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When the weather’s cool and there’s a nice breeze, I’m much more motivated to walk home on the last portion of my mass-transit commute. My route takes me up 18th Street NW and through Dupont Circle, where I’m tempted to grab an outdoor table at Mandu. I love that the patio faces west, and the short buildings across the street allow for lots of afternoon sun.
If the weather’s bad, Mandu is still worth a seat at the bar. The iPod system boasts a solid soundtrack, which leans heavily on indie rock. I’m frequently inspired to follow my visit with a stop at the Red Onion Records & Books just up the street. I mean, if Korean restaurants are rare in the city, independent record shops are almost extinct.
From 4 to 7 p.m. daily, an order of pork, shrimp or vegetable dumplings will set you back $3, as will any one of the small handful of Asian beers here, which begins to compete favorably with the prices down in Annandale, the ‘burb otherwise known as Koreatown. The porcine dumplings are my favorite by far, but they’re all serviceable, considering a double order and three beers will cost me a single $20 bill, with enough leftover for a generous tip.
If I’m in the mood for something more substantial than the namesake dish (Mandu is Korean for “dumplings”), I’ll order the dolsot bibimbap. The rice, meat, and veg combination comes to life when mixed with a runny egg yolk in a hot stone bowl.
Despite cheap beer and good music, the space doesn’t lend itself to a lot of cross-pollination. Most times I visit, Mandu seems to cater to small groups and couples that keep to themselves. So if you’re feeling chatty you might want to bring your own friends. Personally, I’m just as happy alone with my thoughts, listening to tunes at the bar, and wondering how many vinyl nerds surround me.