Last Exit is a lively place to meet friends.
3155 Mount Pleasant St., NW; 202-986-7661
You’d never know that Last Exit used to be an accounting office. The small speakeasy-style lounge inside Tonic’s basement-level bar has low couches, exposed brick, and house-made liquor in glass jars. Sipped over ice with a dash of tonic water or juice, the collection of fruit-, herb-, and spice-infused spirits is a nice deviation from the standard rum-and-Coke. We especially like the rosemary-and-peppercorn Harrison, which has a good bite.
Looking Glass Lounge
3634 Georgia Ave., NW; 202-722-7669
Just north of Columbia Heights next to the Georgia Avenue/Petworth Metro station, is one of our favorite area hangouts. The crowd is as eclectic as the decor: tweedy wonks, tattooed bike messengers, and neighborhood locals mix amid brick walls covered in old posters and varnished mirrors. Bartenders are laid-back (when’s the last time someone called you “dudette”?), and the back patio is one of the few smoker-friendly spots left in the District.
3400 11th St., NW; 202-588-1075
The main draw at Meridian Pint is that you get to pour your own draft beer—three booths feature on-table taps of American microbrews (groups who reserve the booths must buy at least ten pints an hour). The spacious two-level bar also boasts pool tables, shuffleboard, and large garage-style windows that are rolled up in good weather. Beer drinkers who feel out of place in the area’s quirkier venues will be at home in this relaxed neighborhood spot.
3125 Mount Pleasant St., NW; 202-387-8411
At the Raven Grill, the vinyl booths have holes. And the bartenders don’t serve “cocktails”—just basic mixed drinks, similar to the ones you may have sipped in your parents’ basement. This stripped-down dive bar is for people looking to down $2 Natty Bohs in peace. And that no-nonsense attitude is exactly why some keep coming back.
3234 11th St., NW; 202-332-3234
Our favorite spot for an understated first date, Room 11 has a rotating list of reds and whites and a small-bites menu designed for sharing. Reasonable prices make it a sophisticated treat for the recent graduates and creative types who overrun Columbia Heights. Thanks to fleece blankets, heat lamps, and a fire pit, the outdoor patio stays open in colder months.
1101 Kenyon St., NW; 202-232-5263
A onetime hipster oasis, the Wonderland Ballroom sees more khaki shorts than skinny jeans nowadays, but everyone plays nice. If it’s dancing you’re after, head in Saturdays just before midnight, when the sweaty upstairs dance floor is at its most frenetic. In warm weather, it’s hard to imagine a better place to kick back with friends than under the twinkling string lights above the front patio.
This article appears in the October 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.