In the Bar Crawl series we hone in on a neighborhood or street with an undeniably happening drink scene. We tell you which spots to hit, what the vibe is like, and what drink should be in your hand.
Mention "best drunk eats" and D.C.'s U Street Corridor in the same breath, and chances are you'll be met with a slurred chorus espousing the virtues of a late-night Ben's Chili Bowl run. But that's jumping a couple steps ahead— you have to hit the bars first. Fortunately, U Street has been making making waves in D.C.'s nightlife scene for several years now. From speakeasy-style craft cocktails to a laid-back watering hole with a great German beer selection, these spots will help set you on your way to stumbling into Ben's at 2 am.
For Sips and Sustenance
Where: Bar Pilar, 1833 14th Street, (202) 265-1751
What You're Drinking: El Guapo
The highly-recommended small plates at this sister restaurant of the hugely popular, nearby Café Saint-Ex make it a great first stop of the night. Of course, if you don't get there on your night out, you can always go the following morning for their Hangover Cure and Bacon Bloody Mary.
For a Great Beer Bar Minus the Sports' Channel
Where: The Saloon, 1207 U Street NW, (202) 462-2640
What You're Drinking: German Draft Beer
For patrons, the real draw of this comfortably worn-in neighborhood pub is human interaction. The absence of TV's with ESPN on loop means that good, honest bar talk is what's on tap here. That, and a great selection of international beers. Break out one of the bar's backgammon or Scrabble sets and gather the crew over some pints.
For Rum, Reggae Beats, and Jamaican Patties
Where: Patty Boom Boom, 1359 U Street NW, (202) 629-1712
What You're Drinking: Dark 'n' Stormy
The sound of the crowd dancing and singing along to a well-curated mix of reggae tunes should be enough to entice first-timers to check out the second floor of this Jamaican deli. Those in-the-know are already upstairs, reveling in the island vibe and fruity rum cocktails. When you need a dance break, head back down for some inexpensive, fortifying patties.
For Drinks with Rock 'n' Roll Attitude
Where: Black Cat, 1811 14th Street NW, (202) 667-4490
What You're Drinking: Shots
The Black Cat is the place that was the place before this whole area became 'the place.' Head to this popular music venue to hear live performances of your favorite local bands as you slam back rockstar-strong shots and mixed drinks.
For Vintage Cocktails and Speakeasy Allure
Where: The Gibson, 2009 14th Street NW, (202) 232-2156
What You're Drinking: Bartender's Choice
Get in on the craft cocktail game at this Prohibition-style lounge. Make a reservation ahead of time or take your chances night-of (if the entrance is locked, ring the doorbell and a doorman can take down your information). There are any number of intriguing vintage cocktails to choose from here, but it's worth it to just let go and see what the skill of the bartender yields.