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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 05/23/2008

Interns' Guide: Better Know a Neighborhood

By Fritz Hahn

Jazz musicians perform in the cosy confines of Cafe Nema. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Looking for something to do this weekend? Need date ideas? Want to get to know D.C. a little better? We've assembled step-by-step itineraries for popular neighborhoods, complete with suggested activities and dining and drinking options. Whether you're looking to spend an evening with a special someone or go out on the town with a group of college friends, we'll help you look like an insider.

Additional destinations will be added throughout the summer, so keep checking back for more ideas.

See more in our Interns' Guide.

U Street | The Atlas District | Annapolis | Clarendon

Meet U Street

In the early 1900s, before Harlem had its renaissance, this street was known as "Black Broadway," famed for its jazz joints and fashionable shops. Riots followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and the neighborhood sank into neglect, but it experienced a tremendous revival in the 1990s. This D.I.Y. tour shows how the neighborhood has changed and how some traditions live on.

First Up: Hit happy hour at Vinoteca. The sunny wine bar pours 20 wines by the glass until 7 p.m. and offers a menu of snacks like venison sliders, panini-and-soup combos and a quiche of the day.

Dinner: The Washington area has the largest population of Ethiopians outside of the country itself, according to the Ethiopian embassy, and the area around 9th and U streets is their restaurant row. Dukem, one of the oldest, offers dance performances as well as spicy lamb dishes, which are eaten with chewy injera bread instead of utensils. For something more casual -- and possibly more delicious -- stop into the bustling Etete for vegetarian dishes or buttery beef.

The Main Event: Duke Ellington played his first gigs on U Street, near where he grew up, and long-demolished clubs here played host to Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong. (A historical marker near 14th and T provides some good background.) Decades later, this is still the epicenter of D.C.'s jazz scene. Your destination depends on the night: Twins Jazz, a reliable listening room run by two music-loving sisters, books local and regional talent. Students get half-price tickets on Friday when they present their IDs. Cozy Cafe Nema is home to the excellent Young Lions every Thursday, and there's no cover charge to hang out at the bar, where African immigrants rub shoulders with Howard students and neighborhood hipsters. On other nights, make your way over to U-topia, which features Latin jazz, straight-ahead jazz and blues.

Nightcap: If the weather's fine, head for the large rooftop deck at Marvin, a lounge and Belgian restaurant named for local boy Marvin Gaye. The strong Belgian beers aren't cheap, but the scene is happening, and DJs spin a great mix of classic soul and funk. If you're looking to chat, make tracks for the Saloon, where you won't find TVs, loud music or people standing at the bar. (The owner despises all three.) You will, however, find people having conversations while sampling one of the city's better beer selections.

Exploring the Atlas District

Head to D.C.'s hottest new nightlife district for buzzed-about bands, burlesque shows, live jazz and unpretentious neighborhood taverns.

First Up: Cast your anchor at the Argonaut, one of the first bars to open in this neighborhood -- way back in 2005. The interior is reminiscent of an English pub, and distractions include foosball, darts and board games. Rum drinks are a house specialty, though the beer lineup isn't bad, and the sweet potato fries are to die for.

Dinner: Dining is a work in progress on H Street, though the brand-new Sticky Rice sushi bar holds a lot of promise with its wacky rolls and entrees. The other cheap-but-not-bad option is Naby's, a Caribbean spot dishing up beef patties, curried goat, roasted fish, curried shrimp and oxtail with rice and peas.

The Main Event: The Palace of Wonders is the most unique nightspot in Washington. Upstairs, a museum of traveling dime-show oddities includes a five-legged dog, shrunken heads, a mummified "devil man" and the taxidermied body of "the world's only living unicorn," which once traveled with the Ringling Brothers circus. On the main stage, you'll find sideshow acts -- sword swallowers, fire-eaters, guys hammering nails up their nose, women doing acrobatics in piles of broken glass -- or teasing burlesque dancers. A few blocks away is the Rock and Roll Hotel, which hosts up-and-coming bands you've read about on scene-making blogs. DJs rule the upstairs bar on weekends, and it's worth trying to snag a couch in one of the themed rooms decorated with Ramones posters or pictures of Sid and Nancy. (Earlier in the week, there are kitschy events like Drunken Jenga.)

Nightcap: The boxing-themed Pug specializes in cheap cans of beer and friendly bar staff. Play a game of pool or, if you're up for it, some Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots.


The Boatyard Bar and Grill in Eastport is a favorite haunt of Annapolis sailors. (James A. Parcell/The Washington Post)

Sail Away to Annapolis

Maryland's historic capital makes the most of its waterfront location: It's home to the U.S. Naval Academy, several marinas, numerous seafood restaurants and hundreds of yachts, sailboats and dinghies. The town's focal point is the 18th-century State House -- the oldest American state capital building still in use -- but the side streets are full of charm.

First Up: Have rum drinks at Pusser's Landing, a waterfront bar with a fantastic view of the City Dock. Watch large yachts cruise into prime spots on "Ego Alley" and small crafts tie up at Pusser's dock and come aboard. (Watch your step, because there's no fence or railing between the bar and the water.) Musicians entertain on weekend afternoons.

The Main Event: There's no real agenda here. Wander through the cobblestone streets, looking at colonial-era houses; tour the Naval Academy and see John Paul Jones' crypt; visit the campus of St. John's College, the third-oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S.; scope out historic gardens, including the sprawling terraced lawns belonging to Declaration of Independence signer William Paca; pop into little antique shops or boutiques around Maryland Avenue. If you can make it on a Wednesday night, the Annapolis Yacht Club hosts races, beginning at 6:05.

Dinner: Cross over Spa Creek to Eastport, the laidback antithesis of living-museum Annapolis. Grab some seafood at local favorites Davis' Pub, a divey tavern with above-average food, or the Boatyard Bar & Grill, which is popular with members of the neighboring Eastport Yacht Club, and serves its Caribbean rum drinks in pint glasses.

Nightcap: Few places combine "historic" and "now" better than the Sly Fox Pub, located in the cellar of the colonial Reynolds Tavern. Live music -- mostly of the singer-songwriter variety -- is offered Wednesday through Saturday, and the large patio is a wonderful place to relax and rest your feet.

Clarendon Under The Stars

Arlington's nightlife-heavy neighborhood has a surprising number of bars and restaurants with outdoor seating. If the forecast is clear, plot your course for an evening alfresco.

First Up: Have a beer or glass of wine on the funky patio at Galaxy Hut. It's really just a narrow alley between two buildings, but the plastic furniture adds a homemade hipster vibe. Drink specials run until 8, but the number of seats is limited, so early arrival is key.

Dinner: Faccia Luna offers the best pizza in the neighborhood, and its Wilson Boulevard patio is a prime spot for people-watching. Next door, Mexicali Blues is known for its overstuffed burritos, taco platters and Salvadorean tamales.

The Main Event: Even if there's a band on the Clarendon Ballroom's main stage, the enormous rooftop patio is a draw. Bigger than the interiors of some nearby bars, the roof is a prime pickup and people-watching scene for Arlington's 20-something and 30-something crowds. The roof is open Wednesday through Friday and on some Saturdays.

Nightcap: Have a cold mug of beer and late-night snacks on the Astroturf-covered porch at Jay's Saloon, a comfortable old-school dive with cheap drinks, oldies music and a loyal pack of regulars.

-- Fritz Hahn

By Fritz Hahn  | May 23, 2008; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Interns' Guide  
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Comments

Wanted to let you all know that ACOUSTIC ALCHEMY's in town Saturday June 14th! They're gonna be at the historic Blair Mansion in Silver Spring! Check here for more information: www.myspace.com/breezypromotions

Hope to see you there!

Posted by: Brenda C. | June 2, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

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