In Washington, late-night eats heat up
By Lavanya Ramanathan, Justin Rude and Fritz Hahn,
Three years ago, Weekend chronicled Washington’s late-night dining scene.
At the time, the most revolutionary thing to happen to the fourth meal was falafel, and if you weren’t the type to scarf down a slab of pizza on a sidewalk, your best sit-down spots were the same old options, such as Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe and the few other restaurants that bothered to serve customers who wandered in after 11 p.m.
Fast-forward to 2 a.m., 2011: Dangerously Delicious and Taylor Gourmet are burning the midnight oil, serving rustic pie and Italian sandwiches to H Streeters after last call. At the Passenger, a tiny kitchen sends out hot dogs topped with sriracha and kimchi to visitors sucking down cocktails. The newly re-opened Bullfeathers feeds Hill types through a shutdown quandary, and IHOP — yes, IHOP — is flipping pancakes for Columbia Heights scenesters fueling up after a night of bar-hopping.
Washington’s expanding nightlife offers one easy explanation for the boom, especially in such growing neighborhoods as H Street, Shaw and U Street. But if you’re in Clarendon or Capitol Hill, there are new options, too. Find them here, along with a few old favorites that are worth rediscovering. (We’ve noted the especially vegetarian friendly spots with a V.)
And nope, there’s not a jumbo slice in sight.
Capitol Hill/H Street NE
Daily till 1 a.m. 410 First St. SE. 202-484-0228. bullfeathersdc.com.
Earlier this year, the Capitol Hill institution was purchased and renovated by the group that owns Stoney’s, Tunnicliff’s and Ulah Bistro. When the doors reopened, Bullfeathers fans were met with a new 45-foot bar, 31 beers on draft and a new menu of such American classics as house-cured corned beef, stacked club sandwiches, burgers, crabcakes and steak. Late night doesn’t see the bar explode with a particularly rowdy or young crowd; it’s too much of a neighborhood joint for that. What you do get is a low-key place to grab a good late-night pint and a plate of food.
Taylor Gourmet (V)
Fridays and Saturdays till 3 a.m. 1116 H St. NE. 202-684-7001. www.taylorgourmet.com.
The availability of authentic Philadelphia-style hoagies in D.C. was enough of a novelty three years ago that Taylor Gourmet was an instant sensation when it opened in the Atlas District. With three locations, the ability to sink your teeth into a 9th Street Italian (Genoa salami, capicola, prosciutto and provolone) or Spring Garden, a veggie sandwich, at 2:30 a.m. still makes the H Street location a sensation.
Friday and Saturday till 3:30 a.m.; Monday-Thursday till midnight. 1339 H Street NE. 202-398-7437. www.dangerouspiesdc.com.
The dainty bakery (a faintly rockerish Baltimore export) provides a sugar high for a steady stream of night owls. They come for the Baltimore Bomb, a pie filled with crushed chocolate-frosted Berger cookies; the SMOG (with steak, mushroom, onion and gruyere cheese); the chocolate-peanut butter chess, strawberry-rhubarb or one of the 15 or so other varieties baked fresh at 10 p.m. The nightly offerings (slices of sweet pies are $6.50; savory slices are $7.50) are listed on the chalkboard. Nearly all the fruit pies are vegan, and an addictive tofu-curry savory pie is a weekend staple.
Monday-Saturday 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Sunday 10 p.m. to midnight. 453 K St. NW. 202-289-6899. www.mandudc.com.
After dinner service is over, the kitchen at Mandu’s Fifth and K location begins a second shift of sorts, cranking out Korean-meets-Mexican bar snacks. Night owls sup on piquant quesadillas oozing with cheese and buttery caramelized kimchi, and tacos stuffed with pillows of egg-battered tofu or bulgogi and peppery cucumber slaw. Mandu doesn’t bother with a menu of late-night curiosities; adventurous eaters sidle up to the bar and ask what’s on. It allows the cooks free reign to rifle through the fridge and whip something up, explains co-owner Danny Lee. The bar snacks run $5-$7.
New Big Wong (V)
Sunday-Thursday till 3 a.m.; Friday and Saturday till 5 a.m. 610 H St. NW. 202-628-0491. www.newbigwong.com.
Ask restaurant workers or bartenders where they head after their kitchens are closed, and one name comes up again and again: New Big Wong. Skip traditional Americanized dishes and go for the Fried Good Dale, a punchy dish of curried noodles, pork and shrimp, the spicy, crispy beef, or any of the chef’s recommended squid dishes. New Big Wong gets slammed between 3 and 4 a.m. as bars close. Get in before then for a better chance of getting a table.
Monday-Thursday till 1 a.m.; Friday and Saturday till 2 a.m. 1021 Seventh St. NW. 202-393-0220. www.passengerdc.com.
It’s convenient that one of the best area drinking establishments also happens to be one of the best spots for impromptu belly-up-to-the-bar dining. From a classic and uncomplicated muffuletta to the kimchi hot dog, the Passenger delivers the goods in a surprising spot. A perfect place post-Verizon Center, it’s equal parts carefully crafted cocktail and salty, spicy sandwich.
Columbia Heights/Mount Pleasant
24 hours. 3100 14th St. NW. 202-939-0500. www.ihop.com.
The finest go-go song ever written begins “Three in the morning, pancake house.” After a night of drinking in Columbia Heights, you might want to take Rare Essence’s advice. The International House of Pancakes opened in December and became the neighborhood’s only 24-hour dining spot in the New Year. Service can be a little slow, especially when there’s a line and the staff gets a bit overwhelmed. But hey, no one ever said it would be easy to get pancakes and bacon ’round the clock.
Friday-Saturday till 2:30 a.m.; Sunday-Thursday till 1:30 a.m. 31202 Mount Pleasant St. NW. 202-483-9199. www.haydees.us.
If you’re wrapping up a night at the Raven Grill or Marx Cafe, you can always top it off with a fun-house mirror version of Christmas that finds you gathered around a table with your D.C. family, sipping margaritas and eating guacamole under Christmas lights and depictions of the Virgin Mary. That (and the fact that you can order pupusas till 1:30 a.m. on a Sunday “night”) is the charm of Haydee’s, even if the loud mariachi music can be a little jarring.
Dupont Circle/Farragut North
Sunday through Wednesday till midnight; Thursday through Saturday till 1 a.m. 1738 Connecticut Ave. NW.
For more than a decade, Bistrot du Coin has been a boisterous slice of France in upper Dupont: Customers merrily sipping wine and Belgian beers at the zinc-topped bar, waiters hustling large platters of steak frites and mussels through the crowded dining room. Late-night craving for steak tartare? Pas de probleme! Table for 4 at 12:15? Right this way, madame, and don’t miss the butcher-paper list of the owner’s favorite (deeply discounted) wines of the moment.
Daily till midnight. 1101 17th St. NW. 202-955-9001.
The relatively new Barcode is a destination for half-price drinks at happy hour and late night lounging and dancing with DJs. But between those two extremes, it’s actually a pretty good choice for eating, especially in that post-happy-hour/before clubbing gray area, when it’s easiest to snag a table. Go for the pasta dishes — pesto over egg linguini — or the Neapolitan pizzas topped with prosciutto or wild mushrooms and creamy Italian mozzarella. They’ll give you the carbs you need to keep dancing all night.
Muncheez Mania (V)
Thursday till 3 a.m.; Friday-Saturday till 4 a.m. 1071 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-567-3000. www.muncheezmania.com.
With candy-colored street-art-style wall murals, pleather ottomans and pumping club jams, it’d be easy to mistake this cubbyhole of a cafe for a fancy hair salon. Yet Muncheez Mania, which opened in the fall, serves an array of Lebanese-inspired wraps, including falafel, veggie-filled options with halloumi and creamy labneh, and a more straightforward BLT, all folded into made-to-order sheets of a flatbread called saj. There’s something for the sweet tooth, too: The cooks here turn out addictive, spongy crepes, soaking with Nutella or butter or even peanut butter and jelly, till 4 a.m. (and at $2.99 to $4.99, they’re a steal).
Friday and Saturday till 4 a.m.; Thursday till 3 a.m.; Sunday-Wednesday till midnight.
2001 L St. NW. 202-973-0404. www.crepeaway.com.
It’s George Washington University students in hoodies and Hollister who tend to creep into this 10-table West End shop in the early morning hours, which likely explains why pepperoni and Oreo cookies even qualify as crepe fillings. Thirty varieties are served till 4 a.m. on weekends, and each comes folded into a triangle so it can be gobbled up utensil-free. It’s by no means a Parisian cafe, but at 3 a.m., the crepes are certainly serviceable. (Call ahead if it’s a weekday; sometimes, we’ve found the doors locked well before midnight.)
Patty Boom Boom (V)
Friday and Saturday till 3 a.m.; Sunday-Thursday till 2 a.m. 1359 U St. NW. 202-629-1712.www.pattyboomboomdc.com.
None of the U Street late eats have quite the imprimatur of curry-scented cool that Patty Boom Boom does; on the ground floor of the reggae club, a scene has emerged around a counter that serves up a half-dozen varieties of flaky Jamaican patties, from the so-spicy-you’ll-sweat vegetarian Caribbean vegetable (one of the most popular) to the exotic guava goat. If you can finagle your way past the weekend lines — tell the bouncer you just want to get a patty — you can get three of the fist-sized pockets for $5; dip them in the thick, addictive mango sauce, and wash them down with a Red Stripe, rum punch or one of the colorful Jamaican sodas that beckon from behind the counter.
Friday and Saturday till 5 a.m. 1400 W St. NW. 202-448-9217. www.fast-gourmet.com.
It’s 3 a.m. on a Saturday. Patty Boom Boom ran out of food and nothing else is open. You’re not out of luck: You are only two blocks from Fast Gourmet, where brothers Juan and Manuel Olivera serve some of the region’s best sandwiches until 5 a.m. Their specialty is the chivito, a Uruguayan classic that features beef tenderloin, mozzarella, Black Forest ham, bacon, mushrooms sauteed with balsamic vinegar and mayonnaise on a sub roll. The portion is heroic, which makes the $13 price tag a little easier to swallow.
24 hours. 7220-C Columbia Pike, Annandale. 703-256-5229.
Brash, loud and full of flavor, Honey Pig is a scene at any hour, but there is something especially fun about the crowds that descend on the 24-hour Korean barbecue late on weekend nights. As clubs let out, revellers stream into the corrugated aluminum-lined dining room for bulgogi and spicy pork belly, cooked tableside and tended by an attentive force of scissor and chopstick-armed servers. The dining room hums with conversation from the largely Korean clientele and a steady throb of Korean pop hits. Entrees hover around $15 and are meant to be shared. If you manage to get there before 2 a.m., when alcohol sales end in Virginia, you can enjoy a selection of soju and Korean beer.
Hard Times Cafe (V)
Sunday-Thursday till 1:45 a.m.; Friday-Saturday till 2:45 a.m. 3028 Wilson Blvd.,
In Clarendon at 12:01 a.m.? There are plenty of bars where you can hear a cover band or find that special flip-flop-wearing someone, but if you’re trying to get something to calm those hunger pangs, your choices are more limited. So give a tip of the broken-in Virginia Tech cap to Hard Times Cafe, which keeps its kitchen sending out plates of spicy wings and bowls of hearty chili mac (delicious veggie version available) and Frito pie for a full hour after everyone else’s last call.
Fridays and Saturdays till 2 a.m. 305 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington. 703-816-0222.
There is a full menu of Pakistani kabobs, curries and karahis (shareable, sauce-heavy dishes cooked and served in the eponymous dish), but the real star here are the red-hued spiced chickpeas: tender, slightly oily and packing a heat that doesn’t overwhelm the flavor. Weekend trips to Ravi Kabob house are always a bit of a circus, but as a late-dinner option in Arlington it can’t be beat. Just make sure you prepare for the cash-only register and bring along some extra patience — it can take a while to find parking both for your car and your seat — especially once the cab drivers start punching out and settling in.
Daily till 1 a.m. 3181 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. 703-312-8888. www.spiderkellys.com.
All the pheromones and frenetic energy here can take away from the fact that Spider Kelly’s has a handy little kitchen open until 1 a.m., serving crispy house-made fried chicken, fried pickles, tater tots buried under bacon, cheese and chives, buffalo chicken sandwiches — and even healthy options such as fresh veggie pitas and southwestern chicken salads. But just because the kitchen is open doesn’t mean you can eat — especially on a Friday night, when you have to elbow your way to a sliver of counter. Visit the small bar in the dining room, which is a frequent refuge.
Wheaton/Rockville/ Silver Spring
Addis Ababa (V)
Nightly till 12:30 a.m. 8233 Fenton St., Silver Spring. 301-589-1400. www.addisababarestaurant.com.
This mainstay of Fenton Street is not only one of our top picks for Ethiopian food in the region — in a crowded field — it keeps its kitchen open till 12:30 a.m., particularly on weekends, if your late-night jones happens to be for a hubcap size platter of tibs and injera. The only negatives: The rooftop dining area doesn’t keep quite the same late hours, and the restaurant will occasionally close early if there are no customers. So call ahead.
Friday and Saturday till 1 a.m.; Monday-Thursday till midnight. 11160 Veirs Mill Rd.. Wheaton. 240-290-9988. www.hollywoodeastcafe.com.
This red-walled restaurant, hidden in Wheaton Mall, is known for dim sum, but till 1 a.m. on weekends and midnight on weekdays, Hollywood East will cook up any item on its interminable menu, whether it’s veggie lo mein or a rare congee (rice porridge). The service is so friendly, it’ll inspire you to come back just a few hours later for the dim sum.
Friday and Saturday till 1 a.m. 12510 Layhill Rd., Silver Spring. 301-933–4444.
Almost the definition of a neighborhood tavern, the Stained Glass Pub has been serving up thin crust pizza and domestic pitchers to locals since 1973. It’s the kind of place that hosts little league banquets during the day, game viewings and trivia nights in the evening and hungry late-night crowds until 1 a.m. on the weekend. The come-as-you-are atmosphere and ample space make it a great place for groups and post-game eats.
Silver Diner (V)
24 hours. Various locations. www.silverdiner.com.
If you haven’t stopped by your local outpost of this greasy spoon in the last 18 months, you’ve missed a surprising transformation. On the surface, the cookie-cutter diners don’t seem to have changed much, but when you actually sit down to page through the menu, notice words such as “fresh,” “locally sourced,” “organic” and “low calorie.” In May, executive chef Ype Von Hengst reimagined the menu, gambling that Silver Diner patrons would be willing to pay slightly more for meals composed of ingredients from local producers. Judging by the crowds, it was a shrewd wager.