Insatiable’s Guide to Holiday Reunions

Busboys and Poets offers a quirky, vibrant, laid-back atmosphere that’s perfect to start your evening.

As friends and family start booking flights to come home for the holidays, a lot of us are looking for things to do as a group. Because everyone has a different preference, picking just one bar or restaurant is a surefire way to disappoint at least some of your group. I’ve done you the favor of combing through the multitude of U Street bars to find three perfect itineraries, each for its unique crowd.

The Themed Night

Granted, there’s a lot of entertainment to be had from swapping work and/or drunk stories with old friends, but sometimes you want something live to change it up.

Busboys and Poets,2021 14th St. NW, www.busboysandpoets.com. At the quirky restaurant’s 14th and V location, on any given night there’s likely to be some form of performance, which can range from open mic nights to film screenings to poetry slams. Plus, the menu is friendly to any and all dietary restrictions. From the unique grilled brie panini to the classic fried chicken, you have a range of delicious options. I suggest the DC Tap Water cocktail, which blends four liquors and more into a fruity but strong combo. For dinner and a drink you can expect to spend between $20 and $30.

Next up, take the 0.2-mile stroll to: 

Black Cat,1811 14th St. NW, www.blackcatdc.com. Black Cat has everything for the discerning crowd. Music lovers will enjoy the nightly live performances at the bar, as well as other events such as screenings and trivia. The Red Room features a bar that pours stiff drinks without the distraction of live music, for those who prefer to chat in a quieter environment. Gamers can get their fix with six different pinball machines. Drinks are in the $10-15 range; note that they only accept cash. Once you’re done, bundle up for a 0.8-mile hike to:

Board Room,1737 Connecticut Ave. NW, www.boardroomdc.com. In addition to a laid-back environment and great beer prices (10 different pitchers available for $20 or less), the real draw of this Dupont Circle bar is the board games (hence the name). Board Room lets you rent games for $1-4. Some are childhood classics, like Monopoly and Risk, while others are new favorites such as Cards Against Humanity. For a truly wild experience, go for dare Jenga; each block has a dare written on it to perform, some a little less G-rated than others. Beer pitchers range from $15-25; most cocktails are in the low teens.

The Tasters’ Night

Working with a chill crowd that knows their booze? Not a problem. The U Street area has a ton of options for the tasters.

La Jambe,1550 Seventh St. NW, www.lajambedc.com. One of Shaw’s newest bars, La Jambe is a wine bar that won’t make you feel bad for not knowing much about wine.

The five-page wine list will get you anything from an $8 glass to a $159 bottle, and the wait staff is friendly and eager to offer recommendations. La Jambe has a limited (and kind of pricey) food menu, but the option is there if you’re hungry before the dinner stop, which is just 0.4 miles away:

Right Proper, 624 T St. NW, www.rightproperbrewing.com. DC’s most centrally located brewpub has an experimental approach to brewing. Most notable is Right Proper’s continued commitment to offering sour beers, which are often hard to find. The food menu includes a lot of guilty indulgence options such as beer-battered cheese curds, eight-hour lamb dip, and five-cheese grilled cheese – as well as healthier choices like the Apple is the New Pumpkin Salad, unrivaled Brussels sprouts, and wood-grilled salmon. Food runs in the mid-teens; the necessary beer flight is around $8. Now that you’ve had your fill of wine and beer, it’s time to walk the 0.3 miles to the next stop:

Service Bar DC,926 U St. NW, www.servicebardc.com. Like La Jambe, Service Bar offers highbrow drinks in a classy environment without the pretentiousness you’d expect. Service Bar, which opened in early October, has a $7 all-day happy hour for classic drinks such as the Tom Collins and mint julep. On top of that, each day the menu features a list of six or so “hyper seasonal” drinks in the $10-16 range (my Baked Apple & Pear Gin & Tonic was out of this world). Two to six drinks are offered for each category of liquor (brandy, gin, rum, etc.). If your group is big enough (the ideal size is six) and willing to spend $25 each, you can book the snug room, a separate room with a door, its own menu, and a window to speak directly with the bartender. Now, get yourselves together and prepare for your biggest challenge yet, a mile-long hike to:

Rebellion,1836 18th St. NW, www.rebelliondc.com. Whiskey time! Rebellion has a dauntingly long whiskey list, which includes several flight options (they cost between $25 and $40), which I highly recommend. Rebellion also doubles as a sports bar, which will appeal to the fans in your crew. If the weather is tolerable you may be allowed upstairs to the rooftop to get a real end-of-night treat: a selection from the Rebellion cigar list. You can spend anywhere from $8 to $35 (or more, if you’re a high roller) on a whiskey taster.

The Crazy Night

Let’s be honest, sometimes all you want to do when you’re reuniting is get drunk and go wild. There’s no shame in that, and you have plenty of options. This itinerary, unlike the others, doesn’t include a dinner stop.

Dodge City,917 U St. NW, www.dodgecitydc.com. Wedged between El Rey and the Velvet Lounge, Dodge City offers two dance floors and a two-story patio – a great place to have a few drinks and get your dance on. The cocktails at the bars are often interesting, and there is a nice selection of craft beers. Get a drink for $8-12 and go crazy in the dimly lit establishment. An added bonus: late-night food trucks often park out front. Once you emerge from the darkness, prop each other up as you stumble the 0.3 miles to:

Hawthorne,1336 U St. NW, www.hawthornedc.com. Three floors and a rooftop offer several choices to hang out in. The narrow space means you’re pretty much forced to interact with each other. Strong specialty cocktails, each an affordable $10.91, are a nice change of pace. I recommend the fruity Hawthorne Smash or the aptly named Gingerbread Man. There’s not that much space at Hawthorne to dance, but it’s a nice opportunity to meet new people. Now, squeeze your way out the front and prepare for a long trek … next door, to:

Codmother,1334 U St. NW, www.facebook.com/thecodmotherdc. Codmother is the ultimate crazy-night destination. The drinks are sloppy and amazing but are not called any print-friendly names. Walk downstairs into a dark, packed, deafening basement and be greeted with the greatest songs of the 80s and 90s. From Queen, to Smash Mouth, to Third Eye Blind, you’ll sing along at the top of your lungs in a giant mosh pit, crammed against your best friend on one side and a total stranger on the other. Yes, you’ll probably get a drink spilled on you. Sure, there may be someone spreading glitter everywhere. And I’ll admit, you have to be a special kind of drunk to truly experience Codmother right. But that’s what the crazy night is all about, right?

Well, there you have it, Insatiable’s guide to the 2016 reunion scene. I hope one of these options will satisfy the needs of everyone in your group. If none does, feel free to mix and match!

Max Moline is a communications specialist living in DC. He frequents Nationals Park and enjoys writing about food as much as he does eating it. He’s always looking for new places to try. Rooftops and cigar lounges are a plus! Get in touch: molinecommunications@gmail.com; @MaxMoline425.


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