Happy Hour with Fritz Hahn

Aug 15, 2019

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. If you make it through this steamy, sleepy mid-August Thursday, the weekend begins tomorrow. That's something to look forward to. We have 16 ideas for your going-out needs, including a garden (cocktail) party at the Smithsonian, Chuck Brown Day, an Afrobeat-fueled block party and a handful of festivals suited for beer lovers, kids and dogs. 

Meanwhile, Tim Carman has a review of an exciting West African restaurant in Takoma Park, and I updated our annual guide to watching European soccer

Let's go.

Best first date spot for drinks?

This is a super-complex question that depends on location, budget and the vibe you're looking for.

Do you want somewhere where there aren't too many distractions from loud music or TVs? All Souls in Shaw is a go-to for cocktails and a hip-yet-understated vibe. The cool and quaint little French spot La Jambe works for me, especially at happy hour (until 7 p.m. weekdays), when you can get $5 glasses of wine and $4 bar snacks. 

Want something to do to avoid awkward silences? I've seen a few dates happening at Kingfisher's Monday night Bingo sessions. It's a cool no-frills basement bar near Logan Circle, but the bingo gives you something to do/talk about.

Looking for a classier option? Joe's Stone Crab is good for its half-price happy hour (no drink costs more than $6.50) and central location Just A Block From The White House, though seats can be tough to come by on busy nights. I also had a debate recently about whether Left Door was a good first-date spot or not. I thought it was better for, like, a fourth or fifth date, since it's dark and atmospheric, but some people think it would be a really cool place to sit and get to know someone. 

But my advice as always: Don't take a first date to your favorite neighborhood bar, because if it doesn't work out, you don't want to be the person who's at the bar with a new "date" every week. 

Any reason you didn’t include the Bottom Line in this story? The $2 beer happy hour is on par with the Front Page.

I thought about including the Bottom Line - which actually shares owners with the Front Page - in my story about where interns might go after the longtime happy hour destination closed

It's known as a spot for cheap drinks - the Friday happy hour featured in my cover story about happy hours with cheap beers in 2017, though the price has since risen from $1 to $2. It's just that I've never gotten an "intern" vibe while drinking there - it seems to draw a slightly older crowd than the Front Page or Madhatter. Please tell me if I'm wrong!

Either way, I'm happy to recommend it for an affordable happy hour for anyone. (Today, for example, is $3 Coors and $4 Yuengling, rail drinks and tater tots until 8 p.m.)

What are the best small towns for a day trip within an hour or so from DC? Something with more than just museums, please.

Annapolis is a given - the charming, historic downtown is worth visiting just to pop in and out of boutiques and used book stores, have a lunch of fresh oysters or crabs, and take in the nautical vibes. (I'm partial to the Naval Academy Museum, and walking around the gardens of the historic homes, such as the beautifully landscaped William Paca House.) There are boat tours of the city, or you can just take a water taxi around and see the sights that way. Boatyard Bar and Grill, Sailor Oyster Bar and Davis' Pub are among the neighborhood spots I often mention, plus Dry 85 for beers and cocktails.

Baltimore should be a given, too, especially because you don't have to drive - an $8 MARC ticket gets you from Union Station to Penn Station, even on weekends. It's full of museums, galleries, places for drinks, such as the Union Craft Brewery and Sagamore Spirit Distillery their tour is highly recommended) cool neighborhoods to check out, such as Hampden, Station North and Canton. (Just watch the time so you don't wind up having to take a more-expensive Amtrak back, like I did last weekend.) 

Frederick is great for lovers of antique shops and bookstores, and the downtown has plenty of options for shopping and dining, though I'd also recommend visiting the Flying Dog brewery. When you're there, you're not far from Gambrill or South Mountain State Parks. Gambrill actually has a nice lake for swimming

In Virginia, I'd probably head to Fredericksburg, which has that important mix of history, shopping good dining and good drinking. You can visit a Civil War battlefield, a few really fashionable boutiques, get an old-fashioned milkshake at a soda fountain and then tour the award-winning A Bowman distillery in one afternoon. Hmm. I might have just talked myself into going back down there - here's a piece we wrote on weekend getaways a few years ago, when I did Fredericksburg. 

Any lively bars in Gaithersburg/Germantown worth visiting?

My last few trips to Gaithersburg have been beer-focused - the Dogfish Head Alehouse, which seems to be holding its own with great beers, a nice patio, and the usual mix of pizzas, burgers and seafood. 

Downtown Crown Beer and Wine, the reason I was going up there, has been doing a great job with exclusive can releases (they just had one with Other Half), but you'll also find some good stuff from Burley Oak, RAR or Black Flag on tap. The outdoor Maryland Day Beer Festival was a success -- I wish they'd do more of those. At the Downtown Crown development, I also like the Paladar rum bar, though I know it's a chain.

Old Town Pour House has 90-some taps, and it's definitely lively, but it also feels a cookie-cutter to me.

I haven't been to Shirlington in a while. How is parking going to be on a weekend? Do I need to pay on Sunday? Do I need to download an App to be able to pay online?

I haven't had any problems parking in Shirlington, where street parking is free on Sundays, though the open house is a big-enough deal that you may want to just head for the garage instead of circling or looking for parking. If you're looking to make a day of it, brunch at Hula Girl is solid - think breakfast skillets with eggs and spam, or macadamia sticky buns - and I've enjoyed an Irish breakfast at Samuel Beckett's. 

Middleburg area and Leesburg are also good daytrips.

Leesburg for sure - the historic downtown is bursting with breweries, including perennial recommendations Crooked Rum and Wild Hare Cider, as well as a mix of antique shops, galleries, a beach bar and the odd dive bar. Balls Bluff battlefield is an interesting visit for hiking and the tiny national cemetery; there's also the Volcano Waterpark, which is cool with or without kids. 

Middleburg is Middleburg.

Okay, that's going to do it for today. See you next week, right on the cusp of Labor Day.

Oh, and during the chat, tomorrow's Weekend cover story, a guide to our favorite areas of Rock Creek Park, published online, so you should definitely check that out. 

The Post Points code is HH7569.

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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