Leave your pretensions at the door and get ready to get cozy. The Tune Inn (331 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) is little more than a hallway with a bar, a jukebox and some booths. But if you can’t face another $11 gin & tonic, and the sight of a mounted moose head — among other dead animals — just blocks away from the U.S. Capitol is more amusing than off-putting, this is the place for you.
Tune Inn has been featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and Esquire magazine’s Top 100 bars list. It occupies a narrow space next to the (better marked) Hawk ‘n’ Dove. The graffiti in the bathrooms — no fancy themes or extra trimmings here —is reminiscent of junior high school. The music is customer-choice, and the eclectic music selection that includes plenty of country western probably indicates that this is a worthy retreat for those not bred in the city (the majority of D.C.’s population).
Drinks are cheap and you can get a grilled-to-order hamburger and fries for under $10, but this is definitely not diet food. Tune Inn is known for battering and deep-frying everything from hamburgers to fries to onions. They always have a simmering pot of chili loaded with beef. And if you forgot to eat breakfast or leave the party around two in the morning, Tune Inn also serves eggs all day.
Tune Inn is the perfect place to loosen your tie and fill your stomach. Just be prepared to leave your work behind for an hour, since the cell phone reception is spotty in the recesses of this bar. Take the opportunity to get to know the staff — they’re likely to remember your name.
By Alicia Cohn
The 18th Amendment
Louisiana State University pride runs deep at The 18th Amendment, situated in the heart of Eastern Market, so Alabama fans beware. The cozy bar — located at 613 Pennsylvania Ave. — is the place to go to cheer on the LSU Tigers and the New Orleans Saints, and offers unbeatable game-day specials during the teams’ seasons. The bar also serves up happy hour specials every day of the week from 4 to 8 p.m., which include $3 Bud Light drafts and bottles, $4 Peroni drafts, $4 Svedka flavored drinks and $4 glasses of house wine. If you’re hungry, the happy hour half-price personal pizzas are a great choice to enjoy on your own or share with a friend. Tuesday nights are the busiest, as happy hour specials last all night.
If you’re not in the mood for pizza, the bar also serves delicious Sicilian cheese rounds — grilled cheese sandwiches with a twist. The rounds are grilled baguettes filled with melted provolone cheese and fried basil leaves. The crispy sandwiches come with a shot of rich tomato bisque for dipping, all for $7.50.
Overall, the warm atmosphere and friendly staff at The 18th Amendment make it the perfect place for an after-work hang out.
By Emily Cahn
In a city that plays as hard as it works, the Capitol Lounge (231 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) has become legend. From the clack of pool balls on the parlor level to the snap, crackle and pop of political point and counterpoint, you know you’re somewhere special, day or night. From every angle, whether seated at the wood-finished bar or in the relaxing embrace of a booth, a number of flat-screens TVs make the Lounge a front-row venue any game night. Whether it’s one-on-one to the hoop or a full-team scrimmage, there’s nothing like sharing a platter of Capitol buffalo chicken sliders, wings or nachos to get the night started off in style.
Regulars, staffers, players and gaffers, sideburns and interns, jurists and tourists like to pile in for the happy hour special — $1 off any drink Monday-Friday. Managing bartender Larissa highly recommends candidates from the extensive selection of nearly 60 bottled beers and the constant rotation of draft choices from light to heavy, domestic to foreign, and any combination of flavors in between. As a lucky winner of the Lounge’s “Name Game,” customers with the name of the day get to rack up a free tab while drinking rail and draft beers!
There is something special at the Capitol Lounge every night of the week. Come down for Half-Priced Pizza on Monday, Two Bits (25¢) a Wing Tuesday, Fiesta Night Wednesday and Dirty Dozen ($12) Relief Pitcher Night Thursday. A busy weekend of Belgian Invasion and Smirnoff Night will have you ready to top off the week (or launch a new one) at their super Sunday Brunch, featuring $5 Bloody Marys and Mimosa cocktails.
By Morgan Spencer
Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar
Kick back and relax after a long day at the office at Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar, a restaurant and lounge that whisks you away from the hectic city lifestyle and transports you to the calm and rustic feel of northern California. Just a stone’s throw away from the Capitol Complex (223 Pennsylvania Ave.) let the friendly and knowledgeable staff at this five-year-old establishment help you choose the perfect wine and accoutrement from the restaurant’s extensive wine list.
You can’t go wrong with the restaurant’s cheese platters and house-cured charcuterie, great dishes to share with friends or co-workers in the restaurant’s upstairs lounge, which has warm lighting, exposed brick walls and comfy leather furniture. The upstairs lounge will soon feature a new happy hour bar menu, which pairs dishes like pork-stuffed olives — green olives stuffed with savory pork, dipped in breadcrumbs and fried to perfection — with a glass of wine, all for under $20.
If you’re looking for a more substantial meal, sit at the rustic cement counter-top bar and order from the restaurant’s delectable array of Italian dishes, with house-made pastas and sauces and brick-oven pizzas. We highly recommend the pappardelle pasta with pork bolognese. The wide, thin noodles were paired with the perfect amount of rich sauce, and delicious with a dry white wine.
If you haven’t made your way to this place yet, you’re missing out on a gem in Capitol South’s vibrant neighborhood.
By Emily Cahn
Germans must eat well: This is the only conclusion one can make upon exiting Café Berlin (322 Massachusetts Ave. NE), a cozy restaurant tucked below a set of stairs down the street from Union Station.
Not German? No problem — the menu is delicious to any ethnicity. In any case, plan to make it a full meal. Order one of the three German beers on tap — ranging from light to dark and also available in enormous steins — and settle into a nook in a dining room designed for good conversation.
Start with kartoffel pfannkuchen, potato pancakes reminiscent of upscale hash browns, or gefüllte champignons, filled mushroom caps topped with cheese.
Café Berlin has salads and sandwiches — you can’t go wrong with the Reuben here — but it’s the hearty entrees (priced around $20) that really make the visit worthwhile. The high-quality meat stands out in choices such as the wiener schnitzel (veal) and the kassler rippchen (pork). The latter comes with sauerkraut, which Café Berlin has perfected: not too sour and not too soft. Bratwurst and goulash, traditional favorites, are also on the menu. Brunch, with breakfast items, is available on weekends.
The only desserts available are house-made pastries: mostly tarts and cakes. However, the selection of after-dinner drinks is superb and includes a spiced red wine served hot that will hit the spot during winter months.
During warmer seasons, Café Berlin also has outdoor seating at street-level. Café Berlin closes early in the evening, but in autumn a stein or two of the dark Spaten beer will start your Oktoberfest right.
By Alicia Cohn
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