BRING A DATE
Erik Holzherr, the bartender/owner of this cozy cocktail lounge, whips up some of Capitol Hill’s most creative—and potent—concoctions. The drink menu includes playful liquor infusions, such as a Milky Way–laced vodka, and a solid absinthe list. Couples in search of romance should snag one of the small curtained side rooms equipped with pillows, cushions, and music-volume controls. If those rooms are taken, head to the three-seat back bar or snuggle up on one of the antique couches.
DISCOVER A HOT BAND
Rock & Roll Hotel
Music lovers flock to this two-floor bar and music venue to sip PBR tall boys and listen to up-and-coming DJs and bands. Headliners have included indie-buzz bands Vampire Weekend and Sleigh Bells. The 400-capacity spot also hosts dance parties and trivia nights. The music hall is generally open to all ages; the 21-and-over bar/lounge upstairs has comfy sofas in intimate smaller rooms.
SIP BIG-GULP BEERS
Thirsty beer lovers will like this German-inspired bar. One-liter and half-liter pours are available for the 12 beers on tap, and the place stocks more than a dozen bottles—all German. Order from a menu of Old World favorites—spaetzle, schnitzel—and enjoy drinks at the two inside bars or in the festive outdoor beer garden, which will remain tented during Oktoberfest celebrations and then enclosed for winter.
Lola’s Barracks Bar & Grill
The older sister of the nearby Chesapeake Room, Lola’s is one of the best-kept secrets on Barracks Row. The homey, wood-paneled space draws a quiet crowd of twenty- and thirtysomethings. There are a few TVs, so game days can get crowded, but it’s easy to find a table or barstool on a regular night. House-made sloppy-Joe sliders make for a tasty snack.
GOOD FOR GROUPS
With games such as Connect Four and Barrel of Monkeys, it’s hard to get bored at this small neighborhood pub. Groups can play tournament-style board games while sipping cheap beer and noshing on childhood favorites such as hot dogs and cheese puffs.
HAPPIEST HAPPY HOUR
Hill staffers swarm this Tex-Mex restaurant for one of the area’s best happy hours. You might have to jostle for elbow room, but it’s worth it: Weekdays from 3:30 to 7, beers are $3.50, tasty bar bites are $3 or $4, and pint-size frozen lime margaritas are $6. Tuesdays, the colossal burritos are just $7.99.
FUN AND GAMES
This quirky Asian bar and restaurant is packed almost every evening thanks to a full schedule of trivia, dance, and karaoke nights. One of the most popular is Thursday-night Blingo, a rapid-fire version of bingo. Regulars arrive early to get the best tables. If you have to wait, a bucket of tater tots at the bar will help pass the time.
Dust off your cowboy boots and head to this friendly gay bar for a night of partner or line dancing. The country-western venue, which draws a mostly male crowd—though women are welcome—hosts two-step, waltz, and other partner lessons on Monday; line-dance lessons on Wednesday; and open dancing Thursday through Saturday. Friday and Saturday, there’s karaoke upstairs. Drink specials abound, with happy hour every weekday and late-night specials most nights.
Trusty’s Full-Serve Bar
This neighborhood dive opened in 2005 but has yet to become a destination for non-Hill residents—and that’s a good thing. The truck-stop-inspired bar draws regulars who know the bartenders by name. Draft beers come in Mason jars, and they’re cheap: A glass of Yuengling is $3.50 during happy hour. Upstairs in the Bus Bar, patrons can sidle up to a full-size school bus and order from a menu of half-smokes, cheesesteaks, and other greasy-spoon staples.
CLASSIC HILL HAUNT
Hawk ’n’ Dove
This neighborhood institution has been attracting Hill staffers and residents for more than 40 years. The wood-paneled bar is decorated with an eclectic mix of tchotchkes, from dusty presidential portraits to mounted deer heads. Beer and rail drinks are $2 during happy hour (Monday through Friday 4 to 7). The pub’s Midnight Breakfast—ham, bacon, or sausage on an English muffin with French fries—is served weekdays from 9 pm to 1 am and Friday and Saturday till 2.
H Street Country Club
Who wants to just sit at a bar and drink? At this tongue-in-cheek prepster bar, you can sip drinks while playing miniature golf. The nine-hole indoor course features scaled-down models of local landmarks such as the Washington Monument and the “Awakening” sculpture. If golf’s not your bag, you can have fun with shuffleboard, pool, and Skee-Ball. Sunday and Monday are family nights, when the under-21 set is allowed in with parents.
Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar
Fleur-de-lis flags mark the entrance to this two-story bar; inside, the place glows under purple and black lights. A favorite of H Street hipsters, the bar has a list of regular events but the most popular are the dance nights. There’s one for almost everyone: Moneytown features old-school funk, disco, and soul; Denman is for metalheads; and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang caters to ’80s lovers. Bonus: The place never has a cover charge.
SEE THE GAME
Washington’s Pittsburgh bar, Pour House recently installed more than a dozen flat-screen TVs, including two 60-inch plasmas. When a Steel City game is on, you know where the tubes will be tuned. Otherwise, the bar screens everything from football to ice hockey to women’s slow-pitch softball. Grab a beer—there are more than 30 varieties—and order a bucket of wings: They come in a plastic beer pitcher with hot-sauce-soaked fries on the bottom.
This article first appeared in the October 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.