How to Spend a Day in Ivy City

Known as the unofficial distillery capital, Ivy City is quickly becoming more than collective of spirit makers, adding restaurants, bars, and studios to the rapidly growing neighborhood.

Ari's Diner

Nestled in a deceptively quiet part of the District, the tiny neighborhood of Ivy City has emerged as the unofficial capital of local distilleries, not to mention a handful of restaurant concepts, bars, and fitness studios.

The redevelopment of the formerly derelict Hecht Warehouse into luxury apartments with mixed-use retail and dining options serves as a centerpiece, with bars and distilleries dotted among the surrounding blocks, not to mention national chains such as Petco, a Nike Factory store, and makeup and skincare mainstay Ulta. However, it’s really the small businesses that add to Ivy City’s character.

Local distilleries have taken advantage of the area’s industrial history to transform abandoned warehouses into unique drinking outposts. The result is a less than glossy, edgy aesthetic that makes it feel like you’ve stumbled on a maybe not-so-well-kept secret enclave of spirit denizens. Although it’s difficult to find anyone who enjoys a good drink who hasn’t heard of the neighborhood, it’s still out-of-the-way and up-and-coming enough to avoid being overrun with crowds (for now).

Ivy City is perfectly situated for an afternoon of bar and distillery hopping while popping into one of a handful of eateries to fuel up so you can continue your tour of locally made spirits and brews. Restaurateur Ari Gejdenson has (literally) carved out a corner for three concepts – retro Ari’s Diner, Mexican La Puerta Verde, and sports bar Dock FC – all sharing the same kitchen. Add the gigantic Ivy City Smokehouse and Turkish-pizza joint pidzza, and you’ve got a great selection of food options.

One of the best aspects of Ivy City is that it’s eminently walkable, making it the perfect neighborhood to spend an entire day or afternoon distillery-hopping and sampling tacos, checking out bike accessories, catching a soccer game, cracking open some Maryland blue crabs, hanging on a rooftop, or all of the above. Maybe you want to squeeze in a workout before setting out on the day’s food and drink tour – this neighborhood has a handful of options. It’s unpretentious, uncrowded, and unmissable.

Ari’s Diner
2003 Fenwick St. NE,
With large booths, throwback 50s teal and white color scheme, and honeycombed tile floors, Ari’s all-day-breakfast and classic diner offerings are sure to satisfy your malted shake cravings with a healthy dose of retro nostalgia. Be sure to try the DC omelet, filled with chunks of half-smoke, cheddar cheese, and a side of DC’s legendary mumbo sauce.

La Puerta Verde
2001 Fenwick St. NE,
La Puerta Verde is fast gaining a reputation for stellar traditional Mexican dishes, with a lively, colorful atmosphere to boot. Between the ceviche, elote, and selection of tacos, just to highlight a few items, it’s hard to decide, so we suggest either ordering it all and washing it down with some sangria or a smoky paloma, or else returning often. Pro tip: at happy hour, tacos are $2 and a glass of sangria is a steal at $5.

Ivy City Smokehouse
1512 Okie St. NE,
Have a yen for crab, shrimp, or oysters? Head to Ivy City Smokehouse, where the seafood-centric menu will not disappoint. Fish is smoked in-house, and don’t miss the honey-hot-smoked salmon. The space is huge, complete with a well-appointed and comfy rooftop with copious seating, regularly featuring live music. Head to the market next door to purchase fresh seafood to bring home.

2000 Hecht Ave. NE,
A new spin on pizza, pidzza marries the traditional iteration and elevates it with Mediterranean flavors for a flavorful gourmet pie. With toppings like curried cauliflower and spinach artichoke cream, you can’t really go wrong in this fast-casual spot.

Mom’s Organic Market and Naked Lunch
1501 New York Ave. NE,
This well-known grocery chain is known for its range of organic fresh produce, raw food, and healthy food options. What’s special about this store is the healthy vegan and vegetarian cafe Naked Lunch, nestled by the grocery aisles. Stop by and pick up a delicious kombucha drink and black bean burger while doing your shopping for the week.

Jos. A. Magnus & Co. Distiller
2052 West Virginia Ave. NE,
Well-established DC gin maven Nicole Hassoun (formerly of the Gin Joint in Woodley Park) teamed up with partners from Woodford Reserve and Buffalo Trace to create this distillery based on its namesake, a real distiller who was forced to shut down during Prohibition. Jos. A. Magnus is unique in its inclusion of a cozy cocktail bar on the premises that feels like a stand-alone spot and not an adjunct tasting room: the Murray Hill Club. With wide, low, deep brown leather couches and a bar centered around a large vintage mirror, it’s unfussy. The main focus is the booze, just as it should be. Take a free tour or rent the Magnus Room for your next event.

Atlas Brew Works
2052 West Virginia Ave. NE,
Residents who spend any amount of time in DC bars will be familiar with the spoils of this craft beer brewery outfit. It’s definitely worth checking out where the magic is made. Stop by on Saturdays for a free tour and to fill up your growler with any one of the numerous styles of brews that Atlas makes. Stay and hang at the large tasting room, and take your beer outside and catch up with fellow imbibers at one of the picnic tables. Hungry? Atlas Brew Works often draws a food truck or two.

Dock FC
1400 Okie St. NE,
If you want to catch a soccer game, there’s no better option than Dock FC. This sports bar may win the award for most efficient use of wall space for sporting events. A series of projectors display games in addition to the plethora of televisions, including a gigantic one on the back wall. Add lots of seating (grab the couches at the back if you can) and snacks from Ari’s Diner and La Puerta Verde, and you’ve found the perfect game-watching spot.

Big Chief
2002 Fenwick St. NE,
It’s Saturday night and you want a chill place to grab a drink and hang out on a rooftop. Maybe play some ping-pong. And wouldn’t it be nice to have some live music as well? Enter Big Chief, a New Orleans-style bar perfect to catch up with friends over games and music. Polish your Connect Four skills while listening to a brass band play covers of Cee Lo Green.

Republic Restoratives Distillery
1369 New York Ave. NE,
This first woman-owned distillery is full of charm. The open-air tasting room offers views into the distillery, and curated cocktails beautifully showcase the outputs: Civic Vodka, Borough Bourbon, and Rodham Rye. Dishes of candied ginger, herbs, citrus, and various barware adorn the small bar overlooking a large, dark wood vintage card catalog atop a faded rug. It’s a great starting spot to meet for a drink to kick off your tour of Ivy City. And while you’re there, $12 will get you a 30-minute tour of the distillery, a tasting flight, and a custom glass.

One Eight Distilling
1135 Okie St. NE,
One of the larger distilleries in the area, aptly named for Article One, Section Eight, of the US Constitution, establishing a district as the nation’s capital, is housed in an expansive brick building. On Saturdays, take a free tour of the 15,000 square-foot space and gawk at the impressive line of copper stills, stopping in the tasting room for cocktails made with Rock Creek whiskey or Ivy City gin. Or sample both. We won’t judge.

New Columbia Distillers
1832 Fenwick St. NE,
The first craft distillers in the District, New Columbia, makers of Green Hat Gin, pays homage to George Cassiday, a bootlegger who supplied congressmen with booze in the 1920s and was known for his signature green felt hat. In addition to the classic Green Hat gin, it offers several limited-edition versions made with botanicals and citrus. Swing by for free tours and tastings on Saturday afternoons.

Sip & Dry Bar
2004 Hecht Ave. NE,
Ok, so a salon may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you want a cocktail. But if you need an amazing blowout, why not go to a blow-dry bar that has an actual bar and full-time bartender (no complimentary flat glass of champagne at this place, like some others. They go full throttle here.) to whip up tasty drinks while you’re getting coiffed? It’s a no-brainer.

1512 Okie St. NE,
In the market for a stylish way to cruise around the city (maybe to get you to all the distilleries quicker)? Offering not only the best urban brands in cycling, this bike shop (multiple locations in the city) also offers classes and community rides.

CrossFit Hierarchy
1516 Okie St. NE,
CrossFit isn’t just a workout, it’s a way of life. Jump on one of the city’s most popular fitness movements at CrossFit Hierarchy and get whipped into shape by some of the best in the business.

Bikram Yoga
1510 Okie St. NE,
With a 1700 square-foot hot room, there’s plenty of space to accommodate all of your hot yoga, Pilates, and barre needs. Bikram Yoga offers a range of classes in a stylish, airy studio.

Planet Fitness
1406 Okie St. NE,
This self-described “no judgment” chain of gyms brings its accessible approach to fitness to Ivy City. Open 24/7, there’s no excuse not to squeeze in a workout. And with all the delicious food temptations around, you’ll be thankful for this location of the national brand.