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Columbia Heights/ 14th Street Restaurants

Hip and casual food and drink menus attract a sophisticated crowd.

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There are balloons galore in this tavern-like restaurant, which hands out them out to children when they walk in. But the gastropub offers thrills for adults too, like an impressive selection of hard ciders, local brewskis and American whiskies (the rare Pappy Van Winkle 23 comes to mind). Don't know what you'd like? The servers are more than happy to guide you with beer samples. The casual atmosphere is inviting enough to lure you in from this competitive restaurant corner, and friendly enough to make you stay a while. Occasionally, release parties for new batches by local brewery DC Brau offer a chance to rub shoulders with one of Meridian's top purveyors.

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Heights' American fare made in an open kitchen is elevated by abundant candlelight in the evenings.

Snag a seat on the patio for a prime people-watching spot on Kenyon Square, a block north of the metro station. This sit-down restaurant specializes in American classics like blackened chicken sandwiches and grilled burger salad, but the accessible fare made in an open kitchen feels fancified with abundant candlelight in the evenings. When it's a staying in kind of night, The Heights' has you covered, offering delivery.

3

Come to Room 11 for unique cocktails and plates made for sharing.

Come to Room 11 for the cocktails. Maybe Sunday brunch finds you hankering for an Iris in Mexico (Corsair Wry Moon Unaged Rye Whiskey, house-made horchata and Vietnamese spice syrup) with your French press coffee and shrimp and grits. Or maybe it's a Blank Czech kind of evening (a unique blend of Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka, Becherovka, Combier, tonic, dandelion and celery bitters). Whatever drink you choose, the meat-and-cheesy plates are perfect for sharing and pairing: shrimp risotto with roasted corn and saffron; grilled ham and cheese with cognac and mustard dip. But like many eateries in Columbia Heights, there's no need to bring out the heels for your date here.

4

Enjoy meatballs and thin crusted pies in this lively if unpretentious pizzeria.

Saddle up to the bar in this intimate establishment and you are almost guaranteed to make new friends. The tiny place exemplifies what a community pizzeria is all about with its lively, unpretentious vibe that spills onto the outdoor patio. Sip Montepulciano and eat wood-fired artichoke pizza under sail canopies. If a progressive dinner is in your plans along this hopping corner with several eateries, opt for small plates like meatballs and olives that satisfy savory cravings in a jiffy.

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Order a la carte tacos and other Mexican staples for under $10 at this hipster hot spot.

This is what you call a hot spot. Expect up to a 45 minute wait for dinner at this liquor store-turned-Mexican restaurant. Staples like asada tacos and eclectic creations like the Sonoran Dog (hot dog with salsa, cheese, mayo, mustard, black beans and pork belly) are almost all under $10. El Chucho's 40-seat, mostly covered roof deck is an ideal hideaway for sipping your homemade pineapple soda or margarita with house-made damiana liqueur, but tequila lovers should work their way through the 50-plus tequila list with the guidance of a bartender downstairs.