Food

The 25 Best Places for Waterfront Happy Hours, Splurge Dinners, and Boozy Brunches Around DC

You don’t have to sacrifice good food for a gorgeous view.

Barca, a new Spanish-inspired bar in Old Town. Photograph courtesy of Barca Pier & Wine Bar

The clouds are parting—both literally and metaphorically—as summer approaches and vaccines take hold. And although we may be a little too familiar with eating outside, a meal overlooking a sparkling river or churning bay never gets old. Here’s where to find just that.

Where to Go If You Want . . .

A Fancy Dinner

Chef/restaurateur Fabio Trabocchi has the lock on splurge-worthy waterfront dinners and gorgeous seafood towers, whether at Italian Fiola Mare (3050 K St., NW) in Georgetown or Spanish Del Mar (791 Wharf St., SW) at the Wharf. Also at the Wharf is Officina (1120 Maine Ave., SW), home to Nick Stefanelli’s robust pastas and roasts, plus an amaro collection that’s as impressively sweeping as the rooftop view.

A Boozy Brunch

Have your Benedict amid the seagulls at the Old Town branch of Blackwall Hitch (5 Cameron St., Alexandria), where’s it’s all about the prime patio—and five-buck mimosas. If you’re wavering between lunch and breakfast, go for a gravlax-laden BLT, plus a three-spirit iced coffee, at nearby Hummingbird (220 S. Union St., Alexandria).

A Seafood Lunch

The lobster roll gets all the love at Hank’s Oyster Bar (701 Water St., SW; open for lunch/brunch Friday through Sunday) but the fried-fish sandwich deserves attention, too. And while coconut shrimp often have a bad rap, they’re redeemed at Vola’s Dockside (101 N. Union St., Alexandria; open weekdays for lunch, weekends for brunch) in Old Town.

What’s New

Ada’s on the River/Barca

Old Town’s waterfront now has an upscale steakhouse with foie gras doughnuts, plus a neighboring Spanish-themed sister bar. 2 and 3 Pioneer Mill Way, Alexandria.

Gatsby

This Deco-meets-diner all-day restaurant in Navy Yard began serving appletinis and meatloaf in early April. 1201 Half St., SE.

Moon Rabbit

Kevin Tien has taken over the Wharf dining room that formerly housed Kith and Kin, bringing Vietnamese-accented crudo and turmeric catfish. 801 Wharf St., SW.

The Point

Southwest DC’s next big waterfront development is Buzzard Point, which just got a restaurant from the Ivy City Smokehouse crew. 2100 Second St., SW.

What’s on the Way

The Boardwalk

Having Rehoboth withdrawal? Corn dogs and Skee-ball are coming to a giant space at the Wharf later this year. 715 Wharf St., SW.

Grab a Drink

All-Purpose

The rooftop at this pizzeria now has a weekday happy hour for $5 beers and $8 Italian-ice cocktails. 79 Potomac Ave., SE.

Bottle Stop Wine Bar

You can DIY wine flights on the patio of this Occoquan hangout. 311 Mill St., Occoquan.

Cantina Bambina

Fans of the late institution Cantina Mari-na will find lots that’s familiar at this offshoot, with its cans of Tecate and flip-flop-friendly vibe.960 Wharf St., SW.

Farmers Fishers Bakers

There’s a vast range of cocktails—Palomas, hurricanes, frozen gin-and-tonics—at the $5-a-drink happy hour. 3000 K St., NW.

Fiola Mare

The swank dining room now offers an outdoor happy hour with citrusy spritzes and Negronis. 3050 K St., NW.

The Grill

Head to this mod-American spot for the weekday happy hour, with pitchers of punch and top-shelf martinis. 99 Market Sq., SW.

Island Time

Did you know that the Pentagon has a lagoon? It’s home to this hidden, Florida-feeling spot. Columbia Island Marina off George Washington Pkwy. (no address).

The Salt Line

The New England–inspired restaurant’s daytime Friday happy hour features shandies, crushes, and oysters on the cheap. 79 Potomac Ave., SE.

Succotash

Ed Lee’s Southern-meets-Korean place at National Harbor boasts a top-notch bourbon selection. 186 Waterfront St., National Harbor.

Tiki TNT

Todd Thrasher makes his own rum at his often-packed Wharf distillery/bar. Try it in a $5 happy-hour frozen rum-and-Coke. 1130 Maine Ave., SW.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.

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.