Long before every bar and restaurant menu touted the words “local” and “craft,” 23-year-old Galaxy Hut (2711 Wilson Blvd.; 703-525-8646) was an unfussy go-to for good beer and Washington-bred bands. An all-vegetarian menu rounds out the West Coast coffee-shop vibe, while pint and pitcher discounts at happy hour—daily from 5 to 7—present an inexpensive chance to sample a new brew.
A large outpost of the 17-store South Moon Under chain, this breezy, beachy shop (2700 Clarendon Blvd.; 703-807-4083) stocks trendy pieces from such cool-girl favorites as Sanctuary, BB Dakota, Aryn K, and Mink Pink. You’ll find lots of affordable, wearable pieces like floral sundresses, flowy boho-chic tops, and bright swimsuits alongside oversize costume baubles from House of Harlow, and a thoughtfully edited beauty selection. It’s like one-stop shopping for your upcoming vacation. A small but solid roster of men’s styles features graphic tees, blazers, and colored jeans from RVCA and Penguin.
Don’t belong to a pool? On hot days, the “sprayground” at Lyon Village Park (1800 N. Highland St.) is kid heaven. Sprinklers shoot cool water into the air, while a bucket dumps water every few seconds onto the kids below. There are also two tennis courts, a basketball court, picnic areas, and a playground.
Iota Club & Café (2832 Wilson Blvd.; 703-522-8340) might be pocket-size (it fits about 175), but the venue—which celebrates its 20th anniversary next year—is a favorite among music lovers for its intimate, brick-walled space. It’s often likened to a coffee shop rather than a concert venue (and during the day it is one), but everyone from John Mayer to Norah Jones has played here while starting out. Tickets, rarely more than $15, aren’t sold in advance.
Beauty Addict’s Paradise
Bluemercury (2855 Clarendon Blvd.; 703-248-0028) overflows with hard-to-find brands. The calming environment plays host to a trove of luxe goodies: huge (and great-smelling) LAFCO and culty Diptyque candles, Creed fragrances, and an enticing display of top-of-the-line makeup collections such as Bobbi Brown and Laura Mercier.
All Things Kids
The 5,000-square-foot Kinder Haus Toys (1220 N. Fillmore St.; 703-527-5929) is Arlington’s toy mecca. Independently owned for three decades, Kinder Haus offers playthings to snare any child’s imagination, whether animals or art, trains or dinosaurs, dolls or puppets. A large selection of high-quality, traditional wooden toys and a well-chosen book corner add to the old-fashioned, small-store feel. Don’t miss the presidential edition of Uncle Goose’s wooden blocks—a great gift for any Washington baby.
Wine of the Times
With its avocado walls and smiley staff, Wendy Buckley’s Screwtop Wine Bar (1025 N. Fillmore St.; 703-888-0845) is the antidote for all the noisy chains on nearby Clarendon Boulevard. Regulars claim leather-backed stools for the weekday happy hour, when six wines are $6 until 6 pm, then pop over to the retail section to shop the carefully chosen wine, beer, and cheese selections.
Everything but the Lederhosen
Odds are that a place named Fat Shorty’s (3035 Clarendon Blvd.; 703-243-5660) is going to be fun. Picnic tables and white lights strung from the rafters make for a biergarten-like backdrop for the fine sausages and esoteric draft beers on tap. Combos such as rattlesnake with rabbit and jalapeño and a mash-up of beef, pork, and cheese known as käsekrainer are delicious, especially with dollops of mustard and secret sauce from industrial-size squirt bottles. Crave lighter fare? The menu keeps everyone happy with dishes like vegan sausages and plump curried mussels as well as a handful of drinkable wines.
Multitaskers like options, and Eventide (3165 Wilson Blvd.; 703-276-3165) has them in spades. Sip cocktails in the street-level bar, have dinner in the modern second-floor dining room, and call it a night with dessert or a digestif on the roof deck under the stars. Chef Adam Barnett, an alum of the Inn at Little Washington, has put together a far-reaching menu, which means you can nibble on flash-fried pretzels with cheddar-ale dip, assemble a charcuterie repast—say, house-made duck rillettes or spruce-cured salmon—or tuck into a meaty flatiron steak with caramelized sunchokes.
Cheap Eats—With Style
No need to sacrifice style for sustenance at EatBar (2761 Washington Blvd.; 703-778-9951), a casual-chic spot that won’t empty your wallet. Wine is available in three-, six-, and ten-ounce pours, and nothing on the menu of small plates tops $12. Bacon popcorn balls start things off right with a sweet-salty hit. Then it’s on to a juicy lamb burger with tzatziki and curried feta, the fabulous house pastrami-spiced hot dog with pimiento cheese, and crisp buttermilk-fried chicken thigh over polenta with blue cheese and mushrooms. Cocktails elevate the tab a bit, but the Shaddock Hound ($10), with vodka, St. Germain, and grapefruit, may just be worth raiding the piggy bank for.