The home stretch! This is the time of night I am trying to do everything ahead of schedule to finish at precisely 4:00 AM so I can leave for home as soon as the bell rings. Yes, for everyone who is reading this, I actually go to 24 restaurants in 24 hours and don’t rush to get through each one; I take an hour for each. It would be a lot easier to go to 24 restaurants in fourteen or so hours, but it would lack the flavor In get by hitting each of the places in their prime time hours. The one place we got to a bit early to get a more authentic drunk food late-night experience was Amsterdam Falafelshop. The bars in Adams Morgan close at 3, and by 4:00, everything is usually pretty much cleared out.
11:00 – The Brickskeller
They had my beer! Pretty much everyone I talked to about the Brickskeller said that the beer list was outdated and that I would be getting my fourth or fifth choice. I saw that they had some Central American countries listed, so I looked for beers from Nicaragua. ToÃ±a . . . Bingo. I would have been just about the happiest guy in DC, but it was warm. I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and guess that it was in the wrong cooler. In Nicaragua, beers freeze before they are served warm. Eric had some kind of German Rauchbier (smoked beer). The waiter told us it was going to be meaty, but he didn’t tell us it would jump out of the glass and scream “BACON!” Burnsie had an imperial stout of some sort, and his was the favorite of the group. The ToÃ±a tasted a bit different – I don’t think it travels well.
I love the vibe at The Brickskeller. It’s a lot like the vibe at The Gibson but you can see other people in the bar. It has a very beer-hally kind of feel to it and everyone always seems chilled out. Definitely not a singles bar, but a place that you can go to hang with a few friends and maybe play some drinking games on the tables. I’d been there once before and that’s why I’d only been there once before; going out in D.C. was never just a hanging out kind of thing since I’d lived in the ‘burbs my whole time down here. It was always more of an event night. In Boston, I have a bunch of these types of places to call my own.
12:00 – Adams Morgan
In each 24 in 24, I showcase one or two spots that have a bunch of action and are must visit areas of the city. In Boston, I had Fenway Park and Fanueil Hall. Fenway at 7:00 PM for the buzz of the stadium and the street food and Faneuil for at 2:00 AM when all the bars release their drunks onto the cobblestone streets. In D.C., there were three spots I considered. Georgetown (a spot I frequented heavily and somehow always finished the night emerging from the Guard’s basement), The Mall (an obvious choice, but not for either food or nightlife), and Adams Morgan. I think I made a good choice in the end.
To me, Adams Morgan is the preeminent nightlife spot in DC. There’s no better place to start and finish your night than on 18th street between Columbia and Florida. Maybe I say this because I’ve never been a clubby type of guy (Dupont/Golden Triangle), and I wasn’t so much one for live music (U Street) when I lived here before, so it was always the place I ended up hanging out. Also, I have had some crazy times here. On my 21st birthday, my friends left me in the parking lot with a babysitter because I met a friend named Ralph before we got out of the car. Another night, when my brother was in town, we took our beers up to the roof of Madam’s Organ. I don’t quite remember how we got up there or how we got down, but that’s not even close to the most ridiculousness I’ve encountered there; some of my DC exploits belong in Forum. In Adams Morgan, there’s something for everyone from hookah bars to loungy coffee houses to the best dive bar in DC. You can always find what you’re looking for and then some. My favorite place to party in DC by a mile.
1:00 – 18th Street Lounge
We arrived at the 18th Street lounge and it was BUMPIN’. Then I got up there and realized that they had my favorite room closed! Oh well, they can’t have live music in all four areas every single night. If you didn’t know, that is one of the huge draws about this place; four distinct areas of the club where they often have four different live performers on stage so there’s always something for everybody. I’d been here two or three times before in my early twenties and always remember being lit up like a Christmas tree when I left . . . or was it when I arrived? I can’t recall. Needless to say, I always had a great time at this place and tonight was no different.
It was a tough spot to feature on 24 in 24 because of the lighting. We went in there and couldn’t get a good shot anywhere inside save for the terrace (and that’s not really inside, is it?). Carlton was upstairs manning the bar and busy as hell. 18th Street Lounge wins my No Bullshit award for 24 in 24: DC. They’ve got a great space, respect the music and do a great job showing it, keep a relaxed vibe, and deliver drinks quickly. They’re owned by one of my favorite bands, the Thievery Corporation, and Carlton said I could use one of their songs to cut the video with. Woot.
2:00 – Ben’s Chili Bowl
Ben’s continues to be one of my favorite places to eat in DC, no matter what price range you’re in. This frickin’ gorgeousness is something I must have every time I am in DC. So simple, so beautiful. My friend Prag is allergic to cinnamon (WTF?) and I guess they put cinnamon in the chili, so he can’t have a whole chili dog without breaking out in hives. He sure can house some chili cheese fries, though. He’d claimed he was hungry after eating at the Capitol Lounge (9:00) and then we went to four places where we didn’t have any food, so when we got to Ben’s, he put aside his food allergies and wrecked shop.
It was packed, as always, but we had a spot at the bar reserved for us! I didn’t expect that; thanks, Kamal. We were in and out faster than just about any other place in DC. Burns was psyched, Melissa was psyched, Prag was psyched, and I was effin’ psyched. I had a stretch there to digest and I was ready for more. I probably could have had an entire half smoke at this time of the night, but I had guests and some Falafel to eat. Ben’s wins my If you don’t eat anywhere else in DC when you visit, eat here award for 24 in 24: DC. I love this place to death and hope to God they never change.
3:00 – Tangier Lounge
They didn’t have tap water? WTF. Thank God this is one of the places I paid at because it was by far my worst experience of 24 in 24: DC. I didn’t expect to be treated like a celebrity, but when I said that I wanted to learn how to blow smoke rings, I didn’t expect the guy fielding that request/only guy in the place that knew how to blow smoke rings/guy who said he had to talk to the owner all week/owner (sic) would leave less than a minute after I requested that. I mean, come on. I major league boned this pick; didn’t try it out first. The owner that everyone says is cool on Yelp was very cool to me from start to finish in our interactions. Maybe he really is a nice guy, but maybe those 9 other reviews are the guy’s best friends. My bad. Doesn’t deserve a minute of air time but will get it anyway. Lesson learned. This place wins the Why the expletive did I pick this place award for 24 in 24: DC. The place was empty at prime time after hours while Soussi across the street looked like it was rocking.
4:00 – Amsterdam Falafelshop
O Amsterdam Falafelshop, I wish I knew how to quit you! Wait a second, no I don’t. Falafels are healthier than anything I’ve eaten today, and they’re fried! I got there at 3:30 when I said I would be there at 4 and the place looked exactly as I had remembered it as a constant flow of drunken twentysomethings made it near impossible to clean the counters. The cleaning crew doubled in size, and the line did too (they took a chef off the line to help tidy up for the camera) and in 15 minutes, the place was no less busy, but the wreckage was mostly cleared. I’d been hanging out, shooting the bull into the camera for a bit, and the inebriation in line was asking me what I was doing and if I was going to jump ahead of them when I was ready to film. I didn’t have a problem saying abso-bleepin-loutely to that as I was waiting for Arianne to set everything up.
There’s a certain falafel configuration I crave when I come in here: baba ghanouj, garlic cream sauce, red onions, green peppers, and roasted eggplant. Tonight, when I got to the falafelstation (I’m making that up right now. Arianne, if you want to use that, I want 5% of all franchise fees), there was no roasted eggplant! Oh noes! She explained that I could get it during the day, but on Friday and Saturday nights, they had to choose to meet the demand for fries or roasted eggplant, and you know who wins that battle (they’re getting a new fryer, so that problem will be fixed soon, and in all future Falafelshops). The fries, while I didn’t have them tonight (because I’d already had 12,663 calories) are glorious. Dip them in the garlic cream sauce and prepare for food orgasm.
Fitting end to a fantastic day. Amsterdam Falafelshop wins my Bang for the buck award for 24 in 24: DC. As far as Adams Morgan late-night food goes, skip the jumbo slice and do something positive with those after-hour munchies.