The Faux-Speakeasy Trend Is Dead. These Under-the-Radar Bars Are the Real Deal.

Vim & Victor's mezcal gimlet. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

Lame: “hidden” speakeasies with Yelp pages and reservations. Cool: tucked-away drinking spots that some people—but certainly not all—know how to find.

AR Bar

After touring Artechouse’s immersive digital exhibits, check out the gallery’s “augmented-reality bar” (1238 Maryland Ave., SW). Download the app, look at your cocktail through a smartphone, and watch it come alive with words and design.

Le Café Descartes

If you’re willing to go through a light background check for a good Chablis, become a regular at the French Embassy (4101 Reservoir Rd., NW) by applying to the café and bar’s gratis program. For access to higher-end Le Petit Bouchon restaurant, simply e-mail a reservation request to

Island Time Yacht Bar & Grill

Tired of the packed, pricey waterfront bar scene? Cruise over to the Columbia Island Marina overlooking the Pentagon Lagoon—nicer than it sounds—for a chill boater’s bar serving burgers and $8 pitchers of beer. It’s tricky to find, but that’s half the charm (no address; accessible via southbound George Washington Pkwy. in Arlington near Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove).

Vim & Victor

A sports-and-wellness facility might not be your first thought for cocktails, but chef Spike Mendelsohn pours mezcal gimlets and rye-and-rum-spiked nitro brews alongside green juice at his place in the St. James complex (6805 Industrial Rd., Springfield).

This article appears in the April 2019 issue of Washingtonian.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.