News & Politics

Dupont Circle & Adams Morgan Bars and Nightlife: Our Top Picks

Hidden hotspots, all-night coffee bars, gay clubs, and more

Velvet sofas and chandeliers give Eighteenth Street Lounge a stylish, relaxed vibe. Photograph by Yassine El Mansouri

Eighteenth Street Lounge
1212 18th St., NW; 202-466-3922.
Behind a no-name glass door, the former home of Teddy Roosevelt has been transformed into a multi-room lounge. Washington’s international set heads in for low lighting, killer DJs, and love seats perfect for cozying up to a new friend. Try to look the part—doormen are notorious for letting in only the most fashionably dressed.

Best of Dupont Circle & Adams Morgan

The Black Squirrel
2427 18th St., NW; 202-232-1011.
No fuss. No frills. Just beer—and plenty of it. This brick-walled bar classes up Miller Lite–fueled Adams Morgan with more than 100 hard-to-find ales such as Scottish BrewDog and Boulder Chocolate Porter. The newly opened downstairs level has 32 beers on tap. Head in Tuesdays for half-price appetizers.

Maddy’s Bar & Grille
1726 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-483-2266.
This wood-paneled neighborhood hangout has eight flat-screen TVs and a friendly bar staff. Thanks to a solid beer list, large leather booths, and upscale bar food (try the mini-burgers or crinkly sweet-potato fries with truffle-cream dipping sauce), Maddy’s draws a more mature crowd than many of its Dupont and Adams Morgan neighbors.

2459 18th St., NW; 202-232-5500.
Whether your idea of a night out is a latte and a laptop, craft cocktails on a date, or PBRs with friends, this popular coffeehouse, open till 3 am Friday and Saturday, has a seat for you. The living-room-like space, with mismatched sofas and tables, has live jazz three nights a week.

Lauriol Plaza
1835 18th St., NW; 202-387-0035.
On the rocks or frozen, with the option of peach, strawberry, and other flavors swirled together, the margaritas at this airy Mexican restaurant were voted best in town by readers. No reservations are taken after 5, so grab a drink while you wait on the patio, which stays crowded through spring and fall thanks to outdoor heaters.

1639 R St., NW; 202-232-4416.
A three-story club with everything from weekend brunch to show-tune karakoe, Cobalt is the sassy-diva mainstay of the Washington gay scene. At this see-and-be-seen (including shirtless guys) spot, the lounge is lined with white leather couches, and DJs keep the upstairs dance floor packed with Top 40–heavy mixes. On Fridays, the cover charge (typically $8) is cash only and comes with a free vodka rail drink from 11 to midnight.

2321 18th St., NW; 202-332-0800.
We love this mellow spot and its back patio for strong, well-made cocktails ($6 during happy hour). For a sweet, tropical riff on a mai tai, try the Jamaica Farewell, or order the Before Dawn for a fruity take on a stiff Scotch drink. Bourbon and rye traditionalists can choose from six tasting flights or have a Sazerac made with their choice of liquor.

Fairfax Lounge
2100 Massachusetts Ave., NW; 202-293-2100.
You can all but see the Kennedys (who gave the Fairfax Lounge its Steinway piano) laughing over drinks at this old-school hotel bar. Settle in for a glass of brandy by the fireplace and a well-known politico might sit nearby.

This article first appeared in the May 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.

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Sarah is the Editor-in-Chief of Washingtonian Bride & Groom, and writes about weddings, fashion, and shopping. Her work has also appeared in Refinery29, Bethesda Magazine, and Washington City Paper, among others. She is a Georgetown University graduate, lives in Columbia Heights, and you can find her on Instagram at @washbridegroom and @sarahzlot.