Happy Hour with Fritz Hahn

Aug 09, 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. Thanks for joining me today on this make-up edition of Happy Hour. A few things before we get to the questions: 

I wrote a column earlier this week about why people who save seats at bars are the worst. Would love to hear your thoughts. 

Tomorrow's Weekend cover story is about five of the most beautiful and interesting carousels in the D.C. area

And I put together a list of some of the best new restaurants and bars in D.C. Personally, I can't get enough of the cocktails and Lebanese street food at the Green Zone. 

Okay, over to you. 

We have tickets to Arena Stage for this Friday and work in Penn Quarter, we are thinking of going to happy hour instead of dinner to save some money. What would be some good options where we could eat enough for dinner along with drinks. Looking for something that runs later (to at least 7) and if we have to choose prefer good food and decent drinks over the other way around. Happy to stay in Penn Quarter and then go to SW or do happy hour near Arena. Thanks for any suggestions

Skip the places near the Waterfront Metro. 

If you're staying in Penn Quarter, Oyamel's Hora Feliz - one of my top happy hours in D.C. - lets you fill up on $2 tacos, including tender baby pig; $4 ceviche plates; and free chips and spicy salsas, chased with $7 margaritas. 

Another option could be to go down to the Wharf and visit Hank's at the Wharf, where there are deals on oysters, seafood, beer, wine and drinks from 4 to 7 p.m. (Most of the other Wharf happy hours are very beverage focused, sadly.)

Hi. I'm looking for a place where two people can meet outside for good drinks and a good vibe, but is not too loud or crowded for conversation. Can you help?

Oh, good question. It's obviously going to depend on the day and time (Wednesday is usually better than Thursday, which is better than Friday). A couple of staples for me recently: The rooftop El Techo, above Ritos Locos in Shaw; the Brig beer garden between Barracks Row and the Navy Yard (or the slightly classier Betsy gin bar above Belga Cafe if you're feeling fancy); the oft-overlooked Ellipse, atop the Hyatt Place near 16th and K streets NW, which is one of the only public rooftop bars in this busy office area; and the rooftop pool bar at the Mason and Rook Hotel near Logan Circle, which doesn't open until 5, but has solid drinks and views to go with the comfortable atmosphere. 

If you and a few friends had a day off this Friday what would you do in the city? I was thinking of heading to the wharf or navy yard for lunch and drinks by the water but am open to other parts of the city. Thanks!

Lucky you. Drinks by the water sounds great: Tie it in with lunch at Chloe at the Navy Yard, browsing Steadfast Supply or some of the other shops, then wandering along the Anacostia for drinks at the rooftop bar at All-Purpose or the dock bar at Salt Line. And you need to bring a blanket, spread it out in the park by the splash pools and just read for a bit. 

I could also spend hours around Eastern Market (without the weekend crowds), poking in Capitol Hill Books, checking out the new shops, having a refreshing glass of vermouth at Joselito ...

Or you could just get yourself a rooftop pool pass for the Liaison Hotel on Capitol Hill and spend the day laying outdoors and ordering fruity cocktails from the bar. (Yes, I know you could go to a public pool for free, but they don't have anyone to bring you [legal] drinks.)

As a SW resident, I'd tell you to sit at the bar at Masala Art and order drinks and nibbles. The food is excellent and you're a quick walk to Arena Stage. Most of that actually live in the neighborhood find that all the restaurants along the Wharf are overpriced and super crowded. The general sentiment is that they are there to gladly accept the money from the bridge and tunnel crowd who are willing to wait 2 hours for a table, or be 4 deep in waiting for a drink at the bar.

The only tunnel I go through to get to the Wharf is under 395, and I refuse to wait that long for any restaurant. 

I've said before, honestly, that the Wharf isn't really designed for me, for the simple reason that I'm not going to pay to go to Del Mar or Kith and Kin or Mi Vida every night. I like the dock bar,  Hank's, the pizza happy hour in the tap room at Union Stage, and the patio at the Brixton. The views from Whiskey Charlie are great if it isn't overrun. (As of this weekend, the Anthem is going to start opening its rooftop when there isn't a show, which could be a fun alternative.) I'm hoping Todd Thrasher's rum bar/distillery is more my speed. 

Does the Bardo brewery near Nationals Park close if the weather isn't great? I tried to go on a drizzly Saturday afternoon and it didn't seem open. It wasn't exactly easy to know how to get in there but I think I was in the right place.

Yes, they do, though not every time there's a chance of showers.

If there's rain in the forecast, and you're looking to go to Bardo or Aslin Beer Garden (which is also outdoors-only), I'd recommend checking the Bardo twitter or Aslin Instagram feeds first to make sure they haven't decided to close early.

Hey - I get to see Hamilton next week! Where's a good spot to meet up with my group beforehand for a bite and a drink? Campono okay? Looking to minimize walking distance to the Kennedy Center in this heat, and not looking to get super fancy like Tom Siestema's go-to recommendation of Marcel's.

Campono is a better meet-up spot than Marcel's, and cheaper than, say, its neighbor Kingbird. Besides, everyone likes wood-fired pizza and a glass of wine or beer. The only trouble is that it can be a squeeze before busy shows, and it doesn't take reservations, so be aware if you have a larger group.

I was talking to co-workers the other day, and telling them that my go-to for Kennedy Center meet-ups is still getting together at District Commons or Burger Tap and Shake and then taking the free Kennedy Center shuttle from the Metro to the Kennedy Center's front door, which remains a great way to not show up all sweaty.   

Honestly, I would never wait for a seat at a bar. There's almost always another place to go nearby. But then again, I don't go out on busy nights. I can report very pleasant and civilized bar experiences at District Winery shortly after opening on a Saturday, at Salt Line during an afternoon Nats game, and at Churchkey on a Sunday mid-afternoon.

Going to Salt Line during a Nats game is the best time to go to Salt Line. Easier to find bar seats, and you can hear the fans roaring before the TV shows why. 

But the bigger problem here is just one of selfishness, or not thinking and general. People forget that we all have to work together to make our experiences better. People don't think, "Oh, if I'm wearing this giant backpack in a bar, I might whack someone with it." But that's another column entirely. 

While heading over to the Rhode Island Ave Home Depot the other day, I saw a building named Tastemakers. It seems like a very small version of Union Market or an indoor version of a Truckeroo event. Have you been there? Has it been around long?

Tastemakers is a something like a mini Union Market, opened by the owners of Captain Cookie and the Milkman last year.

There's a bar called Benjamin's on Franklin (it's on Franklin Street, you see), with local beers on tap and cocktails made with local spirits, and a half-dozen stalls from food trucks like Meski or Ball or Nothing. 

It's a fun spot to drop by for happy hour or meet up for a quick dinner, but it doesn't have the breadth of Union Market or  the Spot, or the better-known food halls. 

Hi Fritz. I asked this question in a chat 10 years ago, and can't remember or find the answer, and maybe it's changed by now anyways. At what place or type of place in 2018 can I find an experience that best approximates Rick's Cafe Americain?

If you're really looking for an ex-pat kind of scene, I'd check out the Green Zone, which I mentioned at the top -- you have all kinds of people coming together for food and drinks, but it also has a "not in D.C." vibe that I like. I took a friend who'd been in Iraq for a few years to the bar last Friday, and his favorite part - beyond the doudou shots, I think - was that, in his words, the bar has an unforced authenticity to it. The DJ is mixing up Arabic dance music and a percentage of the crowd starts cheering and dancing because they recognize pop songs after 2 notes. There's a mix of languages ordering cocktails. 

Anyway, I'm probably misunderstanding the question. If you want to go to a place where no one asks too many questions, try the basement of the Quarry House or the bar at the Tune Inn. And if you're looking for a place to join the resistance, have you been to open mic night at Busboys and Poets on 14th and W?

We were fortunate enough to get Sunday matinee tickets to Hamilton. We're driving--wouldn't trust Metro. Any suggestions for a restaurant where we can drive to between Kennedy Center and Rockville where there would be parking for the car? We like seafood, French, American, Southern, Chinese. Don't want to break the bank as we did that on the Kennedy tickets. Can't do reservations because we don't know when we will get out.

BlackSalt in the Palisades would be a good option - you'd probably miss the brunch rush. Millie's in Spring Valley would be cheaper and more casual, with entrees from fish tacos to soft shell crabs. 

Maybe he's looking for a piano bar.

Oh. You might be right. Maybe I need to watch "Casablanca" again.

In that case, my favorite place for piano and cocktails is Quill, at the Jefferson Hotel, where you'll hear Great American Songbook standards in a classy environment from 9 p.m. until last call. 

Okay, everyone. Thanks for joining today. See you here next Thursday for more back and forth. 


PostPoints code is HH4623.

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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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