The Scene: Adams Morgan's largest bar, the Reef has three distinct vibes within the same building: A narrow, street-level "jungle room" with rock walls, a large Olmec-style carving and vines hanging overhead; the spacious main level, where the attractions are a half-dozen huge fish tanks brimming with tropical aquatic life; and a rooftop deck with lots of seats and a view of the rooftops of Dupont Circle and downtown Washington. The friendly bartenders here have a loyal neighborhood following -- and it's well deserved.
In Your Glass: The Reef prides itself on its beer selection, which includes 16 rotating drafts and no bottles. If you've never heard of something, the bartenders are always willing to supply a taste. Every Thursday, there's a special one-night-only beer, usually a small barrel of traditional cask-conditioned ale. (This is the English style that has less carbonation than its American cousins.) Don't be afraid to ask about cocktails and shots -- the creative staff can mix up just about anything.
On Your Plate: Organic veggies, free-range chicken, all-natural bison burgers, sustainable salmon -- this is dining with a conscience, and it's pretty tasty, too. The bison mini-burgers are hard to beat.
Need to Know: Lines to enter the building can get long on weekends, and in warm weather, there's often a line of people in the main bar who are waiting to get to the jam-packed roof. It's best to arrive early, because the bouncers are strict about how many people can fit on each level.
Nice to Know: There are no TVs on the main floor and the roof. It's easy to lose track of time while watching the anemone, colorful clownfish, snails and other creatures that populate the main level's reef tank -- which, the owners boast, is a fully functioning mini-ecosystem.
Price Points: Average: most beers cost $5 and cocktails are a little higher. Happy hour runs until 8, and usual means an extra $1 off beers. Residents who can prove they live in nearby zip codes (20008, 20009 or 20010) get an extra 10 percent off, Sunday through Thursday. Wine is half-price on Wednesday nights.
-- Fritz Hahn (February 2006)