I left work around 11am, picked Matt up at home, and we drove to an offsite airport parking lot just south of the airport. Usually we’d get a cab or park at Terminal 2 for short trips like this, but we had a $10/day coupon. That’s cheaper than a cab!
The shuttle picked us up at my car, and we were at the terminal within ten minutes. Add to that the fact that we got to use our brand new Trusted Traveler numbers, and our total time from the car to our seats at Surdyk’s Flights past security was 20 minutes. Incredible.
Our flight was delayed, presumably due to the sequester, so we had plenty of time for lunch and a beer. Since they weren’t yet boarding when we got to the gate, we climbed up to the observation deck, which was conveniently located nearby.
Our flight was uneventful, and we landed nearly on time at Reagan National. If you’re going to DC, don’t bother with Dulles or Baltimore… National is where it’s at. It’s basically in the Potomac River, and it’s on the Metro. Those other two are most definitely not.
Matt and I bought tickets for the Metro and hopped on a train heading south to Alexandria. I could see our hotel from the station, a half-mile walk away. (I knew that before I booked it, but it was worth the extra travel time since it was super-cheap.) When we got to the station exit, we saw a van sitting there with the hotel logo on it. A shuttle? WIN. We hopped on board with two other people and got a ride to the hotel instead.
The Courtyard by Marriott was exactly as you expect… clean, business, oriented, and friendly. The rooms were very recently updated, so they were especially nice for a place well under $100/night. I’m a fan. We unpacked our bags (we were traveling light, so that didn’t take much effort) and headed right back to the Metro station. The shuttle wasn’t out front, so we walked back instead. It only took 10 minutes.
In the hotel we’d done the math on Metro cards, and decided it was a better deal to buy the week-long pass even though we’d only be there for a little over three days. It’s $35 and includes unlimited rides, with a surcharge for rush hour. (We ended up paying less than $1 total for ‘surcharges’, so yeah, it’s worth it. The Metro can be expensive.) We bought those and boarded a train into the District.
We were ready for dinner by the time we arrived half an hour later, so we headed right to Matt’s first restaurant selection: Daikaya. It’s about 2 blocks from Verizon Center. We got seats at a shared table for eight, with the two sides facing each other. It would’ve been kind of strange except for the divider in the middle for condiments. The menu is fantastically simple in the ramen-part of the restaurant: you have four options, plus some sides and beverages. (One of the beverage options is “buy a six-pack for the kitchen”.) I got the vegetarian ramen, of course, and it was fantastic, especially with chili sprinkled all over it. Going there early was also a really good plan, because by 7:30 there was a line forming. It would’ve been worth it regardless, and they got food out amazingly fast.
Full of noodles, we set off in search of one of life’s other needs: beer. We’d done our research ahead of time, and had a list of good options together with notes about the Metro stops near which they were located. A few of them were near the restaurant (that area north of the Archives stop seems to have a ton of really great food and drink now, in addition to all the incredibly touristy stuff), so we decided to try those first. It was about 8pm, and we knew we weren’t going to be up for a very long night.
We found R.F.D. Washington right past the Chinatown gate. All evidence pointed to it being the bro-iest bro bar on earth, from the Irish pub styling to the cavernous warehouse of an interior (not to mention a fair number of bros already there), but their beer selection was unbelievable and the bartenders were great. We found seats along the side of the bar, where we could keep an eye on both the Nats game and the patrons, and dug into the beer list. I tried two from DC breweries (Three Stars, whose gose was excellent, and DC Brau) and one from Virginia (Devil’s Backbone).
We hung out there for a couple hours, talking and watching sports, and watched the place start to fill up. A couple of girls repping for Goose Island came in to hand out samples, and since we were sitting at the end of the bar, we witnessed how complicated that process can be. Their first trays were full of 312 samples, which we gladly took advantage of (I needed something to take ibuprofin for my neck, because I’d slept uncomfortably on the plane). When those were empty, the bartender said they’d run out the supply. They picked a different beer, and had to pay for it in advance before the bar would hand it over. They made a few rounds, then disappeared until later when I found them sharing a handicapped stall in the women’s room, drunkenly moaning about their man problems. AWESOME.
Then there was the bachelor party. There were 12-15 guys in the 25-40 year old range, all wearing the standard button-down shirt and jeans. We decided they were from Boston or somewhere near there, based on their really annoying accents (the yelling over each other didn’t help). They came up individually to buy beers, complained about the prices (the prices were actually shockingly low for a bar in the middle of a large city), and exclaimed about what an awesome deal they’d gotten at the hotel. We wondered which ones we’d see laying in the gutter in Chinatown later. (When I returned from the bathroom, the bartender was lining up 12 Jager bombs for them. Even he was laughing about how incredibly bro they were.) When our tab arrived, we had to double-check to make sure they’d charged us for everything, because it was so unbelievably cheap.
We decided to take a break from the bachelor party entertainment and check out a cocktail bar nearby instead. We were kind of underdressed for The Passenger, especially on a Friday night, but I didn’t care much. If there’s one thing I know about classic cocktail bars on that order, it’s that your service from the staff depends almost entirely on your drink choices. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, if you order a Long Island, you suck.
The place was packed. I angled for a place near the server station at the edge of the bar, and waited for a free bartender. While we stood there, Matt pointed out the fact that they had Fernet on tap. And the thing is, when you’ve had multiple highly entertaining experiences with Fernet, from the skull shotglasses in Boston to our DJ BFF in Los Angeles and the time we had it sitting on the floor of Roma Termini station after the longest day of our lives… well, you order it when it’s on tap. When the bartender finally got to me, I placed our regular cocktail order, plus the two shots.
She brought those first so we could do them right away, then made our drinks. That’s good service right there. We took our drinks and went to stand against the wall amongst the crowd.
After a few minutes, we noticed people leaving a little enclosure nearby, which seemed to have two bench tables in it. We grabbed one of them, and a server came in to finish up with the other group sitting in there. We hung out for a while and didn’t see any sign of her again, so we weren’t sure if they were doing table service anymore. (We didn’t need food anyway, but the wait at the bar was long.) After a while, our drinks were empty and we decided it wasn’t worth the effort of waiting in line and giving up our table, so we went to go close the tab.
The same bartender came to help me again, and suddenly there were two half-shots of Fernet there with our check. See what I mean about service? It’s good to know awesome bartenders are the same everywhere.
We headed back toward the Metro station, with a quick stop at Walgreens along the way. The Chinatown Walgreens was more like a gas station than a regular Walgreens; it was almost all food and drinks. We picked up a six-pack of DC Brau for our hotel room, and went to get the Metro. 25 minutes later we were at our Eisenhower Avenue stop, so we walked back to the hotel and enjoyed a beer on the couch before bed.
And let it be known that DC Brau makes some really good beer. We’d only chosen it because the cans were easier to carry!