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by Catherine Cooke

Hard to believe, but life in DC really does go on even after the light on the Capitol dome goes out. With which party will you cast your nightlife vote: politicos on the Hill, college students in Georgetown, the boys in DuPont Circle, ex-pats downtown, ultra-urban kids on U Street? Or you can wander around Adams Morgan, where you'll find a mix of all, and they're all pretty much looking to get lucky. There are too many bars, clubs, and restaurants on this little strip of 18th Street to count, but here are a couple of my favorites to get you started on your crawl:

DC expats may remember the days when Madam's Organ (2461 18th Street NW / 202.667.5370) was on corner of U street and had neighbors who complained about the noise nightly. The new Madam's has the same noisy crowd and much nicer neighbors like Tryst Coffeehouse and Bar (2459 18th Street NW / 202.232.5500), a tragically hip coffee bar where hot little bike couriers come in during the day to use the phone and the next great American novel is most likely being written. Live music keeps the joint loud. Madam's is sometimes billed as a blues bar, and on Thursday nights, you can find DJ Stella Neptune spinning funky discs on the downstairs dance floor. Climb up a level to the mezzanine for dinner, upstairs to Big Daddy's Love Lounge & Pick-Up Joint to play a game of pool or eye hockey with some eye candy, to the third level for more pool and the favorite-in-the-winter fireplace, and up again to the roof deck. Depending on when you arrive, there could be a cover charge of up to $5.00.

Just down the street is Toledo Lounge (2435 18th Street, NW / 202.986.5416), the quintessential, All-American, unpretentious bar. Toledo Lounge is owned by two way cool sisters-doing-it-for-themselves who chucked the political scene about five years ago to extend their living room to the patrons of Adams Morgan. Smaller, brighter, and quieter than Madam's, there's just something about this place that makes people friendly. (Could it be the beer?) It's ideal for sitting at the bar alone or trying out your best pickup line; frankly, I've never walked away from Toledo Lounge empty handed (i.e. sans business card). Even more amazing than my getting lucky is the fact that, despite the crowd, I have never, ever waited in line to use the ladies room. Yeah, you heard me right. Toledo Lounge has a pretty good menu of sandwiches and burgers, and, if you're feeling particularly thirsty, you can try to beat the Howard family's bar tab of $959 in honor of Kevin's 30th birthday. The sisters will put your name on the wall if you do.

Around the corner from Madam's is Perry's (1811 Columbia Road NW / 202.234.6218), a hip sushi restaurant with a great rooftop dining room and small bar. This may not be the place to scout the opposite sex, but it's fun and makes for a great first date. I also recently attended a bachelorette party dinner at Perry's (along with the check, our very cute waiter brought the bride-to-be his underwear in a take-out box, artfully folded and displayed on a bed of lettuce -- one down, many to go on her scavenger hunt list, each item being worth $5 at Victoria's Secret). What service! (And if you're ever in DC with your folks,, take them to Perry's weekly Sunday drag brunch and let me know if they enjoy it as much as my Dad did.)

When your bartender pulls the old "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here" routine, opt out of the late-night pizza slice and head down to the 18th and U Duplex Diner (2004 18th Street NW / 202.265.7828) which stays open until 4 AM on weekends. It's not quite a diner in the way you're thinking -- you'll find their regulars sipping cocktails at the bar rather than ordering meatloaf -- but they do have darn good macaroni and cheese. One last word of advice: many of the bars in Adams Morgan have free postcards displayed near the bathrooms. Pick up the purple one with yellow letters that says ,"You're sooooo sexy..." My girlfriends and I had quite a good success rate the night we decided to flash those at onlookers. In a red-white-and-blue city of black-and-white business cards, a bold violet hello can really help your campaign.

Catherine Cooke has found love as a lemonade stand proprietor, student, t-shirt folder, waitress, toy store shelf stocker, actress, writer, parking lot attendant, video store clerk, 5th grade teacher, opera singer, receptionist, English teacher, office temp, management consultant, technology consultant, project manager, web page designer, and entrepreneur. She lives in Arlington, Virginia.

BTD/DC bonus! Click here for a remarkably thoughtful and prescient account of The Penultimate DC Date.

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