No-Cover Bars for a Low-Key New Year’s Eve

Here are 17 bars and restaurants keeping it cool on the 31st.

Smoke & Barrel welcomes New Year's with lots of meat and whiskey...but no cover charge. Photograph by Scott Suchman

New Year’s Eve is a day of resolution, reflection . . . and drinking. But the last
need not involved a packed, expensive, and sweaty scene. For those drinkers among
us who prefer a less insane evening, a smattering of spots are planning low-key New
Year’s Eve experiences. So relax, there’s no rule that says you have to fight it out
at an open bar this year.

Boundary Stone,
a wing-lover’s paradise, will continue its golden tradition of doing absolutely nothing
special for New Year’s Eve. (Well, we’ve been told there might be a toast at midnight,
but that’s a sort of whim-of-the-evening type thing.)

If smoked meats and whiskey are more your style, then Dupont Circle’s Smoke & Barrel
has you covered. The only thing it’s doing to ring in the New Year is keeping a steady
supply of succulent barbecue at the ready.

Maddy’s Bar & Grille, which recently added a Logan
Circle location, will have a fairly basic night, as well: no cover but a few drink

Glover Park’s game-and-sandwich filled Breadsoda
won’t make anyone pay upon entry, but it’s not ignoring the holiday altogether: There
will be free games all night, plus a complimentary Champagne toast at midnight.

Columbia Heights favorite Meridian Pint
offers a normal night at the bar and a twist in the dining room: Diners can enjoy
a three-course prix-fixe meal for $45. After dinner, sidle up to the bar and try not
to get overwhelmed by the extensive beer list.

The haven for lovers of Belgian beers and mussels, Granville Moore’s,
is doing “absolutely nothing” to ring in the New Year—save, of course, offering a
fantastically eclectic beer menu and some of the best mussels in this city.

Georgetown classic Clyde’s
welcomes the New Year with its usual food, drinks, and good times. It closes when
the ball drops, but that just leaves all of Georgetown at your disposal.

Dupont beer bar the Big Hunt
has no cover as usual. The only difference during New Year’s Eve is the deejays that’ll
be spinning tracks for all its brew sippers.

One of the newcomers on this list, Central,
plans to keep serving its cheese puffs, bacon-and-onion tarts, and the rest of its
regular menu for the New Year.

The triple-leveled Black Squirrel
is still deciding what to do for the big day, but one thing’s certain: At least two
levels will be experiencing a normal evening. A caveat: The bar may instate a cover
at around 11:30 to deter those seeking nothing but the free Champagne at the midnight

The Tune Inn,
home of stuffed deer heads, PBR, and cheese fries, is closed on Christmas, but is
serving up its lowbrow delicacies on New Year’s Eve.

Off the Record,
the politico favorite nestled in the Hay-Adams Hotel, will be following standard operating
procedure to ring in 2013. As will the Jefferson Hotel’s bar, Quill.
The Willard InterContinental’s bar, Round Robin,
will also keep on keeping on with its normal service throughout New Year’s Eve.

The perpetually packed Old Ebbitt Grill
will be doing what it always does: catering to the hungry and the thirsty late into
the evening, long after most restaurants have closed their doors.

If you’re looking for a decent meal but don’t want to decide between a prix-fixe menu
and à la carte, Poste will be offering an à-la-carte version of its New Year’s Eve tasting menu—along with signature burgers—at the bar.

Dickson Wine Bar
is taking things up a notch without taking too heavy a toll on your wallet. You’ll
find food and drink specials, music, and a projection screen showing the ball drop—all
for no cover.

Every World War I-obsessed writer’s favorite haunt, the Hemingway-inspired Bar Pilar, will have its usual blend
of well-made cocktails and tasty small plates, plus tunes from a deejay

Know of other great places to spend a quiet New Year’s Eve? Let us know in the comments