From Embassy Row to the World Bank, it's obvious that Washington is an international city. But the best time to see national pride displayed in public is during the World Cup, the month-long carnival of soccer that kicks off on Thursday, June 12.
Embassies of the countries that qualified for the 32-team tournament will turn matches into official social events; the Australian Embassy, for instance, will welcome staffers from its Chilean counterpart when the countries face off Friday evening. Bars will be filled with fans singing and chanting in their native languages, cheering as if they were in the stadium instead of watching from thousands of miles away.
The 2014 World Cup should be the biggest in Washington in two decades. For years, local soccer fans have guzzled coffee and shifted sleep schedules in order to watch games being played in Japan, South Korea, Germany and South Africa, six to 13 hours ahead of the District. A tournament in Brazil will result in fewer bleary eyes, as most matches kick off between noon and 6 p.m. Eastern time - perfectly positioned for long lunches and early happy hours.
Watching the World Cup in a regular sports bar with cheap beer can be fun - we have a list of those specials at goingoutguide.com - but for this story, we wanted something more immersive. We reached out to embassies, cultural organizations, expat social groups and a veritable United Nations of bars and restaurants in an attempt to find specific viewing locations for every participating country, including the best places to cheer for the United States.
We came up just short; we have recommendations for 25 of the 32 participating teams. (E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can tell us where fans of Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Iran, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria should gather to cheer on their teams, and we'll update this list throughout the tournament.) We've also updated our roster of the area's best soccer bars.
With this guide, you'll be able to enjoy the tournament regardless of who wins. (Unless it's your team's hated rivals, but there's nothing we can do about that.)
Brazil – Cameroon – Croatia – Mexico
The Grill from Ipanema is celebrating its 20th year in Adams Morgan, and the restaurant has served as a World Cup viewing destination for fans of Brazil the entire time. It keeps the samba music going and the delicious caipirinhas flowing, in addition to Brazilian food and drink specials. Ceiba doesn't draw the same kind of jersey-wearing crowd, but the downtown restaurant has cooked up a menu of Brazilian street food to serve during the Seleção matches, including bolinho de bacalhau (salt cod fritters) and pork-belly feijoada stew.
Silver Spring's Roger Miller Restaurant is named after Cameroon striker Roger Milla, who became a superstar at the 1990 World Cup. Good West African food and beers make it a destination for fans of numerous African teams who know their game will be on, but the Indomitable Lions clearly rule the place. Seating capacity is limited, so arrive early.
Ambar's owner is Serbian and the food is pan-Balkan. Geopolitics mean the Capitol Hill restaurant isn't supporting any particular team in the World Cup, but if you want to watch Croatia on a projection screen while sipping a glass of strong rakia (Croatia's most popular spirit) or a well-regarded Croatian white wine (2012 Belje Graševina), Ambar is the place.
There are two ways to watch Mexico in the World Cup. Modern Mexican restaurants are throwing their weight behind the team with viewing parties and happy hours; both branches of El Centro will offer $5 margaritas, beers, wine and, in a nod to the host country, caipirinhas during every match. Fuego in Clarendon will have $5 margaritas and food specials during all Mexican (and American) first-round games. But some of the biggest parties will be at smaller Mexican restaurants and clubs in the suburbs, such as El Rodeo Sports Bar in Riverdale and Mexico Lindo in Bladensburg. For El Tri's first match against Cameroon (Friday, June 13), Mexico Lindo will provide a free beer for every Mexican goal. Afterwards, "el gran bailazo" at the MXL nightclub will feature music by Marco Flores y Banda Jerez.
Australia – Chile – Netherlands – Spain
Solly's U Street Tavern isn't known as a soccer bar; it's a rugby bar, thanks to owner and namesake John Solomon, a coach of the Washington Irish rugby team. But it draws a fair few Aussies - see the signed Wallabies rugby shirt over the bar? - so Solomon is showing all Australia games as well as the U.S. games. The Australians in Washington Association, a social group for Australians and their friends, is hosting viewing parties at Washington's Fado Irish Pub. The noon kickoffs on June 18 and 23 are kid-friendly.
Hundreds of Netherlands fans turned Mackey's orange during the 2010 World Cup: The downtown pub became a sea of brightly colored shirts, wigs and lion-shaped headgear every time Arjen Robben and his compatriots took the field. The Dutch lost to Spain in the final, but a good time was had by all (for most of the tournament, anyway). This year, the local expat groups, such as the DC Dutch (www.dcdutch.org), are moving the gatherings to Elephant and Castle on Pennsylvania Avenue, but expect the party vibe will continue.
If you want to watch reigning World Cup champions Spain, the Spanish Embassy suggests heading for one of the area's Spanish-owned restaurants, such as Taberna del Alabardero downtown, which will show all of Spain's matches in its lively wine bar, and the Bethesda outpost of the 100 Montaditos chain. Jaleo chef Jose Andres saw Spain win the 2010 World Cup final in person, but he watched the team progress through the group stages and playoffs at his restaurants. (For the semifinal against Germany, Andres could be found at the Bethesda Jaleo.) This year, the chef is supporting his team's title defense by showing every game and offering Spanish food and drink specials at all three Jaleo locations. Interestingly, Spanish fans also like Elephant and Castle, which could mean a cracking atmosphere when the Spanish and Dutch meet in the group's first round on Friday, June 13.
Colombia – Greece – Ivory Coast – Japan
Veranda, the Mediterranean restaurant in Logan Circle, threw its weight behind Greece during the 2012 European championships, and will do so again for the World Cup. Watch matches on projection screens while sipping discounted beers at the bar. Another option for Greek supporters is Kapnos, which will show every game while serving $9 Watermelon Lemonade cocktails and other Greek treats. The DC Greeks, a social group for young professionals, is hosting two game-watching events. The first is June 14 at the Exchange, where drink specials include $15 all-you-can-drink drafts and rails. For the match against Japan on June 19, the group moves to Public Bar in Dupont Circle, again with food and drink deals.
The Embassy of the Ivory Coast is opening its doors to the public to show the Elephants' June 14 match against Japan on "a giant screen." Kickoff is at 9 p.m., and doors open at 7.
The Japan-America Society of Washington DC, the group behind the annual Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, is organizing a viewing party for Japan's second match, against Greece at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 19. The gathering at the society's L Street office is free, and snacks and drinks will be provided. Fans of the Samurai Blue must register at www.jaswdc.org by Wednesday.
Costa Rica – England – Italy – Uruguay
First Down Sports Bar, known for its tasty buffalo wings and cheap happy hour drinks, will show every World Cup match. But expect "a large population" of fans of Costa Rica to congregate at the Arlington bar, according to a manager who says they've come in to watch World Cup qualifiers and international friendlies.
The English Premier League's huge following in Washington means that many general soccer bars attract groups of England supporters, including Lucky Bar and Summers. The Queen Vic on H Street, modeled after a British pub, has a strong selection of England ales and a mix of televisions and projection screens for watching the Three Lions.
Down the block from the Queen Vic, Vendetta is staking its claim as a top soccer-watching destination for fans of Italy (the indoor bocce courts and Vespas on the walls are your first clue). Look for discounted Peroni and wine and food specials every day, even if Italy's not playing. The bar also has made a wager with the Queen Vic for the England-Italy match on June 14: If England wins, Vendetta has to tap a keg of Newcastle Brown Ale. If Italy wins, the Queen Vic puts Peroni on draft. Love of the Azzurri isn't limited to one H Street bar: The Big Board is pouring half-price Peroni pints during Italy matches. (They'll be $2 off during other games.) The Italians in D.C. social group hosts its viewing parties at the Georgetown branch of Ri Ra, where deals include $5 beers and wine and discounted appetizers.
There aren't many Uruguayan restaurants in the Washington area, but Del Campo has pledged its support to Luis Suarez and Co. for the World Cup. For the length of the tournament, Del Campo's bar will offer a chivito - the sandwich that's the national dish of Uruguay - with fries and a South American beer for $20.14.
Ecuador – France – Honduras – Switzerland
Redline is a demonstration of how the World Cup brings countries together: The Swiss Embassy and the Union of French Citizens Abroad are sponsoring an event at the Penn Quarter bar when the teams meet June 20.
Supporters of France will stay at Redline for every match. Other hot spots for fans of Les Bleus include U Street's Bistro La Bonne, which will open early for every match, and Le Bar, the bar at the downtown Sofitel Hotel, which always flies the tricolor.
Switzerland fans will gather elsewhere for its other group matches. The embassy and the Swiss Club of Washington D.C. have organized a party at City Tap House for the June 15 match against Ecuador; the party moves to Darlington House for the final group game against Honduras on June 25.
If you want to watch Honduras while sipping horchata or sticky-sweet sodas in banana and tamarind flavors, El Catrachito in Silver Spring (2408 University Blvd. West) should be near the top of your list. It's small, but the TV regularly shows soccer.
Argentina – Bosnia – Iran – Nigeria
El Patio becomes a wall of blue-and-white stripes whenever the World Cup rolls around - an Argentina stronghold where Lionel Messi is a deity to be discussed with a glass of malbec or a bottle of Quilmes in hand. The Rockville restaurant and shop will have live music after Argentina's opener against Bosnia on June 15, but will be a party whenever La Albiceleste takes the field. Other restaurants supporting Argentina include Del Campo and Arlington's Las Brasas.
Bosnia is making its first World Cup appearance, and few people in the area are happier than Ivica Svalina, the Bosnian-born chef and owner of the Cosmopolitan Grill in Alexandria. One of the few places to find Bosnian dishes in the Washington area will be serving Balkan wines and its own Bosnian burgers while showing every match. "And when Bosnia plays, they will be on all three TVs," Svalina says. Fans also can get a taste of the region at Ambar on Capitol Hill, but the Serbian restaurant and bar is officially taking a neutral stance.
The National Iranian American Council and the Iranian American Community Center will sponsor viewing parties for Iran at Velocity Five in Arlington, with $5 domestic beers and house wines. (The Court House sports bar is owned by Iranians.) The groups will also gather to cheer for Team U.S.A. at the same location.
Germany – Ghana – Portugal – U.S.A.
Germany, the favorite to win this tournament's Group of Death, is always the home team at Biergarten Haus. The enormous German-style beer garden on H Street NE regularly hit capacity during the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 European Championships, with fans arriving hours before the first ball was kicked, then singing and chanting in German during matches. (Keep in mind that you can only make reservations for parties of 15 or more.) The Goethe-Institut in Chinatown, the world's largest German cultural organization, will show Die Mannschaft's weekday matches on a big screen in its movie theater. This is great if you want to practice your German language skills, and you can bring your own refreshments.
Ghana Cafe, a favorite of Black Stars supporters in previous World Cups and African Nations Championships, closed suddenly in early June, leaving Ghana fans looking for a place to watch matches with a plate of goat meat and fufu. Bukom Cafe, the West African restaurant that has been a fixture in Adams Morgan for two decades, is crowded and loud and perfect for watching soccer. Just beware of the potent cocktails.
Think Cristiano Ronaldo and company have a chance of springing an upset against Germany? The Portugal fans who gather at Espresso, a low-key bar and restaurant in Manassas, might just agree with you.
If you've watched a United States national team match, you've seen the bandana-wearing American Outlaws, the loud-and-proud supporters group. The local chapter of the Outlaws takes over the basement of the Laughing Man Tavern for every game, including the World Cup, where they'll sing and cheer throughout. During matches, the bar will offer $3 PBR and $4 Heinekens. Annapolis has its own branch of the American Outlaws, founded earlier this year. The group gathers at Union Jack's of Annapolis, where World Cup drink specials include $3 16-ounce Budweiser bottles and $4 Stella Artois.
Other places you can expect to hear vocal support for the USMNT include a DC United-sponsored outdoor screening of the United States vs. Portugal game on a big screen in Reston Town Center (June 22 at 6 p.m.), and the second Soccer in the Circle Festival on June 26, which will feature a live screening of the noon match between the United States and Germany in the middle of Dupont Circle.
Want to watch America on a really big screen? The Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse will show every first-round U.S. match on its high-definition movie screen with no admission charge. Doors open an hour before kickoff.
Two happy hours of note: The Pug on H Street NE will offer $1 hot dogs and $3 Budweiser tallboy cans during every U.S. game. At Capitol Hill's Capitol Lounge, you'll get $12 pitchers of beer during every game, plus a free Jack Daniels shot every time the U.S. scores.
Algeria – Belgium – Russia – South Korea
Fans of Algeria will return to Babylon Futbol Cafe in Seven Corners, where a large flag-waving crowd watched their team battle the United States in the last World Cup, according to Abdennour Azeddine, a director of the Algerian-American Association of Greater Washington.
Belgium, a dark horse in Brazil, will be the center of attention at Belga Cafe and its 14th Street NW offshoot, B Too. Both restaurants will have deals on waffles, frites and snacks, plus specials on the all-important Belgian beers, including a number of red ales (the team is known as the Red Devils).
Where would Alex Ovechkin watch Russia? We're guessing Mari Vanna. The downtown Russian restaurant will put the games on all of its TVs and offer a free vodka shot to each customer during matches, with half-price Russian beers from 5 to 8 p.m. on weekdays. This will be particularly handy when Russia plays South Korea at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 17.
Annandale's restaurants and karaoke-centric bars buzz when the South Korean team takes the field. Two of the best places to go are Cafe Tu Ah and Baden Baden, which have plenty of TV screens, beer and soju.
Tips for first-time World Cup viewers
Soccer fandom in the District has expanded since the 2010 World Cup - just look at the number of fans of the Premier League and La Liga packing bars compared to four years ago. If you're heading out to watch the World Cup with fresh interest, here are three tips to make your experience a great one.
Go to a "foreign" bar.
ESPN and ABC are televising every game, which means you can watch from the comfort of your couch or the happy hour spot across the street from your office. That's boring. Go somewhere more immersive: Find a seat at the bar at Elephant and Castle when the Netherlands play, and the guys next to you will be as likely to converse in Dutch as in English. Stop into El Patio, where the malbec and Quilmes flow as freely as the chatter about Lionel Messi. Grab an Oktoberfest-sized beer at Biergarten Haus and try to decipher the words to such fussball songs as "Auf geht's Deutschland schiesst ein Tor." It's an adult version of studying abroad.
Wherever you go, go early.
World Cup viewing is a communal experience, especially for fans of certain teams. Long lines formed outside of Lucky Bar before every U.S. game in 2010. Biergarten Haus may have 300 seats on its patio, but during the last World Cup, there were lines down the block hours before every kickoff. Bars will be slammed for big matches and most don't take reservations. If you're going to one of the major soccer-watching venues, have another nearby bar as a backup plan.
No one cares that you're a Liverpool (or Arsenal or Bayern Munich or ...) fan.
When I see someone in the crowd at a DC United game wearing an Arsenal or Bayern Munich jersey, I cringe. Why sport the colors of a team that's not playing? You wouldn't (or shouldn't) wear a 49ers jersey to watch the Redskins play the Steelers, for example. The same holds true for the World Cup. Donning a Wayne Rooney Manchester United jersey to watch England, or a Seattle Sounders shirt with "Dempsey" on the back during a U.S. match, is fine. But wearing a Liverpool shirt to watch Algeria take on South Korea when neither squad includes a single Liverpool player? That's just wrong.