1. Trusty’s Full-Serve Bar1420 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington
2. All Souls Bar725 T St NW, Washington
3. Little Serow1511 17th St NW, Washington
4. Judy Restaurant2212 14th Street NW, Washington
5. Donburi2438 18th St NW, Washington
6. Showtime113 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington
7. Ivy and Coney1523 7th St NW, Washington
8. Dram & Grain2007 18th St NW, Washington
9. Domku Bar & Cafe821 Upshur St NW, Washington
10. The Saloon1205 U St NW, Washington
Upstairs at Trusty's has been converted into a bus-themed booze cave, with a sunbathed outdoor deck and a main room with lunchbox-based overhead and Thermos-chandelier lighting atop a bar made of an actual school bus.
Across the street from a school, All Souls Bar isn't a mad-house, but rather a low-key, 33-seat retreat offering just three classic cocktails (negroni, Manhattan, and a cava-kissed sidecar), and just a handful of beers and wines. It's not about limitless options, but rather curation. Jukebox tunes float inside, while guests snack on olives, cheeses and nuts. An early closing time, and a table-service-only patio (no standing or smoking) prohibits any shenanigans.
At Little Serow, the standard wait for a table is no less than an hour. The spot's prix-fixe-only menu, updated every Tuesday, offers a different series of family-style plates each week, all of which are carefully curated to create a balanced spread of Northern Thai flavors (which means you get to skip out on the painful process of selecting your own entree). Typically, guests can choose between a meat-centric or seafood-heavy meal option, but otherwise, the place offers no substitutions (even for allergies). But while L.S. won't cater to picky guests, diners rarely complain after consuming plates of mud crab with coconut husk and shrimp paste, or whole market fish with fresh turmeric and house peanut sauce. And the best part: desert is mandatory.
Once a pool hall before it was a grocery store, Judy's is now a go-to for Salvadorian-Mexican dishes, with televisions glowing over patrons pining for cheap pupusas. The $2 corn pockets can be made revuelto (a mix of cheese, pork and beans), or with just queso, beans or loroco (a sautéed Central American vine with edible flowers). Quesadillas, tamales and dippable fried yuca plates round out a larger menu of traditional plates. Upstairs, pool is played as bartenders speak both Spanish and English while taking margarita orders during happy hour, popular with newcomers and longstanding neighborhood residents.
Donburi is a Japanese dish that basically translates to something awesome on top of rice -- so just hop on up to their counter and choose your something awesome: panko breaded shrimp, pork, sweet and savory sauce, half-cooked egg, pickled radish, and jalapeño are all in the mix.
This Bloomingdale spot is one of DC's most beloved dives, thanks to its funk & soul jukebox, weekly live music, and dirt-cheap beer. Painstakingly curated by owner & DJ Paul Vivari, the jukebox contains more than 2,000 tracks of soul, R&B, jazz, and ‘60s pop. As for the booze, the selection isn't quite as extensive: the converted barbershop offers just four draft lines and a compact liquor selection, and fuses them with its $5 shot-and-beer combos, which are ideal if you’re looking to loosen up before getting down to some funk music.
Ivy and Coney is a homey dive bar in Shaw that delivers a relaxed neighborhood vibe, delicious hotdogs, and a menu that includes nothing over $6.
Dram & Grain is a badass underground whiskey den run by Trevor Frye and Nick Lowe of Jack Rose Dining Saloon (which just so happens to be on top of said whiskey den). If you can get the secret phone number via secret business card, you can text these guys on their burner phone (!) and get yourself into one of three seatings on Saturdays only. Expect creative cocktails (red-hot pokers, smoke-filled concoctions), whiskey on tap, and only one vodka drink called the Training Wheels.
This pink Petworth restaurant features adorable Matryoshka dolls and Slavic/Scandinavian food. Eat all the pierogis, especially the ones stuffed with potato, twaróg & bacon, plus their heavenly Kotlet schabowy — a more fun way to say pork schnitzel.
They say it straight at The Saloon: No standing, no martinis, no American Express, and so forth. You gotta love them, both for their Belgian beer selection, and because a portion of bar tabs go towards building schools abroad.