Happy Hour with Fritz Hahn

Feb 14, 2019

Every other Thursday, Washington Post Weekend and Food reporter Fritz Hahn discusses happy hours, new cocktail destinations, local beers, date ideas and the late-night scene. Of course, he's also happy to talk about staples of the old Got Plans chats, such as weekend getaways, brunch spots, new exhibits and other ways to have fun in the Washington D.C. area.

Hi everyone. Before we get started, I'd encourage you to check out: 

16 things to do over the long weekend, including a beer festival, a circus, Shop Made in D.C.'s grand opening and the best movies of 2018.  

A rundown of some of the best and buzziest restaurants that opened so far in 2019.

A deep-dive into the growth of bars that double as adult game rooms, with bowling, video games and other amusements. 

If you were going to try to get into Little Serow or another popular no-reservations restaurant tonight, what time would you get in line?

How much do you care about your valentine? 

Seriously, I'd be there at least by 4:30 to try to get into the first 5:30 seating. But I do wonder if tonight might be easier to get into somewhere like Little Serow, or even Maydan, as people who are obsessed with Valentine's Day probably have guaranteed reservations somewhere instead of rolling the dice and potentially winding up with a hungry (or cranky) date. 

[Reservations are finally making a comeback in D.C. But good luck trying to get a table.]

I'm working on getting more comfortable grabbing a drink by myself. Could you recommend some bars that you think are especially conducive to this activity? Thanks!

Going to bars solo can be a joy. Time to contemplate, to read, to eavesdrop -- everyone needs some quality alone time. Some of my favorite destinations would include a good wine bar (Dio, the Dabney Wine Cellar), where you can sit and savor, and talk to your bartender/sommelier as much as you like. And don't forget that it's frequently easier to find one seat at a hot destination like Maydan, Elle or Tail Up Goat than it is to find two seats together.  

Somewhere with good people-watching opportunities is good, too -- maybe the picture window at Saint-Ex that faces 14th Street, which a bartender recently joked was the prime spot to watch the post-brunch crowd go stumbling home, or the front tables at Jack Rose?

If you're going to bars to meet people, though, my advice is a little different -- you want to go somewhere where there's an activity, or a bartender who can serve as a facilitator, getting different folks to talk to each other. Think the bingo night at Kingfisher (a great bar in its own right), which also shows bad movies, giving you two things to talk about if you choose. Of course, you can always stick to yourself.  

I go to cocktail bars solo, such as the Passenger or Columbia Room or Espita, but sitting and lingering over a $13 mixed drink doesn't always sit right with me for some reason -- not as restful as a glass of wine or a beer, I guess? 

Hi Fritz, My husband and I are doing a class at Culinaerie tomorrow night from 6-9. Ideally I'd love to head up to Left Door after for cocktails, but I feel like the 9pm hour is always their busiest and I assume it will be worse given the proximity to Vday. I really don't relish the idea of standing in line after cooking. Any ideas for a spot with similar quality and atmosphere that we can walk to or take a short metro / uber trip to that won't be packed? Maxwell and Dabney Cellar are favorites too but it feels like we'd have the same issue. Thanks for all you do!

When Valentine's Day falls early in the week, we always assume that the crowds will be worse on the weekend before or after, rather than on Valentine's Day itself. I never know, though, when it's Thursday, which seems like a night people still go out. 

You've hit on some great bars there. I think Espita might be a good option, since you'd be getting there at the tail end of the dinner rush, or Tiger Fork, which sometimes gets forgotten in the hype around Dabney and Columbia Room. I've been pleasantly surprised by how much I've enjoyed the cocktails and service at the Morris on my last few visits, though the atmosphere does depend on whether there's a rip-roaring convention going on. 

This is really one of those times I wish there were better/classier hotel bars around McPherson and Farragut squares ...

I presume that some activities are more likely to cancel/postpone when weather gets iffy, but there aren't a million school/fed government closings to indicate that a lot experts with access to information have determined that people should stay home? Is there a hierarchy of who is more--less likely to close? I'm guessing restaurants are least likely to shut down. Followed maybe by plays (having to re-ticket or refund all those people)? Are the federally funded museums the first ones to cry uncle when there is snow and or a wintery mix expected?

For both restaurants and museums, it's most often a judgment call based on staff, and how likely it is that a sufficient number can get to/from work safely. During recent snowmageddons, for example, we saw a decent number of restaurants that proudly tweeted that they were open and serving snow-related specials, but updated a few hours later to say they were closing early to that the staff could go home. Bars, which generally need less staff than restaurants, are less likely to close, especially if they're a neighborhood spot. 

Attractions with outdoor areas -- say, the Zoo, which has lots of hilly trails, or the Arboretum -- are usually first to close when the Smithsonian museums or the Botanic Garden will stay open as much as possible.  

And with plays/concerts, they usually try to go ahead, unless there's a long run, and it would be easy to reschedule. I feel like the 9:30 or the Anthem, for example, cancel as a last resort, UNLESS there are concerns about travel, if the artist had a show in Philadelphia or Richmond the night before, and driving might be hazardous. 

Thanks, everyone. PostPoints code is HH6620. 

Programming note: No chat on Feb. 28, as I'll be out of the office. See you back here in March. 

In This Chat
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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