Happy Hour with Fritz Hahn

Jan 16, 2020

Every other Thursday, Washington Post Weekend reporter Fritz Hahn discusses all aspects of going out: happy hours, date ideas, weekend getaways, new exhibits and other ways to have fun in the Washington D.C. area.

Hi everyone. Hope your 2020 is going well. A few things before we start:

We've got a packed list of Things to Do for the long holiday weekend -- this week's column runs through Monday, and includes a new exhibit at Transformer and a free MLK tribute concert at the Kennedy Center with Chaka Khan. 

Tim Carman is not convinced by new 14th Street arrival Mexicue.

There are often questions on here about making new friends in D.C., and Adele Chapin has some ideas for getting out of the house and meeting people.

Okay, let's go.

What are the best happy hours with Dry January options, preferably downtown.

The Hamilton has a couple of solid non-alcoholic options on its menu, though I'm not sure if they're part of the weeknight happy hour menu, which is offered from 3 to 6 p.m. (Half-price sushi is the reason to go.) 

The Eaton would probably be my go-to: There are Seedlip drinks for the Dry January folks, and a menu of beer and cocktails ($5 to $7) for the imbibers, while everyone can enjoy the small plates, such as Tim Ma's take on wings and mumbo sauce, or spicy roasted brussel sprouts ($5-$9). 

More Dry January cocktail suggestions can be found in my story about spirit-free cocktails

are expected at the Women's March this weekend and, more importantly, which streets and bus routes are likely to be impacted? I need to get from Friendship Heights to the Botanic Gardens this Saturday, and I'm guessing the 30 busses might have to be redirected?

Yeah, I would probably skip the 30 buses, since Pennsylvania Avenue and other key downtown arteries are going to be closed on Saturday, and that means delays. (Metro hasn't published the list of detours, but as you can see from that link, Pennsylvania Avenue is blocked between 18th and 14th streets from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

My fallback answer would be taking the Red Line from Friendship Heights to Union Station and walking across the Mall, but who knows, with the Red Line single-tracking north of Medical Center and shut north of Takoma. If you can do ride-share, that's going to be the easiest. 

I'm looking for a private venue for a birthday party for about 35 people with appetizers, drinks, DJ, and dance floor. Any recommendations? Thanks in advance!

I have some ideas, though I'll warn you that cost and availability are going to vary depending on the day/time/etc. This is just a couple that I thought would work for the DJ requirement as well as the size -- there are always places that are big enough for, say, 75-100 that could be booked, if you want. 

Mission, with branches at the Navy Yard and in Dupont Circle, is built for this sort of thing, with private rooms, bars, floors, whatever, that I've seen used for alumni events and birthday parties. Its sister bar the Hawthorne is similar, but has a great rooftop view looking south from U Street. 

The Passenger's upstairs bar, Hex, is kind of funky, and you can rent it without having to close the downstairs bar. 

Upstairs at Sollys - I've been to birthday parties and a wedding reception there, so I know they can do the DJ option, and the divey setting should make it more affordable, if that's a consideration. 

The Airedale on 16th Street just north of Columbia Heights has an upstairs space with a private back deck. 

Colony Club in Park View is a multi-purpose space, so you could have DJs, dancing, whatever, and also get pizzas from Sonny's down the block.  

Option that could make you look very in-the-know: The Fridge, a hip gallery and event space on Barracks Row, has DJ set up and very cool art on display.

Again, just a start. If you have a different sort of vibe in mind, that could be five different choices. Let me know.   

I'm the Office Manager and have to pull together dinner and some fun activity for 10 people for next week. I found curling at waterfront, Axe Throwing, classes at Milk Bar, ticekts to Artechouse... Any other suggestions for a random group of ages and interests for a work event after a long day of meetings? City limits preferred - help!

Curling is probably out because it's first-come, first-served for signups, and you probably don't want your team waiting in line to put their names down. (Maybe that counts as bonding, I don't know.) Ice skating at the National Gallery of Art would be a replacement for me, simply because the setting is the most beautiful of any area outdoor ice rink -- and trust me, I've tried many of them

Axe throwing is fun --I've had a good time at Bad Axe, through Kraken Axes is centrally located. 

If your group is inclined to puzzles, there are plenty of Escape Rooms around: The Escape Room Live in Georgetown has gotten great feedback from co-workers and friends. 

Related but not related-I saw your Instagram posts from Budapest. I was there right after you were to enjoy the Christmas festivities. I struggled to find a bar that would be good for me-a single, female, 40's, traveller. One night I just hung out at the bar at one of the many 5 star hotels. I loved the city and plan to go back. Can you recommend any places? I walked through Szimpla Kart and found it way too touristy.

I was only in Budapest for four days and felt like I could have used a whole week to explore. A couple of places that we really liked:

Doblo, a chic little wine bar with Hungarian tasting flights and snacks, where I could have spent a whole night. 

Nappali Kavehaz, a laidback neighborhood spot for whiskey and cocktails. 

The friend I was visiting insisted we had to go to the St. Andrea Skybar just once, since it has city rooftop views, and it's a fine place to get a glass of wine (the cocktails are eh) and enjoy. 

There were a lot of beer bars too, if that's of interest - I had a great time tasting through craft Hungarian beers at the Red Ruin Bar (near Szimpla, nowhere as touristy, at least midweek), or the multi-tap KEG sörművház, where I was introduced to goose cracklings as bar snacks. 

The closure of D.C. Reynolds is upsetting to many. Are there any plans to reverse the decision or to protest it? Are the owners going to move to a new location? There are many empty buildings on Georgia or 16th that would be happy to have it.

I don't know of any protests, though I'm sure some people will refuse to go to whatever replaces Reynolds. I'm not sure if the decision would be reversed, either, though I remember that Douglas kept extending the deadlines for the Passenger to vacate its original location. But the land where D.C. Reynolds and two neighboring buildings are is up for sale ("price upon request") so who knows.

As for what the owners will do next -- they've got Walter's to run, though it's a much different animal than D.C. Reynolds, which is a neighborhood joint. 

If people are trying to keep this from happening to their favorite neighborhood bar, they might want to look to Sankofa, which received a tax abatement last year to help it survive in an increasingly crowded market. Of course, DC Reynolds, which has only been open for 8 years, wouldn't have qualified for relief. It's been publicized that the bar's landlords asked for a 40 percent rent increase; I ran the numbers recently and the building's property taxes have gone up 34.65 percent since 2010, which is nothing to sneeze at.

My wife and I were thinking of taking the day off and visiting museums next Friday and were looking for good happy hours to take advantage of in the Penn Quarter area. Joes Stone Crab seems to have a great deal for Happy Hour but are there others to take advantage of while in the area. I suppose the Wharf could also be an option if anything stands out. Thanks!

Joe's is a great one to hit on a day off, thanks to that early 2:30 p.m. start, which I guess qualifies as a late lunch? 

Around Penn Quarter, I'm a big fan of Oyamel's $2 tacos and $7 margaritas, but its 4 to 6 p.m. timeframe means I don't get there as often as I would like to. 

Fiola has a fancier (though, as you'd expect, *very* good) "happy hour," with $9 wine, $13 cocktails and a menu with iberico pork shoulder, grilled wild calamari and other indulgent treats for $12 each. It's a happy hour that feels like a special occasion, even if you're eating at the bar. 

Also, if you wander up towards CityCenter, I'm a big fan of the happy hour at DBGB, which I wrote about back in 2018. The prices have gone up a buck or so since then, but it's still an enjoyable experience.  

How do you get notified of and keep track of all the fun stuff going on, new restaurants and bars, etc? Half the time events are sold out by the time I see them. And there are so many new restaurants around - do you keep a massive google spreadsheet going or something?

Oh god, it's chaos. I have a Google doc of places/happy hours/ongoing events I want to hit, a notes file on my phone, an email folder of links or photos of menus I email myself when I'm out -- for example, I might be at a bar and see a flyer for a beer tasting or dinner the next month that I want to remember. Then there are Facebook event invites, emails about ANC hearings, things I've just jotted down when I'm talking to bartenders ... I tell myself every year that I'm going to clean up and get a handle on this, but it never happens. 

Okay, that's going to do it for today. Have a safe and enjoyable long weekend, and I'll see you back here in two weeks. 

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Fritz Hahn
Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes.
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