Metro Weekly

Hot Picks: Special New Year’s Eve 2021 Edition

Spend New Year's at the Kennedy Center, soak up a concert, or have a "Baller" NYE in this week's special hot picks!

Beautiful: The Drifters -- Photo: Joan Marcus
Beautiful: The Drifters – Photo: Joan Marcus


For the second year in a row, there will be no Grand Foyer Party at the Kennedy Center — no festive, final bow to the year that was in the performing arts complex, much less a toast and a dance to usher in the new. Guests will simply make their way home or elsewhere to ring in 2022 after catching a performance in the arts complex that evening.

Yet the fact that the Kennedy Center will be open this New Year’s, with the main theaters all booked, is a marked improvement over 2020. Both the Opera House and the Eisenhower Theater will be humming with the feel-good nostalgia of two acclaimed jukebox musicals, The Temptations-focused Ain’t Too Proud and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, respectively.

Over in the Concert Hall is a return engagement from John Oliver, the Emmy-winning host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight. Oliver is in the midst of a week-long run of shows, some of which have already sold out, though tickets still remain for both the 7 and 9:30 p.m. shows on Friday, Dec. 31.

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The last night of 2021 also sees the return of the woman widely regarded as the preeminent jazz vocalist of our time, a mere three months after Dianne Reeves last graced the Kennedy Center, performing as one among many in the star-studded 50th Anniversary Gala concert — and walking away as the evening’s standout, after giving a transformative riff on a Duke Ellington classic in a spirited exchange with jazz bassist Christian McBride.

Reeves returns to mix it up with two other jazz masters: legendary Afro-Cuban pianist and composer Chucho Valdés and saxophone titan Joe Lovano. Only a handful of tickets remain for the performances at 7 and 9 p.m. in the Terrace Theater. Call 202-467-4600 or visit

Rainbow Kitten Surprise
Rainbow Kitten Surprise


The name was created as something of a lark and as a placeholder until the five-piece alternative rock band from North Carolina could come up with something better. But of course they couldn’t top Rainbow Kitten Surprise. Over time, the name has grown to take on new resonance and become ever more fitting — especially once lead singer Sam Melo came out as gay.

Tickets are sparse for their New Year’s Eve debut at the Anthem (202-888-0020, Down the street, the indie-dance/punk band known as !!! (Chk Chk Chk) will close out the year at Union Stage (877-987-6487,, with doors at 8 p.m., and tickets $35 to $50.

The Beanstalk Library — “a rock band you can sing along to from our nation’s capital” — headline the NYE festivities at the nearby Pearl Street Warehouse (202-380-9620,, starting at 9 p.m., with tickets costing $15, which includes New Years Punch, noisemakers, and complimentary midnight toast, with the bonus: “complimentary cornbread and blackeyed peas.”

For more than 20 years, the Black Cat (202-667-4490, has thrown a New Year’s Eve Ball where a special Red Room Punch is served and Peaches O’Dell and Her Orchestra are a near-constant presence on stage performing a mix of swinging dance styles. Doors at 8 p.m., tickets are $35.

For its New Year’s Eve 2021 offering, the The Hamilton Live (202-787-1000, brings back to town the exuberant, Louis Armstrong-styled vocalist and trumpet player Kermit Ruffins, the Big Easy ambassador who’ll lead his band The Barbecue Swingers in a concert sure to bring to life his signature phrase: “We partyin’!” Only standing tickets remain for $45. Doors at 7:30 p.m.

For years running now, the progressive bluegrass band The Seldom Scene has returned to its hometown area to give a festive, year-end show at Alexandria’s preeminent music hall and tavern. Remarkably, they were able to follow through on that tradition even last year in the throes of the pandemic — when The Birchmere was just about the only venue presenting live shows, albeit in dramatically scaled back ways. This year, the quintet once again does the honors of strumming the new year into existence at The Birchmere (703-549-7500, visit, with a little help from the Eastman String Band and Wicked Sycamore. Show is at 8 p.m., with tickets $49.50.

Elsewhere in suburban Virginia, the holiday is celebrated in retro style — harkening back to a now-40-year-old era. And no such party is as popular or as long-lasting as the one led by D.C.’s “premier ’80s tribute band.” In fact, two of the founders of The Legwarmers started channeling the music and looks of that earlier era twenty years ago, from what is still their home base, Falls Church’s State Theatre (703-237-0300, The Legwarmers NYE Dance Party kicks off at 8 p.m. with tickets $50. The same decade gets the focus at Jammin’ Java (703-255-3747,, with an ’80s Glow Party featuring DJ D of Belt it Out Productions. Limited tickets remain at $35, including champagne toast, party favors, and “glowsticks for everyone.” Doors at 7 p.m.

In a similar vein yet going even slightly further back in time is the NYE party at Songbyrd (202-450-2917,, “Disco is a State of Mind,” a mix of underground disco, boogie, and dance jams from the past and present spun by KC from the Fatback DJs. Starting at 10 p.m., tickets are $5 to $10 and include complimentary midnight toast. Finally, moving up a decade, “D.C.’s favorite All ’90s Band” White Ford Bronco returns for another New Year’s Eve at the 9:30 Club (202-265-0930, — for a concert that is already sold out.

ilili DC's New Year's Eve Dinner -- Photo: Rey Lopez
ilili DC’s New Year’s Eve Dinner — Photo: Rey Lopez


One of the city’s newest and buzziest restaurants, ilili, which opened in October, has also shown itself to be well-suited to its surroundings as a new destination restaurant in the destination-rich Wharf development in Southwest D.C. In the centrally located, stand-alone glass cube where Mike Isabella’s ill-fated Requin originally dished out French-themed fare, one now finds a thoroughly redesigned and reimagined space evoking an enchanted courtyard garden where Lebanese-inspired cuisine and cocktails are served.

An offshoot of Lebanese-American restaurateur Philippe Massoud’s celebrated original in New York’s Flatiron District, ilili D.C. certainly beckons as a destination for New Year’s Eve, with entertainment programming inspired by the Middle East’s most famous collection of tales and including belly dancers, DJs, party favors, surprise musical elements, and a roaming mobile photo booth. You can choose from one of two packages, starting at 9 p.m. with the Dinner Package ($195 per person), a seated, five-course pre-fixe meal in the dining room featuring twists on some of the restaurant’s signature offerings overseen by Executive Chef Walter Silva — think kibbeh nayeh with black truffle, foie gras parfait, family-style lamb shank, and Ora King salmon — and including a midnight toast of Laurent-Perrier champagne. An Open Bar Package will be available on-site for dinner guests at an additional $80 per person and requiring participation from everyone in your party and at your table.

Meanwhile, a limited number of “Bar Celebration” Tickets will also be available ($50 for cash bar), allowing guests access to the bar and the post-dinner entertainment after 10 p.m., including the midnight champagne toast. Ilili is located at 100 District Sq. SW. Call 202-918-7766 or visit Click here for reservations.

RASIKA -- Photo: Greg Powers
Rasika — Photo: Greg Powers


Sixteen years after restaurateur Ashok Bajaj and chef Vikram Sunderam first teamed up to upend people’s expectations about the cuisine from the Indian subcontinent — going on to earn multiple James Beard nominations and one award, for Sunderam, in the process — they’re still regarded as preeminent purveyors of haute Indian cuisine. And both Rasikas — the original in Penn Quarter, and its decade-old sister in the West End — are fine choices when seeking fresh alternatives to the typical fare. Take, for example, the New Year’s Eve three-course, prix-fixe menu offered for in-house dining, carryout, or delivery at both locations and available from 5 to 10:15 p.m. ($90 per person, excluding tax and gratuity).

An amuse of Raj Kachori with chickpeas, potatoes, and chutney sets the pace, followed by a choice of starters including shrimp, chicken, and duck options, as well as the one truly can’t-miss Rasika classic: Palak Chaat, or crispy baby spinach in sweet yogurt, tamarind, and date chutney.

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Entrees include Dakshini Lobster Pulao with star anise, stone flower and moilee sauce, Safed Maas lamb shank with almonds, desiccated coconut, and green cardamom, Pork Chop Vindaloo with peri-peri masala and pearl onions, or Murg Lababdar, tandoori chicken breast with onions, tomato, and dry fenugreek. Kesari Shahi Tukra, Chocolate Hazelnut Bebinca, and Date Toffee Halwa will be offered as a dessert sampler to finish. The a la carte menu will be available as well.

Call 202-637-1222 for Penn Quarter, 633 D St. NW, or 202-466-2500 for West End, 1190 New Hampshire Ave. NW. Visit

Ambar -- Photo: Ardent Vibe
Ambar — Photo: Ardent Vibe


Practically any meal any time of the year can be enjoyed “without limits” at the pair of Michelin-recognized Balkan-focused ventures from Ivan Iricanin — and that’s true whether you opt for the New Year’s Eve Lunch Experience, New Year’s Eve Dinner Seating, At Home Feast, or New Year’s Day Brunch. The “Without Limits” Lunch Experience ($25 per person, plus an additional $20 per person for free-flowing mimosas) starts at 11 a.m. at the Ambar Clarendon location and at noon in D.C.’s Barracks Row.

That evening, the focus is on a special menu highlighting some of the best dishes from the Balkan Peninsula — among them Rack of Lamb, Ribeye Bolognese, Mushroom Potage, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, and Baked Beet Salad with goat cheese and walnuts — with first seating starting at 5 p.m. ($89.99 per person before tax and tip, and with a two-hour time limit), and second seating starting at 9 p.m. ($99 for bar seating, $122 in the dining room, with unlimited food until midnight). That dinner menu is also available as a grab-and-go At Home Feast, which includes a Balkan-inspired Raspberry Chocolate Cake with Frutti di Bosco, mint, and chocolate glaze. The package is portioned and priced for two ($99 per couple), and must be ordered by 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 29, with pickup available on Friday, Dec. 31, from noon to 6 p.m.

Both Ambar locations will be offering the incredibly popular “all-you-can-eat” or Unlimited Brunch Experience on New Year’s Day — starting at 9:30 a.m. and priced at $49.99 in Clarendon, and at 10 a.m. and at $44.99 in D.C. — as long as everyone at the table participates. Brunch highlights include Strawberry Waffle with Nutella and vanilla whipped cream, Smoked Pork Sausage Scramble with vegetables, Steak & Eggs with chimichurri sauce, Almond & Walnut Crusted Fried Chicken Sandwich with pickled Fresno and apple-wasabi slaw, either Prosciutto or Lobster Benedict, or Ribeye Scrambled Eggs.

Wash it all down with an endless supply of featured cocktails — from the traditional mimosa and bloody mary to Peach Lavender, Mixed Berry, and Mango Hibiscus mimosas — for an additional $8.99 per person, if everyone participates. Call 202-813-3039 for DC, 523 8th St. SE, or 703-875-9663 for Clarendon, 2901 Wilson Blvd. Visit

Kimpton Hotel Monaco DC --Photo: David Phelps
Kimpton Hotel Monaco DC –Photo: David Phelps


If you’re looking for something other than a concert or a multi-course meal, and would rather make a weekend out of the holiday — and have had your fill of at-home staycations — Kimpton is running a “Hangover Stayover Package” promotion at select hotels in the chain, including downtown’s Monaco and Capitol Hill’s George hotels in D.C. “Take advantage of New Year’s Eve falling over the weekend” by springing for a two-night hotel stay and enjoy the amenities as well as “all the essentials to ensure New Year’s Day is smooth sailing after a night out on the town.”

The hotel care package includes a $25 dining credit good toward breakfast or brunch on the first day of 2022 as well as a “hangover survival kit” with bottles of water, Liquid IV hydration mix, and snacks. Also on offer: complimentary morning coffee and tea service as well as evening wine hour, access to public bikes, a yoga mat, plus free WiFi for all InterContinental Hotels Group Rewards members and “Raid the Bar” credit for Elite members.

The promotion is valid for stays Friday, Dec. 31, to Sunday, Jan. 2, which must be booked at least three days in advance — or by no later than Tuesday, Dec. 28. Reservations for breakfast or brunch must be made separately. Call 1-800-KIMPTON or click here to make reservations for either Monaco, 700 F St. NW, or George, 15 E St. NW, or visit

Gerrard Street Kitchen
Gerrard Street Kitchen cocktails — Photo: Greg Powers


A few months before the pandemic hit, the large, independent boutique hotel near Logan Circle known as The Darcy unveiled a large, new upscale restaurant on site. The Gerrard Street Kitchen has been described as presenting “globally inspired cuisine” in a cultural hodgepodge modeled after London’s West End neighborhood and theater district, “where the complex flavors of Japan, Morocco, and Korea sit side-by-side on the menu with British, Italian, and Indian culinary fare.”

That eclectic range, as well as a whiff of molecular gastronomy, is on display in newly appointed Executive Chef Bader Ali’s special New Year’s Eve prix-fixe menu ($89 per person, including a complimentary glass of champagne), with a first-course selection of Cauliflower Soup with quinoa crunch Hollandaise foam and Ostrea caviar, a second course of Fennel Walnut Pomegranate Salad with Dijon vinaigrette, Lemongrass Butter Poached Lobster with citrus risotto as the third course, and a choice for the fourth course among entrées Seared Bone-In Fillet with roasted porcini, celery root puree, and red wine sauce, or Striped Bass Tagine with couscous, lemon confit, harissa roasted root vegetable, and saffron broth.

A trio of desserts — Chocolate Macadamia Mousse Cake, an Éclair with Coconut Custard, and Mango Sorbet — will be featured as the final course. The restaurant will also furnish traditional party favors, from hats, tiaras, and party beads. Dinner will be served from 7 to 10 p.m.

On Saturday, Jan. 1, starting at 11 a.m., the restaurant presents a Bowl Games Brunch, highlighting various savory bowls that Chef Ali makes, from Bowl of Wings to Bowl of Shrimp Tempura, Bowl of Fries and Bowl of Chips, while also running beer specials and broadcasts of football bowl games. The Darcy is at 1515 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Call 844-489-9661 or visit

Jane Jane's Baller's New Year's Eve
Jane Jane


If you’re inclined to ring in the new year at home or only with your closest friends or pod group again this year, you might want to consider giving a boost to your booze options. And that’s where this gay-owned, Southern-style cocktail venture on 14th Street comes in, with its line of large-format pre-mixed drinks.

Jane Jane’s current holiday cocktail trio, sold individually in half-gallon containers, includes Mulled Cider, a sweet and kicky blend of gin, apple cider, and spices ranging from black pepper to cinnamon, lemon, and orange ($90), Gluhwein, the German mulled red wine mixture with spices including amaretto, clove, and orange ($95), and Coquito, the creamy Puerto Rican concoction of white and dark rum, coconut and condensed milks, cinnamon, and spices ($100). Order by 5 p.m. for pick up on the next day.

The cozy confines of Jane Jane itself will be abuzz on New Year’s Eve, packed with guests ringing in 2022 from the bar, and even more from its set of booths and banquettes — the site of intimate fêtes among small groups of friends billed as “the most baller New Year’s Eve party D.C. has to offer!” The bar opens to the general public for first-come, first-serve seating and ordering from the standard a la carte menus starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 31, until close.

But at 10 p.m., parties of between four and eight people with reservations will inaugurate the all-you-can-drink-and-eat Baller New Year’s Eve Party Experience ($250 per person including a bottle of Billecart-Salmon champagne and party favors, not including tax, tip, or fees; tickets are currently unavailable, with a waitlist). Jane Jane is at 1705 14th St. NW. Call 202-481-2166 or visit



The weekend before Christmas, this Mexican cocina, the latest venture from Mexican-born international restaurateur Richard Sandoval (El Centro D.F.), took the drastic step of temporarily closing until after the holiday, “out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of all guests and team members,” in light of breakthrough COVID infections among three vaccinated employees.

The restaurant in the Mount Vernon area of downtown plans to reopen on Monday, Dec. 27, and stay open through New Year’s Eve, when it will offer a five-course dinner with first Course choices including Grilled Wagyu Guacamole with beef tartare, Crab Cake Tostada, and Ceviche Amarillo; and an Ensalada de Kale with pomegranate, agave almonds, and manchego, and A la Leña Tortilla Soup among the second-course options.

A third course of tacos comes with your choice of Short Rib, Langosta, Camarón (breaded prawn), or Hongos (mushrooms) a la Leña, and the fourth-course entreé is a choice between a beef fillet, grilled chicken, Duck Confit, jumbo prawns, branzino, or cauliflower steak, all prepared on the restaurant’s wood-burning grill. Finish with a sweet treat of Mezcal Tres Leches, Pastel de Elote (creamy corn cake with ice cream), or seasonal Sorbets and Gelatos.

The cost is $140 per person, with optional beverage pairing for an additional $75 featuring a Veuve Clicquot welcome drink. Finish the outing by heading downstairs to the gorgeously appointed mezcaleria the ROJA lounge with live music from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. and a complimentary midnight champagne toast. dLeña is located at 476 K Street NW, Ste 50. Call 202-560-5999 or visit

Charlie Palmer Steak NYE -- Photo: Briana Balducci
Charlie Palmer Steak NYE — Photo: Briana Balducci


It’s been the preferred steakhouse among Congressional power brokers for nearly two decades now, with an expansive rooftop terrace touted as having “the city’s most impressive view of the Capitol.” See it for yourself on New Year’s Eve, when Charlie Palmer Steak DC offers two seatings — starting at 5 p.m. with an a la carte menu including indulgences from the Raw Bar, as well as classic starters such as a DC Bibb Salad ($13) and French Onion Soup ($14), and entrees of Lobster Linguine Pasta ($34) and a Prime Dry Aged Porterhouse for 2 ($130), among others.

Starting at 8 p.m. comes a later seating for the “Craft Your Own Four-Course Menu” ($175, including midnight champagne toast and a DJ spinning from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.) After an amuse-bouche of Potato Latkes with crème fraîche and Osetra caviar, diners choose between Carrot & Ginger Soup or Pan-Seared Scallops, Ricotta Gnocchi or Black Truffle Risotto, Atlantic Halibut or a Surf & Turf with a Filet Mignon and Maine Lobster Tail, and either Dark Chocolate Mousse or Mignardises for dessert. Charlie Palmer Steak D.C. is 101 Constitution Ave. NW. Call 202-547-8100 or visit


Prior to the pandemic, the Maryland-based outfit Improbable Comedy had been producing monthly comedy shows for nearly a decade. On New Year’s Day 2022, organizer Kim Levone returns to live, in-person performance at Improbable’s original home, the Silver Spring Black Box Theatre. This Stand Up Silver Spring is a showcase of three comedians with ties to the area and rising national profiles.

Jason Weems, a Last Comic Standing finalist whose own solo show Unknown was released on Amazon this year, headlines with opening sets from Brittany Carney, a former D.C.-based comic who now lives in New York where she’s a staff writer for HBO’s That Damn Michael Che Show, and Missy Hall, a Delaware-based motivational speaker and comedian who won the 2013 Laugh Out Loud Competition. Saturday, Jan. 1, at 8 p.m. 8641 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. Tickets are $18 to $50. Call 301-588-8270 or visit

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