After years of rough reclaimed wood, dark leather and stark Edison bulbs, Washington's restaurants and bars have taken on a fresher, brighter look. At these fun destinations, the decor is almost as much of an attraction as the menu.
Everything about Colada Shop screams “Weekend in Havana”: the note-perfect daiquiris and Hotel Nacional cocktails; a soundtrack packed with bolero and Son Cubano grooves; and Technicolor decor that matches bright orange and sea-foam-green with hanging plants and intensely patterned tiles. Head up to the new rooftop deck for extra seats and a small, festive bar. 1405 T St. NW.
The hidden location of this rooftop cocktail spot in the heart of Barracks Row is part of its appeal, as is the extensive menu with dozens of gins, each paired with the perfect tonic, and a summer-friendly list of roses. But don't think the herbs and green plants growing in pots are just for decoration: Bartenders pluck fresh thyme, basil and lavender to garnish your cocktail. 514 Eighth St. SE (enter through the alley — follow the chicken footprints).
The Columbia Room was named “Best American Cocktail Bar” at the 2017 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards, in large part due to its three- and five-course tasting menus. But that's not the only way to experience the Blagden Alley gem: In warm weather, you shouldn't miss the no-reservations Punch Garden, where guests can relax on the rooftop surrounded by greenery and weathered brick, sipping the Bubble Bath (sparkling wine, gin, fino sherry, lavender, lemon and bitter orange) or the Ivy Walls Punch (vodka, sake, Grand Marnier, lime, cucumber and pistachio). 124 Blagden Alley NW.
The new bar near the Washington Convention Center has serious cocktail cred — founder David Strauss has shaken and stirred cocktails at D.C.'s Minibar and Le Diplomate and Philadelphia's Ranstead Room — but the vibe is miles away from speakeasy-inspired sister bar Sheppard. Designer Maggie O'Neill filled the 70-seat spaces with baby blues and floral-patterned pillows and wallpaper. Watch the bartender whipping up the juleps and flips, and you'll notice that some bitters and ingredients are spritzed into drinks from vintage perfume bottles. 1020 Seventh St. NW.
A dreamy wine bar inspired by Parisian bistros, Brookland's Primrose is a jewel box of a space, done in robin's egg blue, silvery pressed tin and colorful pressed tiles. Whimsical touches include the peacock feathers wrapping chandeliers overhead. But the wine list merits as much attention as the decor, studded with natural wines and little-known French grapes, as well as exclusive products from co-owner and sommelier Sebastian Zutant's own label, Lightwell Survey. 3000 12th St. NE.