Upon first moving to Northern Virginia, my roommates at the time insisted they were going to spend every Sunday touring the wineries in the area. At first, I was a little leary, having often thought any winery worth visiting must certainly exist in Califorinia or Italy but not in Virginia.
After some manipulation, I jumped on the bandwagon only to realize I was completely wrong about Virginia wineries (well, most of them). Not long after a couple of Sunday drives out into the countryside, I discovered my favorite winery so far: Linden Vineyards. Linden is only a little over an hour from D.C. but it’s shocking the relief from the city life you feel as soon as you arrive. I simply cannot describe it! You must go!
Wine tastings are free. During most of my visits, we go through about 3 red and 3 white wines…each about a 1 ounce pour. Since you’re buying the wine on the premises, it’s much cheaper than it’d be in the store, somewhere in the neighborhood of $15. Select cheeses and meats are a little pricey ($6 for a small block of cheese) but you can bring your own picnic as long as you eat it on the tables in the grass.
From Linden’s site: “For those interested in greater depth, on the weekends we offer a special reserve cellar tasting ($12). You can sign up for it when you arrive. We taste our special single vineyard wines and older vintages. It happens every 45 minutes beginning at 12:15.”
There are plenty of great opportunities at Linden; they often offer seminars and such. Just start with the free wine tasting and lovely ambiance. The photo that accompanies this entry was taken by me when I brought visiting family to Linden. They loved the views.
Drinking in D.C. can become an expensive habit unless you drink six packs alone in your house and in that case, you may have a problem.
Anyhow, occasionally in D.C. some student with a ton of time on their hands will circulate a large Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that lists happy hour (food and drink) by neighborhood and day of the week. That might sound obscure, but it’s true…keep an eye out. In the meantime, try this site to keep abreast of all the latest deals. While DC Happy Hour isn’t an extensive as this “mystery list,” it’ll do for now.
Virtually every neighborhood in the D.C. area has a few bars that offer food and drink specials, often with extras like free pool too! When I first moved here, I didn’t realize how much of a 9 to 5 city D.C. really was until I got my first 9 to 5 and started trying to commute in during rush hour and over lunch; happy hour in D.C. isn’t any different so skip out of work a half hour early and do yourself a favor: be there by 5!
Cafe Asia, with locations downtown and in Rosslyn, Va., has the cheapest quality sushi I’ve found in the D.C. area.
Try their happy hour Monday through Saturday, from 4:30-7:30 p.m. for $1 Nigiri sushi and $2 select draft beers. Get there as early as possible because in my experience (I’ve only been to the Rosslyn location) lines get pretty heavy after 5 p.m. because of the work crowd.
Non-happy hour menus are relatively cheap at Cafe Asia too. They’ve got a reasonable selection of delicious and unique salads that are huge; definately enough for a meal.
Grilled cheese sandwiches…ah…delicious and simple. Who doesn’t love one? Who doesn’t love one for $2.50 or TWO for $5? Take part in this cheapo delicacy at Toledo Lounge in Adam’s Morgan on Wednesday nights. Swig back a $2.50 draft beer as well till 7:30 p.m. on weeknights.
Adam’s Morgan is tons of fun. The infamous 18th Street is packed with bars of every sort and a night on the town in AM can set you back quite a few if you’re not careful. Toledo Lounge is one of those places you can just go to “have a beer,” no strings attached, and grab some cheap bar food while you’re at it. It’s been called “unpretentious,” “laid-back,” and more but whatever it may be: it’s cheap!
Adam’s Morgan is accesible via Metro, sort of. Don’t be fooled: It’s a good 10-15 minute walk from the Adam’s Morgan Metro stop.
Read the Washington Post review on the Toledo Lounge.
Before moving to D.C., I worked in the service industry: hostess, server, cocktail waitress, you name it! While I loved working with people and running my tail off in a fun environment for extra cash while in undergrad, it instilled in me a nasty habit.
Dining out many times per week in Wilmington, N.C. (where I went to undergrad) was easier when I “knew people.” In D.C., I don’t know any people, well, any that work in restuarants plus it’s not so affordable to grab a nice dinner around here very often.
How did I make it by after moving here? Well, first I got into a little credit card debt feeding my habit. After that, I realized some serious reconsideration of my dining habits would need to take place.
But wait! Grocery stores can be pricey too. Another hard-learned lesson came down the pike when I decided to begin my grocery shopping at Whole Foods. Whole Foods is an excellent high-end grocery store with a special focus on organic and vegetarian food (near and dear to my heart) but it should only be visit on special occasions if you’re watching the spending.
Cheap alternative in the D.C. area? Trader Joes. Trader Joes is smaller than Whole Foods but if you look hard enough, you can find many of the same things for less.
If eclectic, vegetarian or organic foods aren’t your thing, stick with Safeway in the D.C. area for the cheapest groceries (at least that I’ve found). Living in Northern Virginia, you can find two really nice Safeway stores in Arlington: one on Lee Highway and one off of Old Dominion.
A cup of coffee is pretty cheap no matter where you go…couple that with some free WiFi and you and your laptop have a date. Any wireless enabled laptop should be able to pick up the free WiFi offered in many DC area coffee joints.
Here, I’ll name a few tried and true and a couple to avoid if you want free WiFi.
Java Shack, Arlington, Va.
Murky Coffee, Arlington, Va. & Capitol Hill, D.C.
Tryst, Adam’s Morgan, D.C. (great food too!)
Panera Bread, Arlington, Va., Falls Church, Va., Bailey’s Crossroads, Va. & Chevy Chase, Md.
Soho Tea and Coffee, Dupont Circle, D.C. – Read the Georgetown Independent editorial on Soho
Starbucks, many locations (you pay $5/hr through T-Mobile for WiFi)
Cosi, many locations (charge for WiFi, but do offer good, cheap sandwiches)