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Posted at 5:25 PM ET, 02/ 5/2008

Destinations for Flying Solo

By Fritz Hahn

You'd be surprised how many questions we get in Got Plans? about whether it's okay to go out to bars alone. (For some reason, this comes up a lot around Valentine's Day.) Our answer is always the same: Of course you can -- and should -- enjoy going out on the town on your own.

Most of the bars that I'd recommend for solo patrons have a few things in common: they have bartenders who make small talk and don't mind introducing regulars to each other; they're intimate enough that you don't feel lost; they offer both tables and barstools where you can relax by yourself without getting hassled by a server; and, though this is subjective, they're not sketchy places with reputations as singles bars.

Sports bars are a natural destination, since staring at a TV is the raison d'etre, and rooting for a team leads to a communal experience, no matter who you came with. But if you rather not watch television -- you can do that at home -- here are some other places to have fun.

A neighborhood favorite, Aroma draws a good cast of regulars with fantastic cocktails and a fun soundtrack. Fridays, Sundays and Mondays are good nights to stop by and chill out at the bar, where your bartenders are social facilitators as well as top-notch mixologists.

Biddy Mulligan's
You can find TVs at most bars, but Biddy's offers some true reality viewing: The picture windows look directly onto Dupont Circle, so you can settle in with a beer or glass of wine and watch the city go by.

Bistro Lepic
The Georgetown restaurant has a cozy, dimly second-story wine bar with a great selection of French wines by the glass or half-glass and unhurried service. There are couches and benches available, and the service is unhurried, but I usually take a stool: The friendly bartenders are knowledgeable and can help put together interesting mini-flights.

Galaxy Hut
I swear I see more people toting books at this one-room Arlington hangout than anywhere else. It's a fine place to grab a table, order a beer and a grilled cheese and do some light reading, but the bartenders are chatty and the regulars will strike up conversations. My female friends consistently list it as one of their top solo destinations.

Jimmy's Old Town Tavern
Be warned: It's almost impossible not to meet someone new when you take a seat at Jimmy's bar. The bartenders are quick and talkative, and they'll draw you into conversations while pouring a beer. Plus, the social schedule -- including weekly trivia and foosball tournaments -- means there's always something going on.

Quarry House Tavern
Open since the 1930s, the Quarry House has wood-paneled walls covered with vintage pictures and a jukebox stacked with vintage country, rock and soul. It's a warm, old-school neighborhood tavern where the waitresses don't blink if you take up a table by yourself.

The Old Brogue
One of the area's most pleasant Irish pubs, the comfortable Old Brogue has friendly staff and patrons, good music (live and canned), a large porch and a warm fireplace.

The Red Derby
Friendly bartenders, neighborhood regulars, good tunes, cheap beer, plenty of seating. What's not to love? Staff members introduce themselves and seem to remember you on your next visit. They'll also make an effort to introduce you to other patrons if you like, but don't push it if you're just hanging out by yourself.

The Saloon
At the Saloon, owner Commy Jahanbein won't install a TV, keeps the music low and all tables are communal -- according to the house rules, it's "against the law" to refuse to share any open seats. All of this, he says, is to help foster communication between patrons, whether they know each other or not. While you won't be scolded by longtime bartender Robert Valette if you pull out a book, it's more fun to let him knit together conversations by strangers at the bar.

The Tabard Inn
A seat on a vintage settee in front of the roaring fire is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon, especially with a nice glass of wine.

Town and Country Lounge
Bartender Sam Lek has been mixing cocktails and chatting with patrons for three decades, and he'll make you feel at home right away. He has a good feel for when customers want to chat and when they want to be left alone; magic tricks are one of his favorite icebreakers. A clubby atmosphere and live piano music also help make the Mayflower Hotel's lounge a top destination for solo barhoppers.

Tune Inn
One of the Hill's oldest bars draws an older crowd that's more interested in shooting the breeze -- with the bartenders or each other -- than knocking back happy hour specials. (There's also Keno, which has to rank among the top solo activities anywhere.) Grab a battered old booth or the table in the window if you want to be alone, or belly up to the bar if you're feeling social.

(Feeling hungry? We haven't forgotten about diners who'd like snacks at the bar or a table for one. Erin will have a post on the topic later this week, and in the meantime, here's Tom Sietsema's advice on the subject.)

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | February 5, 2008; 5:25 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Restaurants  
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Add the Stained Glass Pub in Glenmont to your list. I've made some great friends by hanging out there late night after I got out of work. The bartenders are all good people, there's always a ball game on, and the food is good too. Otherwise I was stuck hoping my married friends that lived, minimum, a half-hour away, wanted to hang out, and with my schedule that wasn't often. It's as "local and neighborhood" as any bar I've hung out at around here. But definitely a "dive" in the traditional (as in Wonderland is definitely higher class) sense of the word. The parking can really suck, but it's right next door to the end of the Red Line, so that sometimes helps.

Posted by: Silver Spring | February 5, 2008 9:09 PM | Report abuse

If women weren't made to feel so bad about being single or going out alone, questions such as these wouldn't be asked so much. Why do we persist in portaying singlehood a curse or plague?

Posted by: sigmagrrl | February 7, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Solly's on U Street is worth a mention too. The downstairs bar area is small so you wind up seated close to others, and the bartenders are quick to strike up a conversation. It's a great bar to live across the street from!

Posted by: ghitza | February 7, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Ice House in Herndon is by far the best bar and very much a hidden gem. They have great drinks and an even better atmosphere. Dan (Bartender) will introduce you to all the regulars and sometimes the introduction comes along with an interesting fact about them. Conversation will more then likely spark up and before you know it you are having a great time. Fridays and Saturdays they have a cool, live Jazz band and they also have a happy hour oyster bar. Surprisingly, some of the Art is done by Bartender Dan. It's a great place to visit with a group or solo. Dan pretty much keeps people coming back and it doesn't hurt that he isn't bad looking.


Posted by: ICE HOUSE | February 7, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

What's interesting is that many of these people "flying solo" are going to spend a majority of the time on cellphones, laptops, Blackberrys, IPods, etc... And when you take into account that 1 out 10 people drive to work alone - well, then most people are alone anyway.

Posted by: Jobo | February 8, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I heard Chief Ike's in Adams Morgan is having a Pajama Party on V-day for singles and bar I think and some other specials...gotta love that place :)

Posted by: Cielo | February 12, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

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