Everybody knows that the Clarendon area is the "see and be seen" part of the region for the State Schooler crowd. If you're from an upper middle class family and have maintained that status out of college, Clarendon is your place to be. Just look at me - I'm the quintessential Clarendon person to the point of being the mascot for the entire movement/community. We're the funnest vanilla you've ever had! But... it's not as easy at it looks sometimes.
If there's one key thing to being cool in Clarendon, it's being outside so you can be seen. One of the best places to sit outside and be seen is Northside Social on Wilson Blvd. at the very top of Clarendon. It's a coffee house, a wine bar, a sandwich shop, a pastry place and venue for really shitty performers who play the acoustic guitar. The place also features a large outdoor seating area that is very popular with the locals.
I personally love the combination of uppers, downers and food Northside Social offers. I can't tell you how many times I've been at a coffee house and thought to myself - "I would love to drink insanely marked up bottles of wine here some afternoon or evening." Apparently, I wasn't the only one who ever had that thought because Northside Social made it happen.
Think about that setup for a second from a single person's point of view (this means you should think about it from a single guy's point of view because I'm incapable of expressing a woman's view on anything because I'm merely a high functioning Neanderthal). If you want to have a casual date with someone over afternoon coffee, Northside Social offers you the ability to escalate that coffee date to a wine date without a change of venue. It's brilliant and leads to a lot of women having sex in a relationship way before they're ready. A women's progression of familiarity goes something like:
there's no pressure at a coffee house - it's not a club - this guy isn't just trying to bang me, he's sharing a glass of wine with me at this quaint little cafe - we could be in France if I just closed my eyes for a second - he's talking about France - we may go to France - where are my pants?
It's that simple.
In all seriousness, the outdoor patio is usually packed all day and night. You have your typical squatters with their MacBooks trying to give off that "I'm writing the next great novel" or "running my investment empire from a coffee shop in flip flops" vibe. There's also the two single girls locked into a very serious conversation about life and their inability to find that perfect man and how buying a dog seemed great at first, but it's not getting them introductions to cute boys. You also have the typical asshole reading "The Economist" or other snooty magazine or periodical hoping to convince people that he's just a world traveled elite New Yorker type stranded against his will in Northern Virginia because the money is that good. It's the usual suspects and I didn't cover all of them, but you know who I'm talking about - assholes at coffee shops.
Personally I've never patronized the place. It's a little too trendy for my taste. I'm a Boulevard Woodgrill type guy who sits outside with everyone else whose parents are in town to visit (some of you are going to get that and not stop laughing until you pee). I do, however, forget to cross the street sometimes and run right by the place on my way to the gym. And that sentence should raise a at least one question from you - why the f*ck are you so fat if you run to the gym all the time? The answer is - I don't know. I'm kidding. You should be asking why I have to remember to cross the street. That's a good question - I'm glad you asked.
The major problem with Northside Social is that it has no real alley way where they can hide their large trash bins. They're forced, for access reasons, to have them on the side of the building on Wilson Blvd. This means they live approximately ten feet from the front door and roughly 20 feet from their patio. They smell exactly how you'd expect four to five huge bins of restaurant food waste to smell - like shit.
Having run by the place for a while, I can tell you that the stench is carried by a constant prevailing breeze down Wilson all the way to Liberty Tavern. It is putrid. It will ruin a morning jog. It would ruin a skunk's day. I have witnessed a jogger hurl in front of the tire/body shop next door after running by them. It's the most disgusting thing on earth that isn't located in a bar bathroom or Chaz Bono's crotch.
I stole a photo from the uber-awesome Clarendon Nights Blog without their permission and posted it below. I have an arrow showing where the offending trash bins reside.
See all the people there in the picture pretending life is just grand and that they are just so Clarendon cool? Well, they're putting on a pretty good face considering it smells like rotting cabbage there all the time. If you can stand the smell for a bit and watch the patio, you'll see newbies wrinkle their noses and ask their friends "what the f*ck is that smell?" The regulars will tell them "it's nothing, stop reacting because you're killing our game. Just act like this is the coolest place on earth and it just got a little cooler because you're drinking over-priced shitty wine here."
If you happen to make it over to the bins it's one big greasy nasty pit of disgustingness (is that even a word?). The asphalt and concrete are stained with primordial rotting food sludge that even power-washers can't remove. It's the darkest pit of restaurant hell that no eatery ever wants you to see or smell. Well, except Northside Social, they don't mind so much given their clientele is obsessed with sitting outside and looking cool even if it means breathing in that kind of putrid nastiness.
I'm all for trying to convince the world that you're "cafe cool" with your little latte and laptop or sipping some wine with a close friend while you in engage in some faux serious dialogue hoping people will notice how dramatically awesome you both are. However, I don't know how people do it with that stench. At first I thought it had to be a joke being played on the comically pretentious people of Clarendon, but it's gone on for a long time now so I'm guessing it's the real deal.
It's so weird, it's beyond explanation why people go there and endure that. I guess my ego is not nearly large enough to overcome that smell.