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How Barred in DC’s Raman Santra would spend a perfect day in D.C.

In D.C. Dream Day, we ask our favorite people in the area to tell us how they would spend a perfect day in the District.

Raman Santra hasn’t had a drink at a bar since March. Like many Washingtonians, he’s been spending much of his time at home since the pandemic started. But most Washingtonians don’t run a popular blog and Twitter feed dedicated to D.C. bars. Santra started Barred in DC ( @BarredinDC ) in 2013 to review the spots he’d been exploring every weekend.

After bars started closing because of the stay-at-home orders, Santra evolved into a sort of chronicler of D.C. life during a pandemic: breaking news on pandemic-era restaurant regulations, querying followers on their holiday travel plans or bagel preferences in one of his frequent polls and sharing the harrowing story of his wife’s experience giving birth to their daughter, Iris, in November. For his nearly 17,000 Twitter followers, a number he says has doubled in the past year, Santra has become a part of the fabric of (virtual) D.C. life.

“I think the reason it really hit its stride the last 10 months is because I’ve been stuck inside and people that follow me have gravitated online because they can’t really do much,” Santra says.

As an attorney who works for a federal government agency, Santra has applied his legal chops to combing through D.C. government regulations and disseminating that information to his followers, which includes many restaurateurs and bar owners.

“It’s sort of snowballed,” he says. “I’ve gotten calls from D.C. Council members, asking me what I think about some legislation. People in the mayor’s office have informally talked to me and said, ‘We’re putting this out, what do you think? What are some issues there?’ I really do want them to make the right decisions, which is tough to do, because no one really no one knows what they can do.”

The 38-year-old West Virginia native started spending summers in D.C. in 2004 and moved here in 2007. “We used to go out every weekend,” Santra says of his pre-pandemic life with his wife, Jo. Now he gets out by picking up takeout to support local establishments or biking around the city and the suburbs.

On a perfect day, Santra would return to some of his favorite bars, reunite with some friends and indulge in his favorite food group: sandwiches. He’d also go on a tour of his neighborhoods: Dupont Circle, Hill East and H Street, where he lives now, dutifully tweeting out photos along the way.

We wake up around 8 or 9 a.m. and I’m going to grab a quick bite to eat to bring home from the Pretzel Bakery. We’re getting bacon, egg and cheese sliders that are on everything pretzel buns. They’re really ridiculous. We’re not coffee people but they have this great drink called a Hotella. It’s a hot chocolate made with Nutella. They also do a half-and-half with a mocha coffee. So we’re drinking that back at our place.

We’re going to take a stroll with our baby around Capitol Hill, exploring all the different historic houses, walking down really cute block-long streets, and passing through Lincoln Park, which is like the playground of Capitol Hill, and then ending up at Eastern Market. There’s a vendor that sells these really cool D.C. paintings and kitschy stuff. I like to look at them. Every once a while we’ll get something. We’ll get some lemonade, too, from the lemonade stand out back.

I probably worked up an appetite from strolling around. I’m going to go to this deli called Mangialardo’s, which is only open Monday through Friday. It has this amazing sandwich called the G Man sandwich. It’s this Italian sandwich — I don’t even know what’s on it — it’s pepperoni and a bunch of Italian meats and fontina cheese. I get it with everything, including hot and mild peppers. It’s my favorite sandwich. I converted my office, and at one point I think I had to bring 13 sandwiches in my backpack to work. It’s a pretty amazing sandwich.

I will take a little beat because I am very full. Then I’ll go on a bike ride from my place on the Anacostia River Trail, which is one of my favorite places in D.C. It’s got some cool curves and some cool straightaways. I’m taking it up to Bladensburg and then I’ll turn around. Even though it is very peaceful, my favorite part is this really great piece of engineering: They created a little bridge that snakes around the water underneath New York Avenue and the Amtrak train [track] that’s really cool. It just hugs the water. On the way back, I will bike down past the U.S. Capitol, back down East Capitol [Street], up Pennsylvania Avenue NW, to the White House and see what people are protesting.

On the way back home, I’m going to stop by Craft Beer Cellar. They have a great selection of local beer. What I especially like about them is that all the four- and six-packs can be split into singles so I can sample a wider variety — almost like I’m at a bar during the pandemic.

We’ll probably go to our building’s rooftop with our baby and some friends. One thing that’s great about D.C.’s rooftops is that because of the Height Act, you get great skyline views so you can see very far. We can see the Capitol, the Washington Monument and a lot of D.C. from our place.

Now we’re going to happy hour. This is Thursday night and it’s summertime. Jack Rose has this great tiki bar on the second floor roof deck that’s in the back and it’s half-price cocktails until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. It’s a cool, kind of hidden scene, and they make really good cocktails.

We’ll probably head back to our old stomping grounds. I lived in Dupont Circle probably most of my time in D.C. We’re not really big into sit-down restaurants, even pre-pandemic, I would say like we eat out maybe twice a year in D.C. Most of the time we would just graze at the bar with friends. But there is a spot, Duke’s Grocery, which we think has the best burger in D.C. We’re friends with the co-owner, Daniel Kramer, and we would post up at the bar and have the Proper Burger. It’s this massive burger with really great toppings. We’ll have one of their fresh cocktails, probably an Orange Crush, and we might split a rocket salad.

We’re going to walk off the burgers and stroll up 14th Street NW to a new bar on 14th Street or U Street that we’ve never been to before and meet friends because I always organize the nights out.

Then we’re walking further again, to the north side of Shaw and having another beer at Right Proper: Beered in DC, [a collaboration beer he helped brew]. It’s a saison and ideally, the former brewer Bobby Bump, who’s now a stay-at-home dad, will be joining us, along with Mike Stein from DC Beer. It was like a week away from being finished and we were going to have a release party the week after all the bars closed. They released it in bottle form in June. We’re also splitting the fried chicken sandwich and the Brussels sprouts.

After that, we’re going to probably my favorite bar in D.C. for a nightcap: All Souls, right around the corner. Ideally, the owner Dave Batista is there, and so is our friend Hampton, who is such a regular there that when he walks in, they will pour a Sapporo out and put it on the bar for him. Hampton has always been the third wheel. We went to Portugal just the three of us two years ago. All Souls only has a couple of beers on tap and one of them is rotating. They always have a really good, bubbly cocktail. So we’re having a bubbly cocktail and a beer. Then we’ll [hail a ride] home to the other side of town.