The Japanese-inspired brother restaurants offer good food, great drinks and karaoke to keep you vibing all night long.
Picture this. You meet friends for steaming-hot fried crab rangoon wontons and a cucumber-laced happy hour cocktail with lemon, ginger beer and Pimm’s on one of Shaw’s most bustling patios. The sun starts to set, and it feels like the right time to introduce some fire. You order a cocktail called The Cure, which arrives in flames, literally — the rosemary garnish is torched, bringing out its earthy notes.
As the night goes on, you break off from the pack for an al fresco date night in the shadows of a campy Godzilla mural. You decide to split a table full of sushi and yakitori while sampling one of the best sake selections in the District.
Now, a few drinks in, you’re tempted by the sweet sounds of karaoke drifting from upstairs. You wander up and, without hesitation, belt out a vintage Billy Joel tune. With your star power now known across the bar and your date still going strong, you make a quick exit, stopping once more at Chaplin’s for an order of late-night dumplings before, finally, calling it a night.
This is the evening evolution that brothers Ari and Micah Wilder had in mind when they created their Shaw enclave of Zeppelin and Chaplin’s, two bars and restaurants just a two-minute walk from one another. Both establishments have similar visions, and their food and drink menus share a common thread. They embrace flavors beloved in Japan, like yuzu and kabosu, and pair those with cultural moments like the Godzilla mural — painted by Patrick Owens — and everyone’s favorite way to round out a night (and test their own bravery): karaoke.
“Having such a large Japanese influence in D.C. helps us access unique Japanese sake, liquor and fruits to use throughout the beverage program,” Ari Wilder says. He always keeps his favorite Japanese spirit, Komasa Gin, stocked in both bars.
A classic Japanese highball machine is a centerpiece at Zeppelin and is a reference to Japan’s iconic highball cocktails, which traditionally mix sparkling water and whiskey. Zeppelin’s takes include the purist Toki Baller with Toki Whisky and the Getaway, which includes Roku Gin, apricot liqueur, passion fruit and tamarind vinegar. At Chaplin’s, a favorite since the bar opened in 2014 is the Tokyo Tea, which mixes vodka, gin, rum, cointreau, coconut, pineapple, matcha and cream soda in what some might call a Japanese take on a Long Island Iced Tea (but, we promise, this one tastes delicious).
While Zeppelin and its patio have a sultry feel, driven by its two-top tables designed for an intimate evening, Chaplin’s offers a space for groups looking for a buzzy scene. The two stand alone, but when added to the same night-out itinerary, you get the best of lively atmosphere, spicy vibes and carefree karaoke.
And, if you’re looking for the ultimate food and drink to get a taste of the menu as you hop from one spot to the next, Wilder says, “Order the Heartbreak at Zeppelin paired with a Zeppelin Roll and O’o Toro nigiri. Then, at Chaplin’s, go for the two in one, with the Pay Day Dumplings, which are injected with whiskey, lime, maple, ginger, sriracha, soy sauce.”
A two-for-one dish on a two-for-one night out? We’ll see you under the Godzilla.
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