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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Wine bar

Mon–Thu 5:00pm–11:00pm
Fri–Sat 5:00pm–midnight
Sun 5:00pm–10:30pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines, outdoor dining, veg-friendly, Wi-Fi
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Not accepted


Cleveland Park
3309 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 244-6750
A sparkling neighborhood spot for uncomplicated small plates, fresh cocktails, and okay wine

The Uptown movie theater almost demands a smart but easy, casual but stylish, spot for a snack and a cocktail in Cleveland Park before the film starts. Bardeo, the sibling of the more elaborate, expensive Ardeo (with which it shares a space), strikes the right balance. This low-key bar has deep red walls and substantial burgundy booths, offset by natural wood seats at the cool gray countertop. The lighting is dim in a hip, loungey kind of way, but just bright enough to allow you to read the menu. The noise level is chatty, yet subdued enough to allow a conversation.

The menu gives a sensible spin on the familiar drinks-and-small-plates format, rarely straying too far in the direction of froof. Seasonal cocktails, like a tangy mango-chipotle-and-tequila summer cooler, incorporate fresh ingredients without being gimmicky. But this self-proclaimed wine bar also offers a short, relatively uninteresting selection of glasses, half-glasses, and “flights.” The friendly, knowledgeable bartenders are generally happy to suggest something new that won’t break the bank. As is so often the case, bottles, several in the $30 range, are usually a better deal than drinking by the glass.

The dinner plates are equally thoughtful: an order of the house polenta and potato fries is a fun complement to a glass of wine in an irreverent way. Seared tuna isn’t revolutionary, but it’s executed ably, and priced at around $11; it’s just right for a light meal. Pillow-soft gnocchi are a marvel in a salty, peppery salad with a lemony vinaigrette.

On one visit, the perky bartender seemed almost comically assiduous, lavishing us with thanks—but we found we didn’t mind. This little wine bar is eager to please, yes, but not offensively so—quite the opposite, with its careful food and wine choices, flattering lighting, and intimate setting. The funny thing is that what it’s trying to be—a “wine bar & café”—is, for us, only secondary to what it really is: one of Cleveland Park’s more reliable dinner tables. You might come for a pre-movie snack, and find yourself drawn to stay for a cheese plate and another glass of wine. And then another. Who needs a movie, anyway?

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