Capitalizing on the Capital
August 14, 2006 9:14 AM   Subscribe

AskMe has given advice for short term visits to DC, but what about someone who's living here for, say, the next 8 months? I'm not looking for a perfect date, nor do I care about war memorials, so tell me what else there is for me to do.

I've seen the cherry blossoms and the lovely (free!) museums, but what other things happen here that I absolutely must do or see?

I am: vegetarian/vegan, a recently graduated English major, and residing in the Ballston area of Arlington. Having fallen in love with blue-collar Chicago and in like with the less pretentious hipster areas of Brooklyn, I am still trying to find my niche in our nation's capital. The bars are lackluster, the shopping is blah, and I hate yuppie Georgetown.

But I know there's more to this city than Ann Taylor pantsuits and guys in ties, right? I like: vintage/retro shopping (I've been frequenting U Street's Aunt Neensie and Nana and Adams Morgan's Meeps), thrift stores, fun bars, young people, and unusual coffee stores. Any tips for fun metro-accessible Maryland areas would be appreciated as well.
posted by zoomorphic to Society & Culture (26 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Black Cat. You won't regret it. The Raven on Mount Pleasant street. A true dive. Screen on the Green, tonighkt on the mall at 7:45 PM. Eat Ethiopian food at Lalibela.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:18 AM on August 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Annnd to stave off the inevitable, I've read this, this, and this. I know, picky picky picky.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:19 AM on August 14, 2006

I see in your third "this" I already mentioned Old Town. But for coffee in Old Town, the one and only stop is Misha's on Patrick (northbound side of route 1) and King and it's walkable from King St metro. Their Route 66 blend is probably the one to try if you're going for a straight up coffee, but they still do a pretty good espresso and so on. Among the best roasters in the area, without doubt.
posted by skynxnex at 9:24 AM on August 14, 2006

Smithsonian Folklife Festival?
posted by billtron at 9:32 AM on August 14, 2006

The American Film Institute (AFI) has a network of theaters running awesome movies ranging from the arty to the fun classics. (I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark not long ago at the flagship AFI theater in Silver Spring [block from the red line].)

If your musical tastes are anything like mine, you'll be swarming the 9:30 club for trip-hop headliners Zero 7, Tricky, and Massive Attack in the next few months (block off green line).
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:34 AM on August 14, 2006

Sorry, not during the next 8 months.
posted by billtron at 9:36 AM on August 14, 2006

If you've got a car or don't mind busing it, the Shirlington area of Arlington is a lot of fun. It's chill, although it might be too yuppie for your tastes. T.H.A.I. (stupid name, great food) is delightful as well.

If you'd rather stick around the city, a good night in my book is dinner and lots o' beer at Gordon Biersch and a movie at E Street.

On preview, I second the 9:30 club recommendation. I saw the Twilight Singers there in May and was properly blown away.
posted by timetoevolve at 9:51 AM on August 14, 2006

Best answer: My favorite places in DC (for a twenty-something indie-rock sort): Black Cat (Red Room for drinks, the rest of the venue for shows), Bar Pilar, the Argonaut, Saint-Ex (for sitting outside in the summer), Wonderland Ballroom (for being a wonderful dive with hilarious dance nights and free movies and a great patio until midnight) and lately I've been liking Busboys and Poets, but it gets kind of crazy crowded on weekends.

There are also all sorts of great cheapish ethnic places to eat (Ethiopian!) 9:30 has some good shows, and Fort Reno is going for a few more weeks and is free.

If you need anything more, feel free to email. I live in Baltimore, but spend a rather absurd amount of time in DC.
posted by youcancallmeal at 10:10 AM on August 14, 2006

Best answer: Also, you should definitely visit Cafe Luna in Dupont Circle. They're perfect for brunch, although it's crowded on the weekends.

Also also, check out Mimi's! Not for the food, but for the singing. :)
posted by timetoevolve at 10:11 AM on August 14, 2006

I'm sorry you have to live in Ballston for the next 8 months, that sounds painful. youcancallmeal just gave you the run down of all of my favorite bars in DC, too. I'll add L'enfant Cafe to the list (crepes, kriek, and a big patio - what else could a girl ask for?). Definitely eat at Vegetate in shaw for yummy vegetarian/vegan food. Go see movies at the Landmark, and the bars up in Mt. Pleasant (Tonic, Raven, etc) are also cool. A word of advice, don't go to Saint-Ex on weekends, it's far too crowded with hipster wannabes and the scene is so much better on, say, a Sunday night. Oh, and if you like jazz, definitely go see a band at HR-57, it's BYO, so we usually take a bottle of wine and hang out for a few hours. My email's in my profile, too, if you want more questions, particularly about the whole Logan, U Street area. I can't help you with anything Adams Morgan related unless you're going to the pharmacy bar.

And yeah, my picks are all pretty indie rock too, but hey, I was at a fancy bar on Friday!
posted by echo0720 at 10:54 AM on August 14, 2006

Oh, and since you'll be in Arlington, head down to Galaxy Hut in Clarendon for a divey drink, and the bar at Harry's Tap Room for a fancier one. Two of my favorite places there.
posted by echo0720 at 10:56 AM on August 14, 2006

Galaxy Hut is fun, as is the Cafe Saint-Ex on iPod Jukebox night, 2nd Wednesday of every month. Doc Dremo's is also nice if you like a good scummy bar as I do.

Upcoming covers the DC area pretty well, and if you'll forgive some promotion of a site I'm involved with, I think DC Metblogs pretty consistently covers a pretty diverse slice of life here in the area.

Hell, we're taking applications for new writers this month - if you need a motivation to get out, explore and find the things about DC that you loved about Chicago (or if that's even possible) then come write about the experience, so long as you're willing to do it 12 times a month. I think that would be a neat project to read about.

And to all the Clarendon haters, PFFFT. Anyplace with Ray's the Steaks can't be all bad, though it's about the complete opposite of a place zoomorphic would like. If you have any wiggle room on the vegan/veg dividing line I highly recommend Lost Dog Cafe. Best pizza in the area, anyone who tells you 2Amys or Matchbox is better is lying.
posted by phearlez at 11:49 AM on August 14, 2006

Oh by the way - tonight's the last Screen on the Green of the season. And cowbellemoo, how could you mention the upcoming 930 club shows and not mention George Clinton and the Parliment Funkadelic?!@

On the divey front you might also like Playbill. I haven't been in a while but when I was dating a local actress/singer we went to karaoke night on Thursdays a few times and it was fun, if intimidating - karaoke for me is an ironic exercise but better than 1/2 the attendees are local performers and superb singers.
posted by phearlez at 11:53 AM on August 14, 2006

I will be at aforementioned Screen on the Green, so shoot me an email if you want to meet up tonight. Dremo's hosts the Washington Psychotronic Film Society every Tuesday night--that's always a fun night, and they have $1 pints until 8. Again, lemme know if you want to go, and I'll likely meet you there.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:16 PM on August 14, 2006

Oh, and IOTA has some pretty good shows--I've seen Richard Buckner and The Blasters there in the last year.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:17 PM on August 14, 2006

And cowbellemoo, how could you mention the upcoming 930 club shows and not mention George Clinton and the Parliment Funkadelic?!@

Because P-funk is there every 3 months!! ; - D

They might as well be the house band...
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:24 PM on August 14, 2006

Oooh I almost forgot! The Small Press Comics Expo is held in Bethesda [4-5 blocks from red line] during October. All the struggling political cartoonists, indie Strangers-in-Paradise drama comics, mind-bending underground comix, and cutie hipster webcomics you can shake a stick at. Easy place to pick up nice wall art, free schwag, stickers, buttons, signed stuff, cheap trade paperbacks (for the comic legal defense fund [I got a hardcover signed Sin City). They usually get 2-3 actual 'names' (established/popular artists).

Last year my friend kept getting the stink eye from Harvey Pekar. Fun fun!

Lots of old nerds and young nerds, but no yuppies (yet!).
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:37 PM on August 14, 2006

Best answer: No one's said Teaism yet? Go to Teaism already! Dupont Circle area, maybe R St. just west of Connecticut.

And go to Kramerbooks & Afterwords on Connecticut & R. Great independent bookstore, open 24 hours on the weekend, with a great cafe (for dessert, at least) attached to the rear. Or Politics & Prose, further up Connecticut near the Van Ness stop, which is a little bigger and hosts good readings. The Uptown movie theater in Cleveland Park is good for movies--enormous screen, and they often play [cult-] classics on the weekends.

While I haven't been, the people in the Coffeegeek forums love Murky Coffee--there's one in Capitol Hill (SE), and one in Arlington.

Oh, and second the Luna Cafe. Any meal, can't go wrong.
posted by LDL_Plackenfatz at 12:45 PM on August 14, 2006

n-thing the 930 reccomendation. God is that an awesome venue.
posted by phrontist at 1:07 PM on August 14, 2006

Best answer: NortonDC and I live near Ballston and there's a great vegan/vegetarian indian restaurant by us that is a bit of a dive inside but has friendly service, excellent food, and reasonably prices -- and a hugely extensive vegan/vegetarian menu (roughly 10 pages) -- in Arlington. Saran Indian Cuisine on 5157 N. Lee Highway, Arlington 22207. It's in the middle of a strip mall of largely unappealing stores, but now that we've had good luck with this one we're going to try the latin place on the corner.

I also really like the Iota and Cafe Luna, suggested above. I think Murky Coffee has free WiFi and is a big hipster hangout on weekends. And I used to go to some good author readings at Politics and Prose, also mentioned above.

Also, the GW's Lisner auditorium (which may not be the best venue for tall people who don't like sitting with their knees knocking against their chins, but still) gets some great performers -- I've seen David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, Ani Difranco, They Might Be Giants, and Rufus Wainwright there (PLUS Ira Glass from Chicago's This American Life!).

Finally, come to a DC metafilter meetup!
posted by onlyconnect at 3:35 PM on August 14, 2006

Response by poster: Yikes, where are my mefite manners? Sorry I haven't handed out best answers yet, but soma lkzx and I were taking lots of people's advice and visiting Cafe Luna. Great ten veggie salad! Thanks for all the help everyone! If anyone else wants to add to this great list for posterity's sake (and mine), be my guest.
posted by zoomorphic at 7:40 PM on August 14, 2006

Oooh, onlyconnect, is that the Caribbean Grill you mean by "the latin place on the corner"? That's one of my favorite places to eat in Arlington. The Jerk Chicken and the Cuban sandwiches are very tasty.

Now I'm gonna have to try Saran too, given your endorsement!
posted by gemmy at 7:59 PM on August 14, 2006

gemmy, yes. Guess I need to pay more attention, eh? And I will definitely have to try it now!
posted by onlyconnect at 7:19 AM on August 15, 2006

Don't miss the empanadas at Caribbean Grill! I had my first there, and they're still my reference point for good empanadas.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:12 AM on August 15, 2006

I'm eating a piece of left-over Lost Dog Cafe pizza right now. Either I ordered the wrong thing, or my tastes are wildly different from those of you who love the place. I got the Greek pizza, and was dismayed when it came with straight-out-of-the-can black olives. Really, I can't remember ever needing to add salt to a pizza, for god's sake. My daughter got the white pizza, which was also quite bland, but, actually, that's just how she likes it. Nice atmosphere, lots of families and kids, but I just do not understand the love for the food. Any insights?
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:29 AM on August 17, 2006

I'll likely go to these shows; lemme know if you want to meet up:

Richard Buckner, September 21, IOTA in Clarendon
Adam West, September 30, Rock & Roll Hotel, H Street NE
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:03 PM on August 24, 2006

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