If you live in D.C., you’ve likely wandered by it dozens of times. It’s the regal stone and brick building perched on the hill overlooking the intersection of Connecticut and Florida Avenues. The red neon sign simply says:
From the outside, it’s hard to discern what it’s called or differentiate it from the myriad other Dupont eating and drinking establishments that line Connecticut Ave. Inside, it’s Russia House, and there’s no mistaking that.
The walls of the restaurant and lounge part of the building (the one we care about here) sport beveled-frame mirrors, elegant candle holders, and lots of red. Imagine an atmosphere coming just this side of a parody of a Ruskie dining room, and there you have it. If you head down the spiral staircase, you can catch another fun decor note–the teal-and-brass motif bathroom.
I wouldn’t linger too long down there among the tablecloths, though. Back upstairs, the bare, pub-like tables emblazoned with “Russia House” in English and Russian await. And up here you’ve got the same menu full of beety dishes and peirogis. The thing you really want to check out, though, is the vodka selection. I have to admit it was the promise of garlic vodka that brought me there in the first place.
There’s good funny-flavored vodka and very bad funny-flavored vodka. If you do venture into this quirky establishment, go with something on the tame side, like the ginseng or horseradish Garant. Try one or two martinis with exotic flavors of your choice, or one martini followed by a hefty 22-ounce beer, or just a martini, or just wine. But take my word for it: you do not want to try the pepper-garlic vodka, no matter what you chase it with. That is, unless you enjoy the idea of sipping an ice cold twelve-dollar glass of ramen soup broth.
With that in mind, I hope you will stop by. Do it to work up an appetite for nearby Nora’s, or to cool down after a visit to the Royal Palace Nightclub… or after you’ve had a nice bowl of packaged noodle soup–steaming hot and under a dollar, the way it should be.