Garden District

Garden District (formerly Standard), website, Twitter, 1801 14th St. NW (14th & S), opens at 5p (weekdays) noon (weekends), closes at 2a (Fri-Sat), 1a (rest of week), closed Mondays except during summer months, est. 2011 [Yelp, WaPo, Tripadvisor]
Standard

Previously an open lot to pick up plants and little trees, the incredibly popular Garden District (formerly Standard) is, since spring 2011, an open lot to drink large $7 German beers and eat barbecue sandwiches and assorted sides.  Aside from a small building at the back of this lot, which includes the small bar, a couple bathrooms and a few bar stools, this spot is nearly entirely outside, so count on crowds anytime the weather is pleasant (and even if it’s not, as long as it’s not raining or snowing, when the place is closed).  There are a number of communal picnic tables (with a few outside the tall fence that surrounds the lot), but the space is spruced up with some hanging lights, heat lamps, shades from the sun, and the lively crowd.

View of Standard with back to small building
View of Standard with back to small building

Expect a crowd every day after 6pm and on weekend afternoons, though it tends to thin out a bit later in the evening and usually if you can’t find a spot on a picnic table, it’s fine to stand and drink while ordering from the bar in the back.  The pulled pork is great, and consider getting the grilled corn when it’s available; sometimes Garden District fries up some donuts, which are reportedly tremendous.  The prices on the menu seem bizarre ($6.36 for a beer), until you realize that adding the 10% DC tax makes everything a round number.

Small bar area inside
Small bar area inside

Aside from the wait/crowd, this bar also unfortunately (but understandably) is closed for the winter (from mid-November to end of February) and serves only 6-7 draft beers, somewhat bottled sodas, and water (so you cocktail or wine lovers are SOL), but all in all, a good spot to drink and eat outside on the 14th Street corridor.

Barred in DC Rating: 4/5

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The Board Room DC

The Board Room DC, website, Facebook, 1737 Connecticut Ave. NW (Conn. and R/S St. NW, near 20th & S), 202-518-7666, opens at 4p (weekdays) noon (weekends), HH 4-7p (weekdays) noon-7p (weekends), est. 2012 [Yelp, WaPo]

Board Room
Board Room

The newest spot from the folks who brought you other game bars like Bedrock Billiards, Rocket Bar, Buffalo Billiards, and Atomic Billiards, this north Dupont spot is my favorite new bar in the city.  Not someone to frequent same bar or restaurant too many times, I’ve ended up here for drinks 4 times in the last month.

Back Upstairs Bar

I was initially very skeptical of the conceit of this spot (reflected in its name): a bar that specializes in board games? I’ve generally held the belief that any bar where folks feel comfortable bringing board games is generally a lame spot (the now-shuttered Leopold’s in Ann Arbor was the first place I noticed this).  But this place does it right, with tons of unique and not-so-unique games (Jenga and UNO are two games I’ve played so far) that you can pay $1-$5 to play (some of the more unique expensive games require you to provide your license; if you don’t want to pay, you can always bring in your own game); even the décor and bartops feature board game themes.   The solid beer list ($5.50-7) along with some fancy-ish $8-9 cocktails (get the Orange Crush) that are made strong keep this bar much livelier than you would expect.

Free Game of Hangman

Like many bars in the vicinity, Board Room is fairly narrow, yet deep spot; recommend going past the long bar in the first floor (with some tables in the back) to go upstairs.  The bar upstairs is much smaller, but I haven’t had much trouble getting drinks from the friendly bartenders and tables always seem to open up after a bit.  One weekends this place gets crowded well before 9PM and stays that way till 12:30am at least, but it’s never unbearably stuffed and folks are friendly and often trade games with other groups when they want to switch it up  One quibble: it would be nice if the bouncer/keeper of the board games had some knowledge of the games that are peddled.  All in all, a fun place to go all week long.

Barred in DC Rating: 4.5/5

 

 

ChurchKey

ChurchKey, web siteFacebookTwitter1337 14th St. NW (14th & Rhode Island b/t N & P), 202-567-2576, opens at 4p (weekdays) noon (weekends), closes at 1a except Fri-Sat (2a), est. 2009 [YelpWaPo, Tripadvisor, Urbanspoon, D.C. Foodies, Frommer’s, Fodor’s]

This is probably the best beer bar and the most popular bar for non-tourist adults (25+) in DC.  Massive beer list with ton on draft and some on cask.  Always crowded (except when old people go to bed after midnight), fairly narrow, and impossible to get a bar stool or one of their cozy booths during most hours, so I actually don’t go here that often even though it’s only a few blocks away from where I live.  Once you get in (always a line between 9pm-midnight on weekends), surprisingly not that hard to get a beer, but I always ask to see the beer list so I can try something new. Solid bar food, and the restaurant downstairs (Birch & Barley) is terrific. Although it doesn’t have a happy hour, lots of special beer events are hosted here and a lot of the beers aren’t as expensive (though some definitely are, so you always want to check the menu before acting fake fancy) as you might think. Opened in late 2009 after what felt like years of anticipation.

Barred in DC Rating: 4.5/5