Best of D.C. Nightlife

For Southern Protestants, “church punch” means 7-Up and sherbet. Vidalia’s Church Tea is neither, and is, therefore, really good.

Non-Alcoholic Drink: Church Tea at Vidalia

Tired of sighing “I’ll have a Diet Coke, please” when everyone else at the table is arguing Chenin versus sauvignon? The Church Tea at Vidalia, a mixture of iced tea and citrus juices garnished with a sprig of mint, is the rare sober cocktail that’s thoughtfully constructed, not overly sweet, and intended for the adult palate. K.P.K.

Vidalia, 1990 M St. NW; 202-659-1990. (Farragut West)

Casual Bar: Dan’s Cafe

Dan’s is easy to miss — only the doorman out front distinguishes the shuttered 18th Street NW spot from an abandoned building. Inside, Dan’s is a sticky paradise of cheap, DIY drinks — when you order for a table, you get liquor, a mixer, four glasses and a bucket of ice to assemble drinks yourself. Shots come in ketchup squeeze bottles; down a squirt, then pass it to the next member of your group. (Do. Not. Go. Alone.) And, please, don’t play Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love” on the jukebox. We’re trying to party here. F.Z.

1st: Dan’s Cafe, 2315 18th St. NW; 202-265-0299. (Woodley Park)
2nd:
Stoney’s, 1433 P St. NW; 202-234-1818. (Dupont Circle)
3rd:
Stetson’s, 1610 U St. NW; 202-667-6295. (U St.-Cardozo)

Fancy Bar: The Passenger

The Passenger is two bars or half a bar, depending on how you look at it. In 2009, brothers Tom and Derek Brown opened the Passenger and the Columbia Room in the same space. The Passenger is Tom’s purview, a bustling, dark spot that boasts complex cocktails and knowledgeable bartenders who can take a few cues and come up with something you didn’t know you wanted. Derek’s domain is the Columbia Room, which serves artisanal drinks alongside prix fixe dinners. F.Z.

1st: The Passenger, 1021 7th St. NW; 202-393-0220. (Mt. Vernon Square)
2nd:
The Gibson, 2009 14th St. NW; 202-232-2156. (U St.-Cardozo)
3rd:
St. Regis, 923 16th St. NW; 202-879-8000. (Farragut West)

Sports Bar and Gay Bar: Nellie’s Sports Bar

There’s something to be said for a sports bar that defies stereotypes. Nellie’s caters to a GLBT clientele that appreciates both the Abercrombie & Fitch models on the wall and the major league sports on the flat-screen TVs. (There are up to 11 different games on at once). The U Street watering hole’s events and deals spur plenty of mixing and mingling among its clientele, gay and straight alike. There’s Drag Bingo on Tuesday nights, Smart Ass Trivia Night on Wednesdays and Drag Brunch on Sunday mornings. Mondays through Fridays, the bar offers “Beat the Clock” happy hour, during which the prices of Miller Lite bottles and house vodka drinks increase every hour. K.A.

1st: Nellie’s Sports Bar, 900 U St. NW; 202-332-6355. (U St.-Cardozo)
Sports Bar, 2nd:
Rocket Bar, 714 7th St. NW; 202-628-7665. (Gallery Place)
Sports Bar, 3rd:
Public Bar, 1214 18th St. NW; 202-223-2200. (Dupont Circle)
Gay Bar, 2nd:
Town Danceboutique, 2009 8th St. NW; 202-234-8696. (U St.-Cardozo)
Gay Bar, 3rd:
JR’s Bar & Grill, 1519 17th St. NW. (Dupont Circle)

Happy Hour: Urbana

You’re going to fight for a place at this swanky, dimly lit bar, but the deals are worth it. Crowds show up for the $5 wines (house red, white or sparkling) and the $4 Yuenglings and Peronis. They stay for the $2 oysters and the half-price pizzas. K.P.K.

1st: Urbana, 2121 P St. NW; 202-956-6650. (Dupont Circle)
2nd:
Chef Geoff’s, multiple locations.
3rd:
Zengo, 791 7th St. NW; 202-393-2929. (Gallery Place)

Cocktail Menu: Founding Farmers

The bar here has much that is novel and even strange; one drink, the Bone, is garnished with a slab of bacon impaled on a skewer. Our favorites are the crisply executed classics, like the Clover Club (an egg white gives it fizzy magic), the Paloma (tequila and grapefruit) and the Southside (gin, mint, citrus). Sipping any of these will make you feel like a member of the Rat Pack, except without the institutionalized sexism and national angst over the Kennedy assassination. F.Z.

1st: Founding Farmers, 1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202-822-8783 (Farragut West) and 12505 Park Potomac Ave., Potomac, Md.; 301-340-8783.
2nd:
PS 7’s, 777 I St. NW; 202-742-8550. (Gallery Place)
3rd:
Ping Pong Dim Sum, 900 7th St. NW, 202-506-3740 (Gallery Place) and 1 Dupont Circle NW; 202-293-1268 (Dupont Circle)

Bartender: Gina Chersevani

Magic mixologist? Genius in a bottle? Whatever Chersevani is, her skills behind the bar at PS 7’s go way beyond shaking up a martini. Whether she’s teaching cocktail classes or conjuring up new recipes (she was named the DC Craft Bartenders Rickey Champion 2011 for her green tea-infused take with pineapple and yuzu), she’s guaranteed to get you into good spirits. Her newest innovation, “Cuptails” (cupcakes soaked in liquor), were introduced this month. V.H.

1st: Gina Chersevani at PS 7’s, 777 I St. NW; 202-742-8550. (Gallery Place)
2nd:
Lili Montoya at Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; 202-667-7960. (U St.-Cardozo)
3rd:
Dan Searing at Room 11, 3234 11th St. NW; 202-332-3234. (Columbia Heights)

Classic Cocktail: Old-Fashioned at Bourbon

The old-fashioned is simple: whiskey, sugar, bitters, a twist of lemon. The drink lets the whiskey be the star, so for a great one you have to go where the great whiskey is. Bourbon serves (as you might expect) more than a hundred. For the old-fashioned, try Willett (sweeter), Blanton’s (smoother) or Four Roses (sturdier). Or, heck, try all three.* If you fear 18th Street’s hordes of pantsless ruffians, the Glover Park location has an excellent bourbon selection, too. F.Z.
*Recommendations not evaluated by a physician. Don’t be a hero.

Bourbon, 2321 18th St. NW, 202-332-0800 (Woodley Park) and 2348 Wisconsin Ave. NW, 202-625-7770.

Place To Pretend Like You’re in Nashville: JV’s

To return to the era of Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash, you’d have to climb in a way-back machine and get off at the Nashville stop. Or, you could head to JV’s, a since-1947 honky-tonk in Annandale, Va., where there’s live country, folk and bluegrass on the tiny stage every night. The divey-in-a-good-way place is a long skinny room of Naugahyde booths, old street signs and neon, and definitely lives up to its slogan, “Ageless Charm Without Yuppie Bastardization.” Don’t miss what may be the area’s smallest smoking section (an airtight phone booth) or the mammoth portrait of owner Lorraine Campbell, a big-haired, big-hearted blonde you’ll often spot behind the bar. J.B.

JV’s, 6666 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church; 703-241-9504.

Free Music: Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage

Where else can you see Dinosaur Jr.’s J. Mascis shred in the same hallowed halls where tuxedo-clad patrons mingle before symphony performances? The Millennium Stage is known for drawing acts of all genres — indie rockers one day, interpretive dance the next — which makes it the best bang for your (lack of) buck in the city. As a bonus, the Center records all Millennium performances and puts them online for time-shifted viewing. R.G.

1st: Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, 2700 F St. NW; 202-467-4600. (Foggy Bottom)
2nd:
Jazz in the Garden, National Gallery of Art, 7th Street and Constitution Avenue NW; 202-289-3361. (Archives)
3rd:
Virgin Mobile FreeFest, Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy., Columbia, Md.; 410-715-5550.

Venue: 9:30 Club

There isn’t much to say about the 9:30 Club that hasn’t already been said. It’s our readers’ pick for D.C.’s premier venue — again — and was named nightclub of the year by national concert-industry tracker Pollstar.com earlier this year. We bow before you, 9:30 Club. R.G.

1st: 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; 202-265-0930. (U St.-Cardozo)
2nd:
Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; 202-667-7960. (U St.-Cardozo)
3rd:
Birchmere, 3701 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 703-549-7500.

Local Band/Act: Thievery Corporation

As elder statesmen of Washington’s electronic music scene, Thievery Corporation’s Rob Garza and Eric Hilton helped launch D.C. as a hot spot for DJs and dance music. Thievery’s hodgepodge of influences reflects the city’s mixing-bowl identity, which may be why the 16-year-old act is aging so well. R.G.

1st: Thievery Corporation.
2nd:
Wale.
3rd:
U.S. Royalty.

Bar Crawl: U Street

Our ideal U Street party parade would start at Ethiopian restaurant Dukem (1114 U St. NW) — not for the cocktails, but because it’s important to eat a big meal before pub crawling. We’d then head east to Nellie’s Sports Bar (900 U St. NW), then northwest to American Ice Co. (917 V St. NW) for the great beer and friendly vibe. At 11th and U, there’s classy Vinoteca (1940 11th St. NW) and dive-y Solly’s (1942 11th St. NW). Westward lies the playground that is 14th and U — Marvin, Blackbyrd Warehouse, Lost Society and the Gibson, with Bar Pilar, Café Saint-Ex and the Black Cat a block or so south.
F.Z. 

2nd:
14th Street NW
3rd:
H Street NE

Movie Theater: Landmark E Street Cinema

The beer at the concession stand is nice. The selection of films — usually indie, foreign or historically important (like “Labyrinth”) — is excellent. The midnight showings of cult classics are always fun. The staff is nice; the location’s great. The best thing: Cell reception is terrible in the theaters, thwarting obnoxious texters. K.P.K.

1st: Landmark E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW; 202-452-7672. (Metro Center)
2nd:
AFI Silver, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring; 301-495-6720. (Silver Spring)
3rd:
Regal Gallery Place Stadium 14, 707 7th St. NW; 202-393-2121. (Gallery Place)

Local Theatre: Arena Stage

It’s small wonder Arena won this category, given the gorgeous new building it unveiled almost exactly one year ago. The Mead Center for American Theater, which looks like a spaceship designed by Apple, is a fitting home for exuberant, creative endeavors such as spring’s manic Edward Albee Festival and next year’s world premiere musical adaptation of “Like Water for Chocolate.” F.Z.

1st: Arena Stage, 1101 6th St. SW; 202-488-3300. (Waterfront/SEU)
2nd:
Shakespeare Theatre Company, 450 7th St. NW and 610 F St. NW; 202-547-1122. (Gallery Place)
3rd:
Woolly Mammoth, 641 D St. NW; 202-393-3939. (Gallery Place)

By Katie Aberbach, Jennifer Barger, Rudi Greenberg, Kristen Page-Kirby and Fiona Zublin

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