With so many monuments, museums and tourists, it’s surprising that anything is hidden in Washington DC. But Blues Alley is exactly that – tucked away down a cobblestone alleyway and into an 18th-century red brick carriage house. This hidden-but-well-traveled jazz and dinner venue is nearly half a century old, with the ongoing vibe of a 1920s jazz club. The intimate stage has hosted greats ranging from Dizzy Gillespie and Sarah Vaughan to Chick Corea, Tuck & Patti, John Pizzarelli and Eva Cassidy. The amazing sound system, an appreciative audience made up of in-the-know locals and music cognoscenti, the relaxed vibe and easy accessibility to the performers – who sometimes make the rounds between sets – make this the perfect jazz joint. Dinner is served in the form of Creole cuisine with steak and seafood touches, but the food is entirely secondary to the show.
Skilled mixologists serve up complex drinks at Wisdom, a dark yet charming cocktail parlor where heavy draperies and ornate lights hang along exposed brick walls. Their drink menu runs the gamut from wine and imported beer to a vast selection of authentic absinthe. Bartenders also mix up non-alcoholic "mocktails," with flavor profiles that are as interesting as their alcoholic counterparts. Events such as trivia night pit martinis against memories, and yappy hours let dogs lounge on the patio and play poker while owners sip libations. Wisdom also dishes up tasty tidbits such as chocolate beer waffles doused in maple syrup or bacon waffles covered in bourbon and caramel apples.
Though they hail from different corners of the world, business partners Aaron McGovern and Arturas Vorobjovas and their shared passion for food begat Russia House, a tribute to the czarist-era dinner table. Raised in Lithuania on his father’s traditional Russian recipes, Arturas works with executive chef Andrew LaPorta to pack Russia House’s bill of fare with authentic offerings such as line-caught sturgeon, plump pelmini dumplings, and a selection of caviar. These rich Russian staples grace white tablecloths and elegant place settings inside Russia House's stately interior. Here, mirrors reflect light that bursts through large windows to reveal which guests have packed their cheeks with leftovers. In the upstairs lounges, plush booths cradle diners and occasional live piano music permeates the airwaves.
When it first opened in March of 2001, Tsunami Sushi & Lounge was on the vanguard of local businesses and shops to settle and thrive in the 14th street corridor near Thomas Circle. Today, the ultramodern lounge relishes in its place as a nerve center for nightlife, treating guests to fresh maki and nigiri, as well as lip-smacking udon, steak, and tempura dishes. Strings of sparkling crystal globes form huge overhanging chandeliers that cast twinkling light upon brick walls, eggshell-white armchairs, and black leather benches. Guests follow a glass-lined staircase up to the restaurant's second story, gazing out upon the bustling streetscapes and poorly hidden bald spots on the sidewalk below.
Indulj visitors soak up the mellow party vibes of nightly musical acts, including the eclectic "psykédélique soul" sounds of Future on Friday nights, and customers are sustained by the innovative southern cuisine emanating from the kitchen. Near the sleek bar, patrons gather on modern, boldly colored furniture and savor reimagined soul-food staples such as catfish nuggets and ground-turkey spring rolls. Those who report to the second floor discover DJ Supa Scotty unleashing his propulsive beats and promises of free hand sanitizer to get the bodies on the dance floor. Indulj keeps meals, music, and table service shaking until 3 a.m. on weekends.
Under the gentle light of curvaceous sconces, Tangier Restaurant and Bar's guests can indulge their taste buds with an assortment of Moroccan-inspired tapas and entrees from the menu. In addition to plating fresh pita bread and traditional Moroccan–style lamb sausage, the cooks also stir chickpeas, onions, and raisins into steaming orders of couscous or glaze chicken with a homemade harissa sauce made from hot peppers. To accompany meals, belly dancers occasionally perform in the dining room, traveling between diners' tables with the controlled, fluid grace of an Olympian swimming in a lap pool of maple syrup.