Washington DC Travelfilter: Seeking calm, quiet, cozy gustatation
November 13, 2017 6:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm taking a much-needed short vacation to Washington DC this weekend (I've been describing it to friends and family as "four glorious days during which no one will talk to me."). I'll be alone, which is sort of the whole point. I'm looking for food and drink locations that are especially pleasant for a lone woman with a book to pass some quiet late fall evening hours, around the Foggy Bottom and Georgetown areas (or farther afield if it's really worth it).

I'm a seasoned solo-traveler, so I don't feel self-conscious about being by myself pretty much anywhere, but I thought I'd see if there are any current recommendations for places that are particularly cozy, quiet and calming. Think: glass of wine, fireplace, quiet murmurs of other patrons, comfy chair, a good book, no loud music or deafening exposed-brick-walls-and-high-ceilings crowd-roar. I'm planning on spending time at the spa and when I'm done there, I want to put on some comfy clothes and roll up to a place for a late dinner and/or an after-dinner digestif that won't harsh my mellow. Added difficulty level: I'm pescatarian.

I used to live in DC, so I know my way around, but it's been a while since I've been back for reasons other than protesting.

(BTW for those keeping score at home, I'm staying at the Watergate because #YOLO.)
posted by soren_lorensen to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Tabard Inn
posted by exogenous at 7:06 AM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Sovereign on weeknights, post-happy hour, in the basement

Rye Bar, M-W nights, but it's $$$
posted by asphericalcow at 7:33 AM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Tabard Inn is indeed the canonical cozy/fireplace/etc place in town but there was ownership drama and basically all the staff who made it great are gone. You might try Iron Gate, on the other side of the same block of N Street NW, but even that seems to have some wildly inconsistent service. It is cozy though.

BTW the Tabard's former bar manager Chantal Tseng now does a Literary Cocktails series (Friday and Saturday nights only in the Reading Room at Petworth Citizen) where she does a new cocktail menu every weekend inspired by a different author, but that's in Petworth and not convenient from the West End (disclosures: Petworth Citizen is our local and Chantal is a dear friend of ours, and for that matter the owner of Petworth Citizen is too, but even though I'm biased it's totally worth a visit if you don't mind a Lyft ride).

If you don't mind going a little farther, The Dabney has a big hearth where they do a lot of the cooking, great staff, and a Michelin star. More convenient for you, but $$$$, try Fiola Mare (which has a perplexing lack of a Michelin star, since it seems maybe consistently better than the original, and starred, Fiola).

Hmm, what else? Maybe Blue Duck Tavern? Rasika West End? McClellan's Retreat is a pretty cozy bar north of Dupont Circle, but it might be too dark to read. Ooh, Bar Charley's good too. And if you go to the Dabney then you could go next door (and upstairs) to the Spirits Library at the Columbia Room for an after-dinner drink.

Is that enough? I could probably think of more.
posted by fedward at 7:42 AM on November 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Leopold's Cafe may work.
posted by gudrun at 7:53 AM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Tryst is a little further afield but not difficult to get to at all. I haven't been on a weekend night in a while but I think the noise level is quite moderate - it'll definitely be full of people but not in an overwhelming way. They have fantastic chairs and a really great, warm, book-or-conversation atmosphere that feels like a good coffee shop but with more robust food and drink choices.
posted by mosst at 8:40 AM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Go up to Room 11 in Columbia Heights.

I also used to live in DC, and still visit for work pretty often. I know Foggy Bottom has changed quite a bit, but I went to grad school at GW and can't imagine anything being particularly cozy or quiet in the immediate surroundings. You're definitely well-served by hopping out into the neighborhoods if that's what you're looking for.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:54 AM on November 13, 2017

seconding the Tryst suggestion, but be prepared ... their service is slow and spotty. Unless you truly have the whole evening to sit there, ask for your check *with* your food ...
posted by mccxxiii at 9:12 AM on November 13, 2017

Hmmm I'd say that unless you're going at a really off time Tryst and Room 11 are both pretty zonkers crowded.

Second on The Sovereign! Was also going to suggest the bar at the Penn Quarter Jaleo. It's not exactly quiet, but great food and I have a friend loves to read quietly at the bar so I know they're good for that.
posted by forkisbetter at 9:18 AM on November 13, 2017

Seconding Rasika West End! I was in town for a business trip recently (also as a lone woman), staying about a block away from the Watergate Hotel, and I had one of the most enjoyable lunches of my life there. I can’t speak to the ambiance at dinner time, but going around 1:00 on a Thursday left me plenty of time to have a multi-course meal and the service was perfect (just the right balance of recommendations and letting me be with my reading material).
posted by Anita Bath at 9:25 AM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Bread & Chocolate

There's a location a short walk from the GMU/Foggy Bottom area and it's rarely busy as it's nowhere near any tourist spots.
posted by Jamesonian at 10:23 AM on November 13, 2017

Another one - Slipstream, on 14th st, is pleasantly quiet during the evening and they make good (light) food and drink. Prices are on the higher-than-I'd-like side but not ridiculous.
posted by mosst at 11:26 AM on November 13, 2017

Go up to Room 11 in Columbia Heights.

Yes, you will absolutely love it! I practically want to move over there so I can drop in all of the time!
posted by jgirl at 1:49 PM on November 13, 2017

I've really enjoyed Blue Bar at the Henley hotel, on Mass Ave NW. Relatively quiet, lots of nooks and crannies to hide in.
posted by Dashy at 2:00 PM on November 13, 2017

So these two recommendations are far from trendy, but they fit the bill for quiet and comfortable (and don't require a long trek uptown): The 1331 bar inside the JW Marriot by the White House; and the bar inside the Hotel Lombardy on Pennsylvania and 21st st NW. They are not likely to be as crowded as some of the other recommendations. If you do go to the more popular places, try going very early to avoid crowds.
posted by yarly at 2:09 PM on November 13, 2017

Perhaps Saloon on U St?
posted by kat518 at 3:45 PM on November 13, 2017

Tryst at the Phillips. It’s quieter and less crowded than its older sister. You can go to the cafe without admission, but the Phillips Collection Itself is worth a look.
posted by chrisulonic at 2:44 AM on November 14, 2017

In past years Room 11 has done glögg on its patio, with a fire pit and blankets. You can be cozy outdoors! (Same "friends with the owners" disclosures for me as Petworth Citizen, FWIW).
posted by fedward at 8:43 AM on November 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Just reporting back... I dutifully put all of your recommendations on a custom Google map but just never managed to make my way north of M Street. I tried to go to the Soveriegn tonight, but I guess was too late (8:30 Sunday, not exactly rush hour) because they only had the bar open and I didn't want to eat in a bar.

However, y'all missed a tip, which I leave here for future Ask-searchers: Bar à Vin (no website, but its next door to the restaurant linked below) on Wisconsin has a fireplace and it's delightful. I had a big lunch yesterday, so for dinner I thought just going to a wine bar and having some wine and cheese would do me and found this place. I sat in front of a roaring fire, read gothic lesbian romance, drank wine and ate goat cheese with honey. A+, highly recommend. Tonight after striking out at the Soveriegn, I wound up at the French restaurant next door to Bar à Vin, Billy Sud, which was delicious and quiet and lovely and $$$ but I'm basically living my best life here, so.

I come to D.C.not infrequently, so I am saving these recommendations for next time I'm here with a car
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:09 PM on November 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Those two aren't just next door to each other, they're owned by the same people. And I always forget about Chez Billy Sud, because the original Chez Billy in my neighborhood closed, and I never go to Georgetown unless I have to go to the Apple Store after work. Glad you had a good time!
posted by fedward at 6:54 AM on November 20, 2017

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