Food

The 5 Best Rooftop Bars at the Wharf, Ranked

Don't pick just any waterfront view

The 5 Best Rooftop Bars at the Wharf, Ranked
Officina's luxe rooftop is our favorite at the Wharf. Photograph by Scott Suchman

1. Officina

The Scene: The flowering garden, chic lounge furniture, and fire pits make this partially canopied terrazza feel like a luxury Italian vacation.
The Views: Set back a bit from the water, the third-floor rooftop looks out on the fish market, Tiki TNT’s patio, and, well, the highway. But who cares when the space itself is an oasis?
Food: Of all the Wharf’s rooftops, you’ll eat the best here. Build your own salumi and cheese board, or opt for sophisticated spuntini (snacks) such as salted cod fritters or a tartine topped with shaved fennel and soft-shell crab.
Drinks: An Aperol spritz is our go-to (suck it, New York Times), but you’ll also find a spiked Sicilian lemonade. (Bonus: you can pick up a bottle in the downstairs market on your way out.)
Median Cocktail Price: $15

2. Tiki TNT

The Scene: If you’re looking for fun over fancy, Todd Thrasher’s rum distillery and tiki bar is your spot. (On our most recent we spotted a group brought their own sailor hats.) The many nooks of the multi-level building give the place a treehouse feel.
The Views: Take in the marina, fish market… or grass-covered rooftop dotted with pink flamingos.
Food: Get your Hawaiian fix with spam musubi, poke, and coconut shrimp.
Drinks: Thrasher, a pioneer of Washington’s cocktail scene, currently produces three types of rum (white, spiced, or “green spiced” with gin-like botanicals such as mint, lemon balm, and lemon grass). Try them in classic and not-so-classic tiki drinks. During happy hour (Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 PM), find $9 frozen cocktails and $25 daiquiri pitchers, among other food and drink specials.
Median Cocktail Price: $14

3. 12 Stories

The Scene: What is this, a nightclub? The moodily lit hallway flanked with velvet ropes leading to the elevator sure makes it feel that way. The bar itself, however, looks like a West Elm showroom full of gray couches and hip accent chairs in leather and blue. (A circular alcove in the corner is the place to be.) The outdoor patio is relatively small with a cluster of high-tops and dining tables.
The View: The 12th-story panoramic views are higher up than most other Wharf rooftops, giving you the best survey of the Pentagon, Jefferson Memorial, and the top of the Washington Monument.
Food: This isn’t a food destination, but small plates such as zucchini tempura and miso chicken skewers are better than expected given the clubby vibe.
Drinks: Well-balanced cocktails are as pretty as the fashionistas who flock here. Go classic or try one of the house concoctions utilizing ingredients such cherry-celery shrub, passionfruit puree, and ube extract.
Median Cocktail Price: $15

4. Cantina Bambina

The Scene: This super chill hangout is the antidote to the Wharf’s glimmering luxury and exorbitant prices. There’s no pretentious mixologist or DJ—just a low-key bar and a pleasant breeze. The main downside: you won’t want to sit long on the uncomfortable mesh metal stools.
The Views: If you were any closer to the water from this second-story perch, you’d be on a boat. Speaking of which, Cantina Bambina overlooks the water taxi terminal.
Food: Offerings are limited to popcorn, chips, beef jerky, but you can bring your own food.  We recommend picking up some seafood from the fish market (warning: crabs are the only thing not allowed) or a thin-crust New Jersey-style pizza topped with hot sopressata and honey from the highly underrated Union Pie kiosk next door.
Drinks: Canned beers and plastic-cup mixed drinks keep things casual. Choose your own tequila for a solid salt-rimmed margarita on the rocks.
Median Cocktail Price: $13 (tax included)

5. La Vie

The Scene: The “Chandelier Room” with crushed shell terrazzo floors and “the Conservatory” bar peeking into a condo’s swimming pool give off serious Sex and the City vibes. The rooftop terrace with a waterfall behind the bar (flowing from the infinity pool) is no exception.
The View: The bar is located on floor 4.6 (we don’t understand it either)—high enough to spot nearby landmarks and low enough to spy on the marina’s yachts.
Food: The Washington Post gave La Vie a zero-star review last summer, but we’re happy to report things have improved. The terrace offers a condensed version of the restaurant’s Mediterranean menu with small plates such as grape leaves and arancini. We also like the crispy seafood misto with shishito peppers.
Drinks: The al fresco offerings are limited to draft cocktails and draft and bottled beers. The St. Germain spritz is a refreshing option befitting the setting.
Median Cocktail Price: $14

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Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.