. It’s a blessing and a curse. Undeterred, I headed into the totally empty bar and sat down anyway. I’m sure I looked super silly saving 3 other seats at the empty bar, but you can never be too careful! Since I had perused the menu beforehand, I knew immediately what I wanted from the happy hour menu. I started with the Vanilla, Lemon, and Vodka. It was a combination of all those things, topped with soda, and it was huge. The bartender also brought over a dish of wasabi peas for me to munch on while I waited. They were a nice balance to the sweetness of the cocktail (which was very sweet). My friends arrived, and I eventually went for the honeysuckle margarita. It was also fairly sweet. It had tiny slivers of honeydew and a honeysuckle-flavored (that exists?) lollypop in the glass. Some people may be turned off by chunks of fruit in their drink, but I liked it. Nice bursts of refreshing flavor to offset some of the sweetness. We ordered food and I went for the steamed shrimp and chive dumplings. I had already eaten sort of a silly amount of wasabi peas, so these 3 dumplings were a nice little snack. They were served with chili sauce on the side. I vote they should increase the chives to give them a little more of tangy flavor, but not bad. My last drink was one that everyone else got to before me, the Ping Pong. The bartender promised it was strong, but my companions weren’t so sure. The least descriptive name of the bunch, it has martini bianco, white wine, lychee juice, and Asian basil seeds.  Following suit, it was also fairly sweet, but tasty. And fun, with the gelatinous seeds floating in it, it reminded me a little bit of bubble tea.

I wish their beer selection had been a little bit better. After the 2nd cocktail, I was ready for something not-so-sweet, but alas. Overall, a fun night with old friends. I’ll be back to try more of the food eventually.

  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: I definitely want to try more of their dumplings. I didn’t even look at the regular menu. It would be fun to sit down at a table with a few people and order and try a lot of different things. That’s the point of dim sum, right?
  • What makes this place stand out: The bar was nice and not too terribly loud for our small group. They also have a HUGE outdoor seating area that would have been really nice to enjoy had it not been 30 degrees below seasonable temperatures with ridiculous wind on this particular day.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): In a couple of months. Next time I was craving dumplings. Or a super sweet drink.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Take your pick. If the happy hour food options aren’t enough, you could grab quick and easy dinner SweetGreen, BGR, or ShopHouse on Connecticut Ave. If you’re looking for a second bar, Big Hunt is a good place for a beer.

Favorite Friday: Nellie’s Sports Bar (DC)

Ahhh, Nellie’s. Many a birthday has been celebrated here. In fact, I think I’ve ended up at Nellie’s on my birthday for most years that I’ve lived in the area. And now that I’m friends with the owner on Facebook, my name goes up on the chalk boards. It has become my tradition to get a picture of myself in front of it. I was originally drawn to Nellie’s because it was a gay bar. A gay sports bar, in fact. I kept going back because of how comfortable it is there. The space is huge, with 3 different bars, the servers and bartenders are friendly (and pretty), and the Happy Hour specials, where you can get beers for $2, 3, and 4 from 5-8pm, are unbeatable. It’s more than that though. DC became home because of the community I fell into with Nellie’s and DC Gay Flag Football. It feels like a home base. I never don’t see someone else I know there. The day that DOMA was repealed, our first thought was to go there and celebrate with our friends. And we did. That’s the kind of place Nellie’s is.

What I usually order: Usually a salad, burger, or empanadas. All 3 are solid choices here. Oh the wings or the nachos!  For a sports bar, the food is really good. And beer. I’ve consumed so much Miller Lite here. I was pleased to see a couple of weeks ago that they do have quite a few microbrews on draft upstairs now.
Why I keep going back: So many reasons. There was a point when I was here at least once per week. Now, I’m mostly there for flag football events and hangouts. It’s just a good, comfortable, easy default spot.
Thing I still haven’t tried yet: As far as the food, there’s not much on the menu I haven’t tried! I still haven’t been to drag brunch buffet. It always looks super crowded but like so much fun. Maybe after my Sundays free up this summer.
Fun things about this place: The space is an awesome mix of sports memorabilia and gay bar. They have drag brunch, trivia, drag bingo, ping pong, karaoke, pretty much anything you can imagine. They also just put in big tilting windows downstairs so that the dining room will be nice and airy when it finally warms up. OH! And a roof deck! Ah, and the duckies.

B Too (DC)

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It took me a while to decide exactly where I wanted to go to for sorta fancy date night birthday dinner. I perused our ever expanding list of places to try, weighing how bad I wanted to try the place versus special enough for a birthday meal. B Too jumped out at me. It’s somewhere we wouldn’t normally go but was at the top of the desire to try list.

We got there a bit before our reservation so we started at the bar. As soon as we sat down, we were well cared for by 2 very friendly bartenders. It was still happy hour, so I grabbed the Belgian Mule and she had a wheat beer. Nice way to start the evening and end a hard week of work.

I had already taken a look at the menu earlier in the week, so I already had a few contenders in mind. I was pretty set on a nice birthday steak. The salmon with potato crust put up a good fight, but I decided to go for something I wouldn’t normally order. I went big with the beef tenderloin. The lady, not being a big fan of seafood, went for the hanger steak. We had our choices of sauces. I went with a pepper sauce and she went with the garlic butter. Hers came with roasted veggies and mine a salad, both with fries. The steaks didn’t beat the one I had a Ray’s The Steaks for my birthday  a couple years ago, but they were both good.

I had the Brussel’s Winter as my first drink at dinner. Vodka, lemon, pineapple, basil, and choco bitters. And then the Merry Rose for the second one. Gin, rosemary tincture, lime, lemon, cava. The Brussel’s winter was really interesting. I’m enjoying the trend of pineapple in drinks recently.

For dessert, we went with the waitress’s suggestion of the Frangipane Waffle for dessert. Banana, beer caramel, crumble. We split one, because we were both pretty full. The waffle was the perfect combination of crispy but soft. The caramel was awesome. I’d go back just for that.

  • Favorite thing I had: The tenderloin with pepper sauce. Pretty perfect.
  • Favorite thing she had: The Frangipane Waffle. Server recommended, lady approved.
  • How was the service?: Exactly how I like it. Friendly, knowledgeable, never having to wait long for her next visit.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: I think next time I’m going to go for the mussels. The ones with 1/2 a lobster and bisque sound amazing. The Mathilde’s Muse cocktail. Pear vodka, St. Germaine, lemon, cava. Seemed a little too obvious a choice for me that night.
  • What makes this place stand out: Celebrity chef Bart Vandaele, of Top Chef fame, was bouncing all around the dining room overseeing all of the happenings the whole time we were there. I never had the guts to go talk to him. What do you even say? “Your food tastes real good…” Also, they have BREAKFAST.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): It was a touch on the high end of the scale for us, so it might have to be a special occasions place. Also a good happy hour or dessert spot. Or maybe we’ll just hit them for breakfast in the next month time-frame.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Anywhere on 14th or P streets. We hoofed it up to 2 Birds 1 Stone, but you could just do Black Whiskey or Stoney’s.

Bar Charley (Dupont)

Suffering Bastard

A friend of mine told me about this place just a couple of weeks ago. Then several other people raved about it, so I knew it had to be bumped to the top of the to-do list. Tucked into a basement right beside Mexican behemoth Lauriol Plaza, it’s more of a hole in the wall than anything else. As soon as we sat down and saw the Happy Hour menu, I was sold. There was a drink that included ginger beer for me and an Old Fashioned for my date. Great cheap food specials. We had a small dinner (her a burger, me the mussels, split the curry dates- all above average in tastiness) and got out for under $40.

  • Favorite thing I had: The Suffering Bastard cocktail, served in a tiki cup. Bourbon, gin, ginger beer, lime. The mussels were good.
  • Most interesting thing I want to try next time: Sitting on the patio out back. Their all you can eat BRUNCH.
  • What makes this place stand out: They open at 4pm. It was cozy. And the server was very nice and charming.
  • How soon I’d go back (tomorrow/next week/next month/special occasions): Next week, for happy hour.
  • Places to go afterward (what’s nearby): Larry’s Lounge, Glen’s Garden Market, anywhere in Dupont, on U St., or Adam’s Morgan