APSA Advice

by Henry Farrell on August 29, 2005

The annual American Political Science Association meeting is taking place this week in Washington DC. Some spots that CT-reading attendees may want to know about …


There are several decent restaurants in the Woodley Park neighbourhood, where the conference hotels are located. Of these, the best that I know of is the “Lebanese Taverna”:http://www.lebanesetaverna.com/restaurants/dc/. If you want a real treat, and you’re prepared to walk for 10-15 mins, or hop on the Metro, “Indique”:http://www.indique.com/Indiquemainpage.html (north up Connecticut, or take the Metro one stop to Cleveland Park) is a great nouvelle Indian restaurant – one of the few places inside DC’s city limits to make it into Tyler Cowen’s excellent “guide to ethnic food in the Washington area”:http://www.gmu.edu/jbc/Tyler/cowenethnic17th.htm. Alternatively, you can go south to Dupont Circle – but the restaurants here aren’t as good as they used to be and can be a little pricey. I like “Mourayo”:http://www.washingtonian.com/dining/Profiles/mourayo.html, a Greek place, especially for their “Sappho” dessert (Greek yoghurt, strawberries and honey in a phyllo pastry – yum!). Also good, but expensive, is “Pesce”:http://www.washingtonian.com/dining/Profiles/Pesce.html, which is a little bit off the Circle, on P street, and which specializes in fish. Just across the street is “Pizza Paradiso”:http://www.washingtonian.com/dining/Profiles/PizzeriP.html, which is a lot cheaper and does great wood-burning oven pizza. Expect long lines at lunch time, unless you make it early – the dining area is tiny. Those who are prepared to be adventurous and travel into the suburbs should trust to Tyler’s extraordinary knowledge of the great food to be found in Virginia and Maryland stripmalls.


I’m not as well up on this as I used to be, but I can heartily recommend the “Brickskeller”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?node=entertainment/profile&id=792636&typeId=5 which is just off Dupont circle, and is listed in the Guinness book of records as “the bar with the largest selection of commercially available beers.” Over 1,000, mostly in bottles. They serve them a little warmer than is usual in the US, but nonetheless tasty for that. The “Childe Harold”:http://www.childeharold.com/, which is close by, is very good downstairs; for a fictional description (thinly disguised), see Elizabeth Hand’s short story, “Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol”:http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/originals/originals_archive/hand/hand1.html.


Always one of my first priorities when I go to a new city. DC doesn’t have any big bookshop to rival Powells or the Strand, but it does have a superb specialized bookshop that should be of interest to APSA types, “Politics and Prose”:http://www.politics-prose.com/. Excellent on politics and history, as you might expect, but also has a quite superb collection of childrens’ books downstairs (a legacy from the Cheshire Cat, a famous childrens’ bookshop that it took over a few years ago). “Olssons”:http://www.olssons.com/ is also pretty good, if not quite what it used to be – the Dupont Circle branch is probably the best. Secondhand places are a bit hit-and-miss – the Rockville branch of “Second Story Books”:http://www.secondstorybooks.com/ is pretty good, but it’s a long drive from the city.

Additions, corrections etc welcome in comments.



Scott McLemee 08.29.05 at 11:02 am

While the Second Story used bookshop in Rockville is a bit out of the way, there is another (albeit smaller) branch at 20th and P Street, just off Dupont Circle. It’s about a five minute walk away from the hotel.

Also very good for used books, with very strong holdings in serious nonfiction, is Kulturas, on Connecticut Avenue, which APSAers might pass if headed from the convention to the circle. (It’s on the right-hand side of the street.)

Finally, there is Idle Times Books, on 18th Street in Adams Morgan, also within walking distance. If you are looking for a good and affordable meal, Adams Morgan is your best bet, particularly for Ethiopian food.


Erik 08.29.05 at 11:25 am

Good recommendations! Just a couple of additions: A cheaper and better alternative to the Lebanese Taverna is Mama Ayesha on Calvert Street, just a 10 minute walk from the conference.

In general, the food near the Cleveland park metro is a lot better than near Woodley Park. Aside from Indique (you’ll have to reserve but it’s worth it), try Palena (a fancy restaurant with a fabulous cheaper cafe in the front, order the chicken and you’ll understand), Dino’s (a new “Italian” hotspot), Lavandou (hearty French bistro fare), the wine bar Bardeo, or Nam Viet.


P ONeill 08.29.05 at 11:40 am

Particularly for the people at the Hilton, it’s an easy walk to Teaism, just west of Connecticut Ave on R street. [I’d say near the corner with the starbucks but that doesn’t help much]. It has good evening hours making it a decent option for breakfast, lunch, or casual dinner.

The people who venture up to Cleveland Park should also consider a slide from Vace, one of DC’s few decent pizza places.

Drinkers at the Childe Harold should watch out for Hitch, who likes that place.


twistedchick 08.29.05 at 11:46 am

Just want to echo the previous commenters’ suggestion that people who want more/other/different food go across the Duke Ellington bridge to Adams Morgan, which is practically paved with good restaurants of all sorts.


theophylact 08.29.05 at 1:17 pm

I also would suggest Spices, a pan-Asian resto in the same block as Lavandou, Bardeo and Nam Viet. They have a decent variety, some very good sushi, and a dish called Suicide Curry that actually packs some heat (rare for a pan-Asian joint). But avoid Yenching Palace, across the street.


Chad Orzel 08.29.05 at 1:19 pm

When I was in grad school at Maryland, the Washingtonian magazine’s annual Cheap Eats list was an indespensible reference work. At the time, the criterion for inclusion was that dinner for two should be $40 or less– it’s up to $50 now– and most of the places listed were very good indeed.

I’d second the recommendation for Mama Ayesha’s in particular, especially because it always seemed to be completely empty– we showed up there once without a reservation, in a group that grew to be 20 people by the time everyone arrived, and they had no problem accomodating us. And the food is terrific.

If you’re considering venturing out to the ‘burbs, I really miss living in Rockville within walking distance of Bombay Bistro, Taste of Saigon, and the Hard Times Cafe (which doesn’t appear on the list any more). It made up for having drug dealers across the street.


Tim Worstall 08.29.05 at 1:43 pm

The Brickskeller. Yes! Aaas to Zimbabwe Tiger via Old Peculier and Sam Smiths. They will even bring you Brit beers from the storerooms, not the fridges, if you ask very nicely.
Buffalo burgers as well.


Jonathan Edelstein 08.29.05 at 2:08 pm

I’ll second the recommendation for the Lebanese Taverna. Best place in the city, with the possible exception of the African places around Adams Morgan.


Tim 08.29.05 at 4:52 pm

My wife and some colleagues went to the Brickskeller about two years ago and tried to order about 4 or 5 different beers, all of which they were out of (“out of all of which they were?”). Is that typical, or were they just extraordinarily lucky?

Or did a beer ship sink in a typhoon that summer?


R Byrne 08.29.05 at 5:41 pm

Food/Drink: In addition to Mourayo, I’d recommend:
* Meze in Adams Morgan (18th Street; turkish food and fruity mojitos); * Palena in Cleveland Park (Connecticut Ave right near the Metro; sit in the bar and order off that menu); * Bistrot du Coin (smokers especially!; it’s at Connecticut and Florida); * Firefly (New Hampshire and N; terrific food and drink); * Mantis (Columbia and Mintwood; terrific if you like the late night DJ thing)

McLemee is coming very correct about Kulturas book store. I consistently find terrific stuff there, especially if you poli sci types are interested in the unacknowledged legislation of poesy. Also copped a cheapo edition of Farquahar’s Beaux Strategem there not so long ago…


vivian 08.29.05 at 7:39 pm

Thanks Henry, and everyone else. Question: Where near the non-Hilton could we find a restaurant with adult-friendly food and yet appropriate to bring an active 4.5 year old (not destructive, but probably louder than your average academic)? Are any of the above restaurants suitable?


ab 08.29.05 at 9:15 pm

Another question, besides food & books (as important as they might be):

I’m a first-time visitor to DC, and I’ve got one and a half, perhaps even two full, days for tourism.

Any advice on a good one-day tour of the essential bits of DC and something for the other, perhaps only half, day?

Any tips on public transport? (Full disclosure: I’m European!)

PS: Will there be any live blogging from APSA at CT?


Laura 08.29.05 at 9:43 pm

I’m actually feeling a bit disappointed about missing APSA this year. Must be a sign of age.

Who else is going this year?


Mike 08.29.05 at 10:46 pm

For public transport, the DC Metro system is excellent. I’ll be back in DC in December for MLA, and recently posted a list of restaurants, with linked reviews, that I’m looking forward to revisiting.


Matthew Krause 08.29.05 at 11:53 pm

Lebanese Taverna really is as good as everyone has said–go! Georgia Browns (McPhearson Square on the blue/orange line…walking distance from the white house) has awesome Southern (Lousiana-ish) food although it’s a bit pricey. I also like Jaleo, a Tapas place near Chinatown. Jaleo gets really crowded on weekends and they don’t take reservations, so plan on hanging out at the bar for a little while if you go during peak eating times. Sushi-taro, which is on P Street (Dupont) has awesome sushi.

There’s a *little* Afgan place around the corner from Lebanese Taverna called Afgan Grill (no website..it’s that small). The food is rather good, although the restaurant is microscopic. If you’ve never had Afgan food, it’s definitely worth a try. I’d suggest passing on Pizza Paradiso. It’s good for DC Pizza, but you can do much much better elsewhere (New Haven, for example).

A bunch of the fancier restaurants (including Georgia Browns) take reservations via opentable.com, so you might get some ideas browsing that. The Washington Post has a handy entertainment guide that lists a ton of restaurants. The Washington City Paper has an even better Restaurant Finder.

You should definitely check out Brickskeller, although it is true they’re often out of many things on the menu. I’ve always wanted to go to the Round Robin at the Willard Hotel, but never got a chance..Its mint julips are supposed to be really good. The Georgetown hangout-bar is The Tombs (36th and N Street)..it just reopened after being renovated.

For bookstores, you’ve GOT to check out KramerBooks (right across from the Dupont Metro on Connecticut Ave–reasonably close to the hotel). It’s sort of a hip bookstore/bar/restaurant. The desserts are very good.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. I just left DC and miss it already (I’ve got the West Wing on :-)).


Colin Danby 08.30.05 at 12:22 am

ab: What kinds of bits are essential for you? If you want ceremonial buildings etc. most of note are within walking range of the Smithsonian and Capitol South metro stops. Depending on what you like to look at there’s a very nice collection of art museums, public and private, and the zoo, which is near your conference, is pretty good. If you’re there past September 1 I see Mose Allison is going to be at Blues Alley; look for listings for other interesting music and so forth. In my view, especially if you’re there in August, DC’s strengths are music, art, and food. Seen one marbled mausoleum and you’ve pretty much seen them all. And yes, the Metro is just what you need and taxis are pretty reasonable too.

Re food I can confirm Indique’s excellence though it’s busy and pricey; if you’re prepared to take a taxi ride there are a couple of great South Indian restaurants in the Langley Park area (just over the DC border NE of you all), Woodlands and Udupi Palace. Definitely do at least one of the Ethiopian places in Adams Morgan; my standbys are Meskerem and Red Sea.


David Palmeter 08.30.05 at 9:44 am

I’m a resident of the neighborhood, and am partial to Pesto at the corner of Connecticut and Cathedral, an easy walk from the hotels. Good, slightly up-scale, Italian food. Good service. Some may recall Mrs. Simpson’s which was previously on the site.


David Margolies 08.30.05 at 10:03 am

I second Kramer Books on Conn Ave, N. of Dupont Circle (also has a bar and a cafe). There used to be (and maybe still is) a second Kramers with a very good political/economic stock nearer GWU.

Do not miss the Dupont Circle metro stop across from Kramers, with what must be the longest escalator in the world (I always wanted to put a sign ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter here’ across from the start of the escalator.)

If you have half an hour at dupont circle, walk over to the Phillips Gallery (Mass Ave and 21st st — dupont circle is mass and 19th). The world’s best Renoir (really) and much else.

Way out Conn in Bethesda, there are two old style DC fish restaurants: Bish Thompson and O’Donnell’s. They serve sweet rolls before dinner and then lobster or fish or shell fish. When I was a boy in the 50’s, DC had about a dozen such restaurants (I loved the sweet rolls) but these are all that are left (assuming they do the same thing now, it’s been 6 years since I was last there).


Sarah 08.30.05 at 2:31 pm

For the person wanting kid-friendly restaurants, many of the above recommendations are great: Lebanese Taverna and Bistro du Coin especially — great food but crowded and noisy/casual enough so that a 4-year old won’t stand out. Have fun!


Anne 08.30.05 at 3:27 pm

2 Amy’s on the corner of Macomb and Wisconsin has good pizza. Bistro Francais in Georgetown is a good late-night dining option. Zaytinia neat the MCI Center has amazing Mediterranean style tapas. Monmarte on the Hill is a cozy little french restaurant. Have drinks/apps the wonderful but pricey seafood place Kinkaids (at the GWU metro) and you will probably spot some political/news types.
Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown is a nice side trip. You can also take the metro to Union Station, and walk up to the Capital, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress, which in my humble opinion is one of the prettiest walks in DC. The bonus is that on your way back to Union Station, you can meander over to the Dubliner for a pint.


Jacob T. Levy 08.30.05 at 5:25 pm

“Who else is going this year?”

I going, which is to say I’m already here, at the Hilton which is annoyingly hell-and-gone-away from the two other hotels. (And it tells you a lot about my attitude toward conferences that I’m annoyed about being away from the panels, rather than being pleased to be just off Dupont Circle.)


JRMurray 09.01.05 at 2:19 pm

I don’t think anyone has yet mentioned Zorba’s Cafe on 20th street near Dupont Circle.
It has pretty basic service (paper plates), however the Greek food is excellent and inexpensive. Kids would be welcome.


ab 09.01.05 at 3:05 pm

I’ve found the main tourist attractions pretty much self-explanatory, though I didn’t expect walking so much. I also was surprised by DC’s good metro system.

DuPont Circle, where I’m staying, is a nice neighbourhood. And KramerBooks really worth a visit. However, DuPont’s metro escalator is certainly not the longest in the world (though it’s quite long). But if you go to Holborn Station in London, which is near the LSE, than you’ll find a longer one (and there are a couple even longer ones in Moscow).

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