Surprise! The public transportation system in DC can be a major headache. And dealing with driving and parking in the city is rarely more convenient. This can make it difficult to plan a trip to that new restaurant or an evening bar hopping in a new neighborhood. But too few people, especially new residents, recognize the value of the city bus routes.
Even when adjusting for traffic, hopping on a bus is usually much more reliable than, say, dealing with the frustrations of a single-tracking metro system or waiting seemingly forever for a train. Better yet, taking the bus is cheaper, which leaves you more money to spend at whatever bar or restaurant is on the other end. I won’t bore you with all the options, but here are a few of the best to consider:
The 30S and the 30N
These cross-town bus routes and their variations start in Friendship Heights and combine to go all the way through Southeast DC. It’s a great way to get around to Wisconsin Avenue neighborhoods that don’t have metro stops. Consider catching a ride up to 2Amys Neapolitan pizza or the Cali-Mex Surfside in Glover park, or browse the options in and around Georgetown.
You can also pass through Farragut Square, Metro Center and Capitol Hill. Or, hop off at Eastern Market or head to Barrack’s Row (8th St. SE), home of the incredibly popular Rose’s Luxury and the Mediterranean small plates at Cava Mezze.
This bus route passes through a number of great stretches of bars and restaurants, way too many to list here. Start your journey in Adams Morgan, around 18th and Columbia St. NW. Hit up Smoke and Barrel for its barbecue and beer, or sip coffee or a cocktail at Tryst.
The 96 then cruises on to U St., passing through U St. and the vibrant Shaw neighborhood. Options include icons like Ben’s Chili Bowl or Dukem Ethiopian restaurant. There are also newer spots like The Royal or Right Proper Brewing. If you’re looking for a bar, there are plenty of options, but don’t miss the just-opened Wicked Bloom Social Club (from the owners of DCity Smokehouse) on the corner of Florida Ave and North Capital St.
The 96 will take you all the way to Union Station and beyond to RFK stadium, though the quality food and drink options are harder to come by.
The 52, 53 and 54
These three routes service the bustling stretch of 14th street from McPherson Square to north of Columbia Heights, which can be tricky to navigate by metro. The Logan Circle neighborhood in particular is rich with everything a restaurant lover could want, from excellent beers at Churchkey, to a pull-out-the-stops French meal at Le Diplomate, oysters at Pearl Dive and cocktails at 2 Birds 1 Stone.
Farther north, Colombia Heights is home to the fantastic Lao restaurant Thip Khao. There is also the brand-new Chick fil A. You can also walk a few blocks to 11th Street to take advantage of a few notable spots like the the Mexican restaurant El Chucho and the cozy Italian-inspired Maple.
Beginning in Farragut Square, the 38B swings through Georgetown before crossing the Key Bridge on its way to the Ballston metro station. Anyone who loves burgers and milkshakes should check out chef Spike Mendelsohn’s Georgetown outpost of Good Stuff Eatery. Speaking of beef, Ray’s the Steaks has a sterling reputation in the Courthouse neighborhood of Arlington has a sterling reputation for its quality meats and steakhouse dishes at an excellent value.
Fans of southern food can hit up Bayou Bakery, which evokes New Orleans with its made to order beignets and weekly menu specials such as red beans and rice and barbecued shrimp. One of the brightest stars in the area is Kapnos Taverna, a project from chef Mike Isabella serving up what it calls island-inspired Greek food.