LOCAL BLUES AND Memphis ribs. Big- band swing and jambalaya. Roots rock and baked brie. Socially conscious Latin music and poached pear salad. It’s not always easy to find the sweet sound of good live music to accompany a good meal. But at a few local restaurants and venues, serious talent can be found both onstage and in the kitchen.
Start in Rockville, where brothers-in-law Patrick Blinn and Kevin Sheridan run a restaurant that revolves around music. Beale Street Grill, named for the historic blues hub of downtown Memphis, Tenn., has free live music every Saturday.
Regular local performers include guitarist Memphis Blues and harmonica player Jay Summerour. The food matches the music, with ribs, wings and brisket prepared with a good Memphis dry rub.
For blues and jazz with your meal, head to Georgetown’s Blues Alley. This world-famous jazz supper club has been around since 1965. While there’s usually a cover, big-band military shows are free, and hungry music-lovers can save some pennies on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night, when the cover is generally between $10 and $25. The music is as eclectic as jazz itself, but the menu is New Orleans-inspired. Try the shrimp creole or the pork chops stuffed with sauteed apples and onions.
Another fantastic music venue with delicious food is Iota in Clarendon. If you get there early, grab a seat at the cafe’s bar, which opens up to both sides. From there, watch the bands onstage for free (but don’t tell them we told you that). Start your meal with the buttery decadence of baked brie with apple chutney, perfect paired with its fried chicken, which is served with lovely sauteed collard greens cooked just right.
The music you can hear through the wall varies on any given night from folk to country to hip-hop to rock to roots rock to soul to pop to jazz. Every Wednesday, Iota hosts the best open mic night in the D.C. metro area, with free entry. The club side serves pretty decent bar food, so if you like live music with your nachos and Shiner Bock, this is the perfect place for a Wednesday night.
Eclectic music is also on the menu at Busboys and Poets in the U Street corridor. Most of the musicians who perform at Busboys are political activists spitting socially conscious lyrics. Artists come from hip-hop, soul, Latin, folk and spoken word genres, among others.
For dinner, Busboys has a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. Try the avocado panini, fresh off the grill with melty havarti cheese and a roasted red pepper spread that combine to create rich, smoky flavors.
» Beale Street Grill, 9712 Traville Gateway Drive, Rockville; 301-838-5590.
» Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-337-4141.
» Iota Club and Cafe, 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-522-8340. (Clarendon)
» Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th St. NW; 202-387-7638. (U St.-Cardozo)
Written by Express contributor Suemedha Sood
Photo courtesy Kyle Gustafson/For The Washington Post