The Z Lounge can make a claim to be the healthiest bar in Washington -- it's inside the tony Sports Club LA, mere yards from the gym and sauna.
You don't have to be a member to visit, and the crowds know it. You'll see a mix of cross trainers, tear-away track pants and business suits sipping cocktails at the marble-topped bar, talking about finances as well as an early morning power yoga class.
Z's decor -- loads of warm wood tones, white and shiny metal -- isn't quite ultra-modern. It's more hotel cocktail lounge than high-concept bar, which is appropriate, given its location inside the Ritz-Carlton complex.
Most of the room is given over to a lounge area with an open floor plan: couches along one wall, a few high steel bar tables and stools on a zebra-print rug. Two walls sport floor to ceiling windows, which let in a lot of light, as well as a view of the dreary corner of 22nd and M NW: Lulu's Club Mardi Gras, Blackie's, the Marriott, a gas station, office buildings.
Drinks are well made and reasonably priced ($5 for a mixed drink, $7 for a call martini). The beer and wine selections are slightly upscale -- instead of Budweiser, you'll find Stella Artois and Guinness on draft -- and start around $4. A light menu of health food is available from the club's nearby Sidewalk Cafe.
The Z isn't really much of a scene outside of happy hour, and even then attendance can be spotty. The best time to go is during the Sports Club's monthly "Cheers for Children" fundraiser. Guest bartenders -- who have included Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon and Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes -- pour your drinks, and all tips are donated to charity.
-- Fritz Hahn (Updated Jan. 2003)