For local foodies, José Andrés’s Minibar is the Moby Dick of DC dining reservations: available to those truly dedicated diners who pursue it for months. For the rest of us, there’s Barmini, the adjacent “cocktail lab” that lets you try Andrés’s creations without half a year’s lead time. Reservations aren’t required—on a recent Wednesday night visit we were seated immediately—but on weekend nights they're a good precaution. Press a button outside, which causes a light to flash over the door inside, and a hostess leads you into a space where the drinks are as surreal as the decor. The novel-thick, silver-covered drink menus are divided by spirits; options include classic cocktails as well as Wonka-esque creations served with beakers of vapor or puffs of cotton candy. The food comes in small but powerfully flavored portions; think crispy, melty, truffle-laced grilled cheese and a mini lobster roll covered in buttery foam. As you might imagine, a night here isn’t cheap—but for cocktail lovers and seekers of imaginative dining experiences, this is a must-visit.
855 E St NW
|Cross street:||at 9th St NW|
|Opening hours:||Tue–Thu 6pm–1am; Fri–Sat 6pm–2am|
|Transport:||Metro Center Metro|
|Price:||Cocktails: $14–$20; bar snacks: $5–$16|