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Washington, D.C. Nightlife

The Black Cat
1811 14th Street N.W.
Washington , D.C.
Tel: 202 667 4490

The Black Cat is hipster ground zero in D.C. The music venue has an impressive pedigree: Foo Fighter Dave Grohl is an investor, and it has played host to a veritable who's who of musicians from Pavement to Modest Mouse to the White Stripes. Downstairs in the Red Room bar, the vintage-clad masses sip Pabst and play pinball, while the upstairs venue alternates between indie rock shows and the occasional dance night. Try to catch Mousetrap, the club's legendary Brit-pop party, held the second Saturday of each month. Popular bands tend to sell out, so be sure to check the club's Web site to get tickets in advance.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 8 pm to 2 am, Fridays and Saturdays 7 pm to 3 am, and Sundays 8 pm to midnight.

2321 18th Street N.W.
Washington , D.C.
Tel: 202 332 0800

Adams Morgan on the weekends can vacillate between a rowdy bar crawl and a frat party gone too far. But if you're willing to brave the crowds stumbling down 18th Street, you'll find solace in Bourbon, a laid-back but chic bar that caters to a (slightly) better-behaved crowd. In the summer the back garden is a hidden oasis, and in the winter you can warm yourself with the more than 100 whiskeys on offer.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 6 pm to 2 am, Fridays 5 pm to 3 am, Saturdays 11 to 3 am, and Sundays 11 to 2 am.

Café Saint-Ex
1847 14th Street N.W.
Washington , D.C.
Tel: 202 265 7839

Café Saint-Ex started as the ultimate neighborhood spot when it opened in 2003, serving the then gentrifying U Street neighborhood as a combination bistro, bar, dance spot, and sidewalk café. But the Parisian vintage decor, the cozy vibe, and edgy DJs turned it into a destination for people citywide. Now young Hill staffers mingle with the Converse-and-skinny-jean crowd over Chimay and Delirium Tremens beers. On weekends, the tiny downstairs dance floor gets packed with the young and intoxicated grinding to Top 40 and hip hop. Weeknights tend to attract an artier set with indie rock, Brit pop, and occasional surprise DJ sets by rockers dropping by after shows at the nearby Black Cat.

Open Mondays 5:30 pm to 1:30 am, Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays 11 am to 1:30 am, and Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to 2:30 am.

Columbia Room
1021 7th Street N.W.
Washington , D.C.
Tel: 202 393 0220

If you can get a much sought-after reservation, you'll find tiny Columbia Room hidden away behind sister bar the Passenger, through multiple doorways. This 16-seater is part apothecary, part Japanese omakase experience. Owner and master of ceremonies Derek Brown chips ice from a wooden hangiri while holding forth on the chemistry of tinctures and the history of tiki. Tipplers tend to linger, taste-testing new recipes, mellowing out to the acoustic indie soundtrack, and ordering one last cocktail. We suggest the martini, the perfect marriage of precision (Brown uses a thermometer) and flair (that cut crystal coupe!).—Colleen Clark

Hotel Photo
Eighteenth Street Lounge
1212 18th Street N.W.
Washington , D.C.
Tel: 202 466 3922

The unmarked entrance, long lines, and strict door policy (women: channel your inner Sienna Miller; men: come with those women) scream exclusivity, but inside, 18th Street Lounge is a pretension-free zone. Make yourself at home on shabby-chic couches lit by roaring fireplaces and ornate candelabra, catch the sunset on the back deck, or chat over a jazz combo in the upstairs lounge. Because it's home base for local DJ act Thievery Corporation, you can expect a mix of trip-hop, acid jazz, and Brazilian beats as well as a good-looking mixed crowd (the bouncer is there for a reason).

Open Tuesdays through Thursdays 5:30 pm to 2 am, Fridays 5:30 pm to 3 am, Saturdays 9:30 pm to 3 am, and Sundays 10 pm to 2 am. Closed Mondays.

The Gibson
2009 14th Street N.W.
Washington , D.C.
Tel: 202 232 2156

It's become acceptable these days to take 15 minutes to make a cocktail. Fortunately, the ones at The Gibson are worth the wait. Washington's latest neo-speakeasy mixes up both classics and more modern inventions, like the Salad Days Sour, a creamy blend of celery-infused pisco, lemon, and celery bitters, streaked with burnt cinnamon. Even a drink like the Violet Fizz, which in less capable hands can so easily taste like Aunt Daisy's lingerie drawer, shines here. The mix of gin, lemon, and crème de violette, thickened with egg whites, is delicately fragrant and decidedly flirty. Too bad the service can be so surly: In one almost comical episode, I was begrudgingly granted a table that had been reserved for later that night (the bar has a no-standing policy). And in the precious minutes I possessed it, the server reminded me of the deadline three times, then—with 10 minutes still on the clock—she unceremoniously swept away my half-finished Manhattan. My advice? Reserve early. And often.—Jane Black, first published on

Open daily from 6 pm.

Granville Moore's
1238 H Street N.E.
Washington, D.C.

Washington's newest nightlife destination stretches along a formerly rundown section of H Street in northeast DC. Crowds descend each night to check out theme bars like Red Palace, play skee ball and mini-golf at H Street Country Club, or grab a pint of He'brew ale at the Jewish-deli-meets-Irish-pub Star & Shamrock. And while those spots are all a blast, our favorite is the bells-and-whistles–free gastropub Granville Moore's. Sturdy wooden beams, exposed brick walls, and fixtures salvaged from old taverns and farmhouses make the place feel like they've been drawing pints here for centuries. A chalkboard lists the Belgian beers and American craft brews on offer, and the tiny kitchen turns out excellent moules frites. It's the ideal place to kick off a night of revelry before venturing on to the street's other watering holes.—Colleen Clark

Open Sundays through Thursdays 5 pm till midnight, Fridays and Saturdays 5 pm to 3 am.

Hotel Photo
1401 K Street N.W.
Washington , D.C.
Tel: 202 789 2800

K Street, the golden province of expense-account lobbying firms, was once an after-hours dead zone. But nightlife purveyors have finally gotten hip to all those deep pockets, and each month seems to bring the opening of a new bottle-service club. One of the best is Lima, a triple threat restaurant-bar-lounge with Latin-infused international cuisine upstairs, caipirinhas in the cocktail lounge, and a full-on party on the dance floor. Organic touches like water reservoirs and hewn-rock floors soften the clean, modern lines of the leather banquettes. But what you'll notice most are members of the stiletto set who artfully drape themselves on the furniture.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 5 pm to 2 am, Fridays and Saturdays 5 pm to 3 am. Closed Sundays.

Round Robin & Scotch Bar
Willard Intercontinental Hotel
1401 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C.
Tel: 202 628 9100

The term lobbyist is said to have been coined in this historic hotel bar at the Willard as a nickname for the power brokers that would pester President Ulysses S. Grant for favors on his way to enjoy a brandy and cigar in the clubby emerald and wood-paneled room. More than a century later, this is still the place to observe the good ol' boys brokering deals. If you're lucky, longtime bartender and historian Jim Hewes will be behind the round marble-and-mahogany bar to regale you with tales of the house's most famous patrons, from Dickens to Twain, Lincoln to Harding. Be sure to try the mint julep, still made according to a recipe established here by Senator Henry Clay in the 1800s.—Colleen Clark

Open Mondays through Saturdays 4 to 11 pm.

The Wonderland Ballroom
1101 Kenyon Street N.W.
Washington, D.C.
Tel: 202 232 5263

For those whose tastes run more to Pabst Blue Ribbon than bottle service, the Wonderland Ballroom might just be the perfect bar. Minivan bench seats, a Ms. Pacman arcade table, and signs from old D.C. restaurants and record shops give the first floor a laid-back, funky atmosphere. Start your night here at the main bar listening to the indie rock soundtrack from the jukebox, or out back in the outdoor beer garden with picnic benches for enjoying bargain microbrews and greasy bar food. Once you get in the groove, head upstairs to the dance floor, a rowdy free-for-all with a house-party vibe and a friendly crowd that knows how to get down. Check your pretensions at the door.—Colleen Clark

Open Mondays through Thursdays 5 pm to 2 am, Saturdays 11 am to 3 am, and Sundays 11 am to 2 am.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.