Tourists are the worst (here’s why). Lets team up and spray these 11 spots with tourist repellant, so they can keep their standing as local spots oozing a certain kind of cool that would take a hit if frequented by matching-teeshirt-wearing, paper-metro-card-carrying folk. (Tourists, if you're reading this... these places are super lame, go somewhere else!).
Can you imagine how badly tourists would mistreat Trusty’s badass bus bar (complete with hanging lunchboxes and thermos chandeliers)? They’d surely break something while taking selfies strapped into seatbelts. The Potomac Ave bar is a true Hill-rat haven with cheap beer that comes in mason jars, board games, and Big Buck Hunter. What else do you need? How about a half-smoke or a cup of chili on a sweet patio equipped with a game-watching TV? Yea, definitely keep this on the DL.
It won’t be long until out-of-towners accidentally discover Shaw on their walk from the National Mall to whatever hotel room they snagged for the night. The least we can do is keep All Souls under wraps. This is your bar on a good and a bad day, because of its unpretentious pours and laid back atmosphere. Beer, wine, a handful of cocktails, and a couple of snacks sum up its well-executed simplicity.
"What’s that line for?" asked every tourist ever while walking past the queue that forms daily at 4pm outside Little Serow. "The best Thai food in town" is not the right answer. Ebola shots? Cavity fillings? Local election? That’s more like it. Just don’t take it too far by telling them to walk into Komi next door and ask for a table. Little Serow brings heat and exoticism that only we can handle. And charm. Lots of charm and quirk.
For twenty years, Judy Restaurant has been slapping down perfect $2 pupusas unbeknownst to museum-goers. You’ll want to climb the tallest mountain and declare your love for them, but please don’t, because tourists will hear you. If you’re a grammar nerd, you’ll also want to shout a lesson on possessives. Most importantly though: these cheese-or-pork-stuffed flying saucers are Salvadorian food at its finest, so shhhhhh.
There are about as many stools in this Japanese comfort food joint as there are epic samurai movies (nothing with Tom Cruise counts). So mums the world, got it? It’s hard enough as it is fighting against local crowds. All the hype is over the namesake dish, donburi, which means "mind-blowing rice bowl". Toppings include panko-coated fried shrimp or pork, fresh sliced salmon sashimi, and warm slivers of sweet unagi.
Fortunately, when tourists trot by Showtime (probably wondering why their maps failed them), they’ll say, "look at this velvet rope strip club in a quaint little neighborhood." What they don’t know is inside is a dive with dirt cheap Natty Boh, a free juke box stacked with funk and soul and on Sundays, and a band called Granny & The Boys, which features a legit grandmother. They’re so welcoming that you can even swing by while the sun’s out for coffee and free Wi-Fi.
The only out-of-towners who would understand Ivy and Coney are those visiting from Chicago and Detroit. But they didn’t hop on a plane for a shot of Jeppson's Malört, now did they? When locals are tired of celebrating the fact that we’ve become a "cool food city" (thanks Forbes!), they head here for a Chicombo: $10 Chi-dog & a shot of Malört. Dirt-cheap food and drink & the apartment you wish you had in college makes this the perfect tourist-free zone to watch a game.
Chevy Chase, DC
Little Fed Fox’s BLT put them on the map. But, hopefully not a tourist map. The sando is brimming with the obvious ingredients plus avocado and garlic aioli. You’ll find next-level hipsters holed up here over strong coffee, from-scratch cooking, and local beer & wine. On every table is a bottle of Little Red Fox hot sauce that they sneak into everything, including mac and cheese, and while you’re there you can stock up on goodies from some of the DMV’s best local producers. If tourists find this mecca, those market shelves will be empty in seconds.
Deep in the inner sanctum of Jack Rose Dining Saloon is a cocktail den serving inventive drinks with cool stories. While tourists probably picked up on national buzz about Jack Rose’s status as a top whiskey-slinger, they probably don’t know that a few floors down is something even better. Let’s keep it that way. Fortunately, the fact that you have to text a burner phone to get a reservation acts as a natural barrier.
The only thing more seemingly out of place than a pink restaurant with adorable Matryoshka dolls in Petworth is you at a One Direction concert. Hopefully this juxtaposition will fool tourists, because you’re going to need all of Domku’s Slavic and Scandinavian grub to get you through the winter. Rumor has it, it’s going to suck. 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.
Washingtonians LOVE rules. We can’t get enough of them. Tourists on the other hand will grind their Segway right through a red light. We should probably work together to keep them out of The Saloon, because they say it straight: 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 toward building schools abroad.
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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.