Adams Morgan Neighborhood Guide

If you've written off Adams Morgan as a place for people just out of college, it's time to look again. The past few years have seen an influx of businesses catering to customers more interested in quality food and drinks than in Jagerbombs and hookups. Here are some spots to help you get to know the new Adams Morgan.
 
 
1

Mintwood Place

1813 Columbia Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20009  | 202-234-6732  |  Web site »

Restaurateur Saied Azali is truly committed to the neighborhood. Not only has his flagship restaurant Perry's been a local favorite for years, his latest Columbia Road establishment, Mintwood Place, has helped raise the bar for dining in Adams Morgan. Post food critic Tom Sietsema positively reviewed the old restaurant located in the Todito Grocery space in April, lauding the American classics and French inspired dishes being prepared by executive chef Cedric Maupillier, who previously cooked at Michel Richard's Central bistro.

"The difference between the fare at Mintwood Place and so many other neighborhood dining rooms," Sietsema wrote, "is the distinction between black-and-white and Technicolor. Even the most familiar-sounding dishes at the new restaurant in Adams Morgan surprise you with their rich treatments and vivid flavors."

He particularly noted Maupillier's tagliatelle Bolognese, brownie sundae, chopped chicken liver tartine, steak tartare and escargot hush puppies. "The talent behind this restaurant refers to it as a gathering spot for locals," our critic explained, "but Mintwood Place is a neighborhood destination in the same way "Singin' in the Rain" is just another musical."

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2

Cashion's Eat Place

1819 Columbia Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20009  | 202-797-1819  |  Web site »

When John Manolatos took over Ann Cashion's eponymous eatery four years ago, he made the bold decision to keep the name. He has done it proud. Now back among the city's top tables, Cashion's Eat Place is not only the best date spot in Adams Morgan, it's the neighborhood's best retreat from the descending weekend masses.

From midnight to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday the kitchen puts out a limited menu that doesn't lower the restaurant's standards. Plates range from $5 to $12, and like the regular menu, the selection changes frequently based on seasonal availability, but past lists have included wild boar sausage, spicy chicken wings with a creamy feta dressing and hand-cut french fries. Served up in Cashion's stylish but comfortable bar, the experience is the cosmic antithesis of fighting crowds for a greasy jumbo slice bomb.

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3

Smoke and Barrel

2471 18th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009  | 202-319-9353  |  Web site »

There was lots of murmuring among regulars when John Andrade decided to close one floor of Asylum last summer, ditching DJs, metal bands and cheap American beers in favor of house-smoked barbecue, small-batch bourbons and a menu of high-end brews curated by Sam Fitz, the expert behind Andrade's other bar, Meridian Pint.

"Adams Morgan was getting a little too crazy, a little too juvenile," Andrade says. So he trimmed Asylum back to a dungeonlike basement and went to work on the street-level bar, which is now all exposed brick, reclaimed Amish wood and gleaming retro lights, looking like another good date spot on the 18th Street strip.

Without delving too much into the Texas/Kansas City/Carolina barbecue battle, let's just say that this is some of our favorite: pork shoulder, espresso-rubbed brisket and even rubbed tofu smoked over chips of used bourbon barrels and served with house-made sauces, including the wickedly good chipotle honey butter. With a side of crispy fried okra tots or sweet potato fries, the food is rich and satisfying.

To drink, there are 20 draft beers designed to pair with the 'cue, ranging from Belgian ales to American stouts, plus 50 whiskeys and, in a stroke of genius, specially paired Boilermaker cocktails: think a shot of sweet, dry Woodford Reserve bourbon in a pint glass, topped with a full can of Oskar Blues' citrusy Gubna Imperial IPA.

Smoke and Barrel feels more like a dinner-and-drink date spot than a late-night hangout. But it does have a late-night happy hour: $1 off all beers from 10 to 11 p.m., $2 off from 11 to midnight and $3 after. With most beers in the $6 to $9 range, the savings add up.

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4

Sakuramen

2441 18th St. NW., Washington, DC 20009  | 202-656-5285  |  Web site »

This neighborhood newcomer opened its doors in May, bringing the ramen trend to the Northwest quadrant. Unlike Ren's Ramen or Toki Underground, owners Jonathan Cho and Jav Park don't have a specific regional style in mind for their cozy Adams Morgan spot. Instead they strive to serve up a take on a favorite comfort food from their youths.

Steamed or fried gyoza dumplings and three varieties of pillowy steamed buns make up Sakuramen's starters, but noodles are the real draw. Sakuramen's options range from the strictly traditional, the gojiramen with its sweet, soy-based shoyu broth, to the almost whimsical, the sheer volume of protein in the choki bowl -- or, as my server described it to me, the meat-lover's ramen. The menu's one vegan option carries the restaurant's name, and is based on a broth of kombu, a sea vegetable popular in Japanese and Korean cooking. Try the Chosun ramen. It may begin with a traditionally Japanese base -- the sweet, soy-based shoyu broth -- but the roasted kimchi and thin-sliced ribeye bulgogi swimming in it are pure Korea.

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5

Mellow Mushroom

2436 18th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009  | 202-290-2778  |  Web site »

College towns and campuses are a common target for this Southern pizza chain. Yet any fears that this massive newcomer to Adams Morgan is a booze barn catering to the barely 21 crowd will be quickly allayed on your first visit.

Handsome but unstuffy, the wood and brick interior is lined with playful, brightly colored art, and the long bars display an expansive craft beer list. On the food front, the menu includes the classic along with more imaginative pizzas. The Red Skin Potato Pie ($12.95-$24.95 depending on size), for example, marries starch with starch, topping the hand-tossed pie with potato slices with a sprinkling of apple-wood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, cheddar and mozzarella cheese and a drizzle of spicy sour-cream ranch dressing. Like the restaurant itself, the whole package is far more sophisticated than its individual ingredients would suggest.

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6

Black Squirrel

2427 18th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009  | 202-232-1011  |  Web site »

Quick: Which bar in Washington has the most beers on tap? If you said ChurchKey, you're wrong. Since last fall, the correct answer has been the Black Squirrel. Now, there's a caveat: The Black Squirrel has 57 taps over three floors. You'll find 32 in the basement, 19 on the main level and six more in the second-floor lounge. The thing is, none of the tap lines are shared, so if a beer you want is on tap upstairs and you're downstairs, you'll have to go drink on a different level.

Your best bet is to skip the first floor's pubby sports bar and head for the basement bar, which seems to have the most interesting brews. It's a low-ceilinged shoe box of a room, with a 50-foot bar down one wall. Most surfaces are covered with stylized graffiti. Skateboards serve as shelves. There may be a bluegrass or rock band setting up in the window.

Now check out the beer list, which has recently featured Bruery 7-Grain Saison, Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale and Troegs Double Bock. Special tapping parties add to the fun. Black Squirrel's beer prices can be higher than elsewhere -- they average $6.50 to $10 per glass, but regional beers, such as Williamsburg AleWerks Chesapeake Pale Ale, are usually $5.

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7

Jack Rose Dining Saloon

2007 18th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009  | 202-588-7388  |  Web site »

The most sophisticated bar in Adams Morgan has been making a splash since opening last summer, and the three-level Jack Rose has proved as versatile as it is attractive.

Your parents, your boss or your sophisticated college friends will drool over the selection of more than a thousand bottles of Scotch and bourbon in the main bar. Foodie-minded acquaintances will buzz about the menu's stuffed rabbit, seared scallops or Steak Diane, prepared by former IndeBleu and Viridian chef Michael Harzer. And the open rooftop deck -- with views of monuments or Adams Morgan's skyline depending on where you sit -- is a cool place to meet visiting college buddies or for a fantastic date spot.

The marble bar, huge circular leather booths and library-style whiskey shelving system, which requires bartenders to climb rolling stepladders to reach some of the rare bottles, will have you pinching yourself to remember that you're in Adams Morgan. (Just remember that it's not cheap: This is a place where a two-ounce pour of Scotch can run from $8 to $26, and a can of Coors Light costs $6, presumably to ward off the cheaper-is-better crowd.)

This is one place where it's more rewarding to visit during the week, when you can grab a stool and actually chat with a knowledgeable bartender about the bourbons you've never heard of and try the wallet-friendly half-ounce pours before committing to a full glass. Another midweek benefit: The deafening din that you'll encounter on Saturday nights is all but gone. But then again, that's Adams Morgan in a nutshell.

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