Happy Hour with Fritz Hahn

Oct 11, 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.

Tom Sietsema's 2018 Fall Dining Guide is the big news in our world today. I hope you've checked it out and played around with the new display. (You can sort by bargains or just look for "quiet" restaurants.) Tim Carman also made an ace list of the 10 best bargain restaurants in the suburbs. 

To follow up, I posted a Q&A with Tom, which covers, among other things, why Fiola didn't make it and what the "D.C. Dining Hall of Fame" really means.  

Also, today is the day D.C. is introduced to "Two Scientists Walk Into A Bar," a fun-sounding initiative from the National Academy of Science that puts pairs of scientists in local bars and lets the public ask them anything, from "Why is the sky blue" to "How do I know climate change is real?" Read more about this, and other nerdy (in a good way!) happy hours here

Oh, and there was a Bullfrog Bagels vs. Call Your Mother blind taste test in the office. The results were ... interesting. 

Okay. Let's get to the questions. 

with friends. We will have a 14 year old and a 6 year old with us (and three "big kids" around boats adults). What else is there to do around the Warf? We aren't big bar people anyway, and there will be kids. Any ideas? Oh, and just wanted to tell people that I messed up ordering the tickets and picked the wrong date. They were terrific about canceling the ones I ordered so I could get new ones. It can't be done through an automatic system, but worked with an e-mail.

I went to see the Draken last Sunday, and it was crowded. If you're driving, you might want to allow extra time.

The interesting thing about the Wharf (to me, anyway) is that there aren't a ton of attractions outside of shops and restaurants. There are the big water fountains and features for kids to splash around in at the Southern tip; there are multiple piers with swings and big games (think oversized Connect Four, or corn hole); and there's kayaking. Most of the families there -- and there were a LOT of families -- seemed to just be having fun letting the kids run and play.

If you're really into boats, there's the free jitney over to Haines Point/East Potomac Park, where you could play a round of mini-golf on one of the nation's oldest courses.  

Yesterday you wrote an article on what you believe to be the best new block of restaurants and due to your decision to talk solely about one block you left off some great restaurants like Little Coco's, The Airedale and Pho Viet that are all a block or so away on the same street. Is it because they don't deserve attention or because they don't fit into your thesis statement? Those restaurants round out the area with a variety of cuisine that is not just cheap beer and tacos. You have managed to reduce a great emerging neighborhood to 2 competing but ultimately very similar taco spots, a new Cuban place opened by one of the same guys and couple of dive bars when it is so much more. It's like taking about Adams Morgan in the 80s but only mentioning the block that Cities was on.

I wrote about one block because I thought it was cool that one short strip of storefronts had a restaurant in Tom Sietsema's 2018 Dining Guide Top Ten; a bar that came in at #3 on my most recent list of the 10 Best Bars in D.C.; a taqueria at #2 in Tim Carman's list of the area's top Taquerias; a bar that makes my personal list of best cheap happy hours; and a restaurant that both Tom and Tim recommend for Mexican cuisine beyond tacos. For anyone who remembers when the Derby was the only non-stabby bar on the block, it's remarkable.  

But that doesn't mean we've ignored everything else in the neighborhood: Maybe you've missed the story where I explained why Coco Beach was one of my favorite destinations for summer cocktails, the review where Holley Simmons said Pho Viet "serves the best bowl of pho in town" or the roundup where I featured the Airedale as one of the area's best soccer bars.

I think it's fine to look at subjects at a more granular level. Sometimes it's better to say "The things on this one block are great" without including a laundry list of everything else that's great within a 10-block radius, because you'll just make people's eyes and ears glaze over.

Have somehow not made it to H street festival, how is it like? Are bars selling booze all down the street so open containers are OK or is it more like a bar crawl? Any recommended spots or acts?

It's huge. There's literally no other way to say this: It's the biggest -- and I mean most-crowded -- street festival in the area. Every few steps, there's something to see: A beer garden, a display of lavishly decorated art cars, a stage with gospel or jazz groups, a fashion show, a pie-eating contest, etc. (Yes, there are also a lot of booths for D.C. Water, or phone carriers, or vendors selling meat-on-a-stick.) 

While the street is closed, there are no open containers. (It does sort of feel that way around Biergarten Haus' huge middle-of-the-street beer garden.) Part of the fun is really just exploring: There will be bands all day at Dangerously Delicious' pie shop, Little Miss Whiskey's has an excellent beer garden, DJs are spinning at Rock and Roll Hotel, etc. I feel like most of the major attractions take place at the end closest to the Starburst intersection (the entrance at 14th), so that's a good place to start if you're short on time. 

I came across a list of DC restaurants that offer a corkage fee if you were to bring your own bottle of wine. While I've heard of this I've never thought to do it before. Is this a good, cost saving way to enjoy a bottle or two at dinner? Or does the cost break even after the price of the bottle and corkage fee? It sorta feels like something a restaurant would frown on if you show up with two bottles to treat yourself... but also sounds like a good idea if that's the route you want to go.

I hate paying corkage fees, to be honest: Unless I'm celebrating an anniversary with a special bottle of wine, it doesn't make sense. (I get kinda hooked on it when I'm in Philadelphia, though, since so many restaurants lack liquor licenses and therefore smile on BYOB.)

If you go to say, Dino's Grotto -- which doesn't charge for corkage Sunday-Tuesday -- then BYO wine is a way to enjoy a dinner out more affordably. 

I just found out that my office is closing early tomorrow. What are the best cheap happy hours on a Friday?

Lucky you! The best cheap Friday happy hour is at Hamilton's on Second Street, near the Department of Labor: $1 cans of Miller High Life and PBR, starting at noon. Depending on your location, you'll also find cheap beer at the Bottom Line at 18th and M ($2 Miller Lite from 4 to 8 p.m.) or the Red Derby ($2 Natty Boh, Stroh's, etc. from 4 to 7 p.m.) If your office closes early enough, you might get a prime spot on the Derby's roof deck. 

And if you want to class things up, try Joe's near the White House: half-price cocktails, wine and beer starting at 2:30 p.m. Definitely one of my favorites.

Since this is the first year there, I am unfamiliar with the layout. Where would be a good meeting spot for people (drivers and Metro passengers)? Outside the park is fine.

I'm a little confused about the layout, too. I'd probably suggest you meet up somewhere between the Metro and Gateway Park: The Little Beet if you want a quick veggie-friendly breakfast; Bourbon Coffee for, well, it should be explanatory; Heavy Seas Ale House if anyone in your party wants to pre-game before the festival, or just prefers beer to wine. (My go-to after-work meeting spot in Rosslyn, Continental Beer Garden, doesn't open until 2:30 p.m. on weekends.)

I'm heading up to Philly Friday for the night and was searching for any 'most visit' craft beer destinations up there. We won't have time to visit Tired Hands brewery but if there are any good beer bars you'd recommend or great food spots downtown for our quick trip than that'd be great to know! Monk's Cafe is on my radar but not sure what else is up there.

Philadelphia is a wonderful beer town -- you can find good beer even in the most unlikely neighborhood spots. 

Monk's Cafe is, of course, the pilgrimage spot, and where you're likely to find rare stuff from, say, Lost Abbey or Russian River, as well as a feast of Belgian beers, perfect with the mussels. The pro tip: Even if it looks full, always ask if there are barstools in the back bar. 

Other places I like: McGillan's Old Ale House, which is kinda touristy but such a piece of history that you should stop in for its namesake beer (still brewed, I believe, by Stoudt's); the more modern Tria, a group of taphouses (the best one is near Rittenhouse Square) that include craft rarities and imports; the Dandelion, a British-inspired pub from the Stephen Starr group with local beers on cask; and Standard Tap, which was one of the first beer bars I fell in love with: Everything on the 20+ taps is brewed in and around Philly, which somehow stretches to include Dogfish Head, but I can't hold that against them.  

If you're not a regular visitor up there, I have to suggest wandering around the Italian Market on Ninth Street or Reading Terminal Market, just because they're great experiences. Everyone has a favorite place for a cheesesteak or a roast pork sandwich with long hots, and they'll be happy to share. 

I know all the old stand-by sports bars around town that show the games, but do any newer places come to mind as good watch-spots? Any chance there are good options with higher-quality beers and cocktails?

During last year's playoff run, I watched a bunch of out-0f-town games at Free State, in the shadow of the Phone Booth. Always had a good cadre of sweater-wearing fans there, and the drinks -- craft beers and ciders from the Mid-Atlantic, lots of locally-produced gin and whiskey -- really stand out compared to most sports bars.

I am very interested to hear about other places to watch, if fans want to recommend them.  

I'd always thought that Stillwater was in Baltimore and was planning to visit recently, but on Google Maps the Baltimore location is now listed as "permanently closed." I saw reports that Stillwater now has a location in Brooklyn but was hoping this was in addition to, not instead of, their MD presence. Is Stillwater no longer represented in MD at all, or is there still an MD location where DMV locals can enjoy their offerings?

Stillwater has never had a brewery in Baltimore, per se. Brian Strumke made being a "gypsy brewer" sound cool before most beer geeks knew what that was, and most of the Stillwater beers have been produced at 2 Roads in Connecticut for years now.

Stillwater's most obvious connection to Baltimore is Of Love and Regret in Brewer's Hill, which serves as a virtual taproom for the brewery.  You might find a dozen or more Stillwater beers on at any time, plus rarities, collaborations, beer-and-a-shot cocktails, etc. It's one of those places I don't always get to in Baltimore, unless I'm barhopping in Highlandtown, but I always enjoy it.

I can't tell you how much I appreciated your "Nerdy Happy Hours" piece! (It WAS yours, wasn't it?) Learning and drinking at the same time--just the kind of thing I'd like to do! It made me wonder, though, if there were more of those kinds of things out there that didn't make your cut, either because they weren't so specifically science-y or because you had to cut things off at a certain point. I've heard of "Philosophy on Tap," for instance, but didn't find anything locally, and I know the National Archives had something along the lines of "History Happy Hours" a while back but didn't see anything recent when I looked online.

Yep, that was me. I love a good nerdy happy hour. I'm not much of a scientist, but I love going to, say, Astronomy on Tap and being captivated while looking at the images Cassini sent back from Saturn. 

The three that I featured in addition to Two Scientists Walk Into A Bar were in there because they're held the most regularly: Profs and Pints is weekly (or multiple times a week); Nat Geo Nights is monthly; Nerd Nite is monthly outside of the summer; Astronomy on Tap is mostly monthly. 

Philosophy on Tap, which was held at various places, including Brickskeller and Hill Country, seems to have tried up. 

That Archives had cocktail sessions -- disclosure: I hosted one panel there -- but those ended. 

Keep an eye out for other events at museums, though: The Smithsonian, for example, has a Belgian beer-themed night coming up in November, and the Heurich House has beer-themed talks on its calendar, too. 

Okay, it's after 2 p.m., so I have to wrap up. Thanks for all the great questions today, and I'll see you back here in two weeks. The Post Points code is HH4628.

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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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