While I love to get out of town and see new sights, I also live in an area with lots to offer! In the Discover DC series, I share some of the local gems where we “play tourist” and the places that have become favorites.
Living, actually living, in DC can be a strange paradox. For example, as the Capital City of the United States we are a true melting pot. People of all different backgrounds, cultures and origins converge here. (I’m 100% convinced this “melting pot” of people why so-called “DC” drivers are the worst, because everyone’s following their own road rules.)
In other ways, DC has (some of) its own sense of a regional culture. And if there is one thing I know about this local culture, it is that people in DC – whether you landed and stayed, like me, or you’re just passing through – love a good bar with a historic slant. Bonus points if you source locally.
Maybe it is that without a defined and stable sense of self DC’ers adopt our national history as our own lived experience. Maybe it is important to embrace the idea of history and tradition amidst all the constant change here in DC.
Either way, places like Lincoln, The Hamilton, and recently Teddy and the Bully Bar have hit on this key formula to satisfy the District. Even the Founding Farmers franchise taps into that nostalgia for our nation’s great history.
And, as a proud DC resident hailing from PA, I’m excited to say there is a newcomer to this “historic restaurant” niche in my foodie city. Enter, Second State Restaurant. This place is hitting all the marks.
Great location? Check. Just south of Dupont Circle near the business district. This lower-level entrance is near the corner of 19th and M Streets NW.
Farm to table? Check. Menu items, including what’s being poured behind the bar, are sourced locally in the DC area with an emphasis on Pennsylvania. DC’ers and hipsters alike enjoy a locally-sourced plate.
I have to admit, as a Pennsylvania native I didn’t know much about our state’s signature drinks but the head bartender – ahem, mixologist – brings experience straight from center city Philadelphia hot spots. It was easy to tell he really cares about his craft. The wine list is good, but the cocktails are really what you’re coming to Second State to enjoy.
[Please forgive the photo quality – between the dim lighting, and trying to be subtle, I did my best!]
Atmosphere? Check. The decor is hitting all of those industrial-cozy notes that are so popular of late, with an ever-so-slight folksy Pennsylvania influence. For me, this is definitely a cozy date spot (Note: not a first date, where you want a little distracting activity going on in case the date’s a bust. This place is too subdued for that.). It might work for a double date, but I can’t see where they’d put a much larger party in the narrow space. As for happy hour, if you’re looking to escape the usual over-crowded shouting matches but still get something far from generic, then this is my new go-to. In fact, I’ve already gone back.
As far as the food, I didn’t try the entrees but I can vouch for the happy hour fare on both occasions. The oyster happy hour (here’s the DC influence, since oysters aren’t really a thing in Pennsylvania) seems to be on extended hours during these first few weeks. A fried version is available if you’re not up for raw.
My favorite menu item though? Pierogies. Yup. These are the real deal, not the faint imitations from the freezer section. The first time I went with a friend and fellow PA-native, and she quite agreed. The next time, my Texan friend was quick to embrace this new food group.
What’s that? You have no idea what I’m talking about?
Here’s all you need to know: A pierogi is basically a ravioli, but filled with mashed potatoes. These are pan-fried and served with fried onions and bacon. The Second State version is a little bigger than traditional, so three-to-an-appetizer is really sufficient. You just don’t find pierogis on many menus, but man, you should. These things could be the next tater tots.
But I’ve gone on too long. The point is: the food is good, the menu is creative, and the cocktails are some of my favorite in DC. As I said, I’ve already found a reason to go back. It’s not enough to make me homesick for Pennsylvania, but Second State is definitely at home here in the DC restaurant scene.
Amye says: J’adore. Go for the cocktails and pierogies. Linger because its just so cozy.
Cheers! Let me know what you think if you stop in!
Disclosure: I was invited to my first happy hour at Second State. But I went back because I liked it, and opinions (as always) are 100% moi and 100% honest! Thank you for supporting the companies that partner with Mon Amye.
PS Did you see? The Mon Amye go-to-guide for DC brunching, the Bitches Who Brunch, are hosting a Brunch at Second State on Sunday, November 23rd. Get the details here, and sign up here. Bottoms up! Maybe I’ll see you there?!