Happy Hour with Fritz Hahn

May 24, 2018

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.

Memorial Day is so close that I can almost smell the sunscreen and barbecue. (Hopefully not at the same time.) Hope you have some cool plans lined up, but if not, I'm here to help.

Tomorrow's print Weekend section is full of ideas for the long weekend, including outdoor bars with frozen drinks, museum exhibits that should be on your to-do list, great cheap eats and gorgeous cocktail spots.

We've also got a list of 18 things to do this weekend, from solemn Memorial Day ceremonies to rooftop pool parties.

Oh, and don't miss Tim Carman's great piece on the return of the Quarry House Tavern.

And now, on to your questions. 

What is the best/closest swimming beach (a beach where you can actually get in the water) to DC?

My favorite, which I've written about before, is Matapeake Beach, a public beach just on the other side of the Bay Bridge. (It's literally the first exit on the Eastern Shore.) Quiet beach, lots of sand, swimming in the Bay, and it even has a nearby dog beach. (Bonus: It's near the Stevensville Crab Shack, which makes one of the best crab cakes in Maryland.) 

Other options, which aren't quite the same, include Calvert Cliffs State Park and Aquia Harbor. More about them here.

My 8 year old son discovered the joys of shooting pool while we were on vacation. Are there any places around here that allow kids to play? So far I'm only finding tables in 21+ bars.

Okay, I'm stumped. Everywhere I thought of - even suburban pool halls! - is 21-and-over. I checked. Sorry. 

If you're a DC resident, some of the neighborhood rec centers, including the one in Trinidad, have pool tables.

Do you have any recommendations for 4th of July Food/Drink Events? We've tried a couple in the area but don't yet have a favorite. We'd like something that involves a view of the fireworks but otherwise are open to anything. We're a small group and everyone is over 21.

Most of the better rooftop bar events - the ones with views of the fireworks - will be announced closer to July 4. In the past, my favorites have included Mason and Rook, 1905 and Jack Rose, all of which have Monument views. (I was at the Brixton one year and the clouds made it hard to see the rockets' red glare, though that might not be the case this year.) 

This year's wildcard is going to be the Wharf - there are a number of great views from there, including on the piers - and it will be interesting to see what they do. 

but they only really mess with traffic on Sunday, right? And there is the national parade downtown on Monday? Are there are some street closures around the reflecting pool because of the concert on the steps of the Capitol too?

Yes. Rolling Thunder's big ride is on Sunday. Don't drive anywhere near the Pentagon or the Mall. 

Constitution Avenue is closed on Monday for the parade, which runs from 7th to 17th but takes up more room for staging. 

The closures around the Capitol - near the Botanic Garden and the Grant Statue - begin on Friday for staging of Monday night's concert, and there will be further closures around the Hill on Monday. 

Are there any places that you had gone to awhile back that were just OK or even "meh" at the time, that you've revisited more recently and liked better? Or the other way around? Thx! Love the chats, btw.

Oh, for sure. I liked Takoda more when it first opened, for the garden-like rooftop deck, but my last visit had disinterested service and a beer that tasted like it had been sitting in the line for too long. My last visit to Slash Run was also a little "meh," with a meal that came out long after everyone else at the table and a heater blasting non-stop at the bar, though that could have been because of the recent ownership change.

In the "meh" to "wow" changes, I'd have to include Betsy on Barracks Row, which has really fine-tuned its gin cocktail program (so many G&Ts), and Brasserie Beck, which had kind of lost its way a bit but is now pouring more interesting Belgian beers, including a dedicated tap for the Brussels Beer Project. 

Where is the best place to watch THE WASHINGTON CAPITALS IN THE STANLEY CUP FINALS?

I think we all share your excitement on this one.

Awaiting confirmation, but I have to think that they'll have Game 1 and 2 viewing parties at Capital One Arena after 10,000 people turned up for the Game 7 viewing party.

Regardless, I don't think it will be hard to find a place to root for the Caps: One of the upsides of the team's run is that I've noticed a lot of bars around the area, from Bracket Room to Meridian Pint to Jimmy's Old Town Tavern, cancelling their comedy nights, open mikes, bingo and trivia games to show the Caps with full sound. Call it bandwagon jumping if you want (cough Mike Wilbon) but I think it's great to see people supporting the team.

If I had to choose, well, you're not going to go wrong somewhere near the area: Jackpot, Iron Hose, Rocket Bar, Penn Social, Penn Commons ... 

Greetings Mr. Hahn...what's the best way to deal with price gouging at bars for off-menu drinks? I've recently been charged $18+ for a single *sub par* Martini at multiple venues - Barcode; Mission; Soi38; Brighton; seems totally dependent on the mood and personality of staff on hand! I understand premium pricing of drinks at posh/specialty spots (these are not); so how to redress this rising trend, in a civilized way? Raising a few glasses this weekend to the fallen...Cheers!

Ouch. While "gouging" is always in the eye of the consumer, it's going to depend on a number of variables, including the brands in the cocktail. I mean, I've had margaritas and Palomas at Mission, and I remember them all being in the $10-$13 range. Feels like you'd have to be ordering something really fancy there to get it up to $18. Same with the Brighton, which has some fancy English gins behind the bar. I can see a martini with Portobello or Sipsmith being a couple bucks more than rail, but not $18.

If you think the bartender deliberately chose a more expensive gin to jack up the price (and, presumably, the tip) without telling you, that's a problem. The best way to do it is to either call a brand when you order ("I'll have a martini with the Sipsmith VJOP, please") or ask for a martini, and if the bartender says, "rail or ___?" you just ask how much the brand is. If they say it's too high, stick with rail.

And if they charge you $18 for a martini and they're not, like, Bourbon Steak? Don't go back. 

Not sure what that pressreader thing is you linked to but it's absolutely terrible. Good old fashioned link to an article is what the Post should stick with. Just the thought of one subscriber....

Oh, I agree! But there's kind of a black hole of GOG coverage from around 2012 (when that Matapeake piece was written) due to publishing in an old system that we no longer use. I'm happy to send that text to anyone who wants it, btw. 

Also, here is a photo of a Stevensville Crab Shack crab cake at Matapeake Beach. It ran with the original story:

crab cake

It would be nice if these things were Monday (and marathons' were saturday) so people could get to church....

They don't do it Monday because so many families are going to Arlington National Cemetery on that day to honor their loved ones. I get and respect that. 

What time do you think you need to show up? Early or is on time enough? Thanks!

For the ones at the Arena? There were lines to get in last night, and plenty of people weren't inside in time to see Ovie's 62-second game winner.

To their credit, the Caps tried to mitigate that by having happy hour from 7 to 8 and having an autograph session with Peter Bondra before the game. I'd definitely rather be early than late for both of those. 

I now have to scroll to the right side of the page and back for every single line and to find the submit button. Please, please, please get rid of it.

Sorry! Trying to fix it ...

Other than Churchkey and BlueJacket, what DC-area ale establishments specialize in cask ales? (I'd love a place that poured Bluebird Bitter, but I'd happily settle for a Duckpin.) A few years ago it seemed like a few more bars were willing to try them out, but it feels like the era sort of came and went.

ChurchKey occasionally has Bluebird, FWIW. 

I think bars that really tried to get into real ale quickly realized how limited the beer's shelf life is, and that if people don't order it, they lose money. Lots of money. 

The more common thing now is for bars to have one cask ale - each Paradiso, for example, or Fireworks in Court House. Brewpubs are always a good place to look: Barrett Lauer usually has one or two very delicious casks on at District Chophouse, for example, as does Mad Fox in Falls Church. And if you get up to the Pratt Street Ale House in Baltimore - the brewer's tap for the Oliver Brewery - you'll be in heaven with great English-style cask ales. 

I read about Betsy's and thought of going this weekend when I'm in DC, but we're staying at the Omni Shoreham which has New Heights and their Gin Joint with 100+ gins within walking distance. Are they comparable gin-wise?

Gin Joint has a larger selection, for sure. It's also rain-proof. (I will also add that the review of mine that's on their website is a decade old, from when the awesome Nicole Hassoun was running their gin program.) 

The Betsy is a rooftop with ~40 gins, a menu of tonics to play with, and fresh garnishes. Not the same experience, for sure. If the weather cooperates, I'd go to Betsy, especially if you're going to find yourself down towards Navy Yard and Barracks Row - you could always pair it with dinner at ChiKo or Chloe, for example. 

Much better. Thanks.

Thanks for letting me know I broke the chat!

I'll be staying in DC this weekend with a friend and thought going to their rooftop bar for the view would be amazing BUT I'm sure it will be packed. Are there any off-ish times we could go on Saturday or Sunday and not end up as sardines? Like when they first open or maybe mid-afternoon?

My experiences when I was writing the story were that it was great if I got there at 4:30/5, and less great if I got there at 6:30. And that was before the summer-like weather hit. 

I would try to go on the early side: maybe be there no later than 4 or 4:30 for pre-dinner/pre-happy hour drinks? I'm guessing it's become a prime target for people having dinner at Kaliwa, Del Mar, etc. 

Also: If the spots right by the front rail are crowded (and they often are) just wait a minute or two. Last time there, plenty of people were going up to get a photo with the water and boats in the background and then moving somewhere else. Not sure why. 

(Oh - before I forget, the Spanish gin and tonics at Del Mar deserve a plug while we're talking about gin.)

Same with Hank's TV chat earlier today. Sounds like some people need a long weekend to recharge. ;-)

I think we all can use some time off, no?

And on that note, I'm wrapping up. I'll see you back here in two weeks.

Post Points Code is HH4618.

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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