Our Favorite Washington Roof Decks, Patios, and Beer Gardens

Pull up a chair and unwind.

Liz Taylor’s violet eyes are always watching over Dacha, a beer garden in DC’s Shaw where bartenders pull pints of hefeweizen and Kölsch (left). Dupont Circle’s Iron Gate is one of the prettiest places around for dinner under the stars (right). Photographs by Scott Suchman

Have a Hefeweizen

Liter-size glass boots of German and Belgian beers are swilled at picnic tables at the Shaw beer garden Dacha, where you’ll find a small menu of sausages to pad the stomach. For more eclectic eats, head to Logan Circle’s snug Garden District for robust mugs of beer with pulled-pork sandwiches and freshly fried doughnuts, or to German-style Biergarten Haus for a large menu of Bavarian specialties such as pretzel rolls and schnitzel on the year-round patio. Another favorite: Westover Beer Garden and Haus, a tree-lined oasis adjoining Westover Market, perfect for sipping craft drafts and listening to live music in the summer or for warming hands around fire pits in the fall.

Hit the Roof Deck

We love downing Pimm’s Cups on the roomy, partially shaded rooftop at the Brixton, especially on quieter weekdays. Two outdoor bars help handle the popular pub’s crowds, but once Friday hits, it’s worth the short walk to the wooden deck at 1905 Bistro & Bar for a more relaxed sip in the sun. Across the river, the twentysomething crowd embraces tiki time at the tropically inspired top floor at Whitlow’s on Wilson, though we tend to stick to the cold beers and burgers. Cocktail fans should try the Roof Mule—spiked with ginger liqueur—at the aptly named Roof Bethesda, whose open-air third story boasts room for 200.

On the patio at Takoma Park’s Republic, server Amy Milne delivers cocktails including a citrusy gin-and-tonic (right). Photographs by Scott Suchman.

Al Fresco Happy Hours

Slurp dollar Chesapeake oysters, dig into $7 pots of mussels, and sip $3 local brews at Republic, which opens its bar and patio for happy hour weekdays from 3 to 7. Weekend deal seekers can try the patio fronting sister restaurant Black’s Bar & Kitchen for burgers and half-off oysters Saturday from noon to 3. Daily deals can be found from 5 to 7 on the Italianate back plaza at Vinoteca, where a friendly crowd plays bocce on the oyster-shell court, samples about 20 varieties of wine for $5, and snacks on discounted tapas like mushroom crostini. There are fewer frills at the Petworth neighborhood joint DC Reynolds, but it throws one of the best happy hours in town on the large back patio: Score a two-for-one deal on any drink, from local brews to Green Hat-gin-and-tonics.

Cabana Time

Splash in the sun at the newly opened rooftop pool lounge at Dupont Circle’s Embassy Row Hotel. Guest passes ($25) allow all-day access, so you can take a day-cation with drinks, beach fare such as crabcakes, and scenic views. The public can’t swim at the Donovan House hotel’s DNV Rooftop, but come evening, groups gather poolside for Asian-inflected cocktails and dishes including tamarind-barbacoa beef tacos and bao buns from Zentan chef Jennifer Nguyen.

Outdoor Oases

Few perches are more quietly charming than an umbrella-topped patio table amid the flower beds at Old Angler’s Inn, a 19th-century stone-walled restaurant near the C&O Canal. When the weather cools, heat lamps and spiked cider keep patrons warm in the beer garden out back. Century-old wisteria shades guests in the garden at Iron Gate, an idyllic spot for sampling Tony Chittum’s Mediterranean-influenced menu or sipping unusual Old World wines. In Adams Morgan, the flower-box-lined roof at Perrys—where couples nibble sushi under strings of lights—feels miles away from 18th Street.

Find Anna Spiegel on Twitter at @AnnaSpiegs. This article appears in the August 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.