Hill Prince: The Best Bar in DC Right Now.

Hill Prince

Hill Prince, website, Facebook, Instagram, 1337 H St. NE, opens at 5p (weekdays), noon (weekends), HH until 7p everyday, closed Mondays, est. March 2017 [Washington Post, Washington City Paper, Washingtonian, Eater DC]

Hill Prince is the best bar in DC right now. I’ve been to the newish H Street spot (opened back in March) at least 10 times since it opened (I’m not a regular anywhere-gotta perform research, ya know?). Although it exudes cool and charm, Hill Prince also feels like a neighborhood bar thanks in part to the much-ballyhooed budget-friendly (and excellent) $10 classic cocktails but also largely due to friendly service from folks like Tony Lawson (ever-present beverage director), Eve (who hosts recurring “Friday Eve” parties on select Thursdays)-even the door person/bouncer greets you warmly. The crowd, unlike many of the other spots on the 1300 block of H Street, skews a little bit older, and it often feels like an oasis of chill when it gets “lit” (as the kids say) on the Atlas Corridor weekend nights. Crowds do come at times on weekends, but there’s more an ebb and flow that adds positively to the vibe.

The cocktail menu varies a bit, but expect around six classic cocktails (awesome Daiquiri, French 75, Sidecar, Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Negroni, and New York Sour have been on the menu) and a few more specials ($12 or $14). Around 4 rotating beers are on tap (beers from local breweries like RAR are often available, Narragansett Lager was on tap for much of the summer), along with around 10-12 bottles/cans (you’ll see $4 High Life or Natty Boh often being drunk). There’s a choice of wines as well.  Whistle Pig seems to be often highlighted as the fancy whiskey of choice. Recently, Hill Prince just kicked off a great happy hour, going everyday until 7p – many drinks are roughly $3 off.

Space-wise, it’s bigger than you think , and there’s a lot of pine flooring, exposed brick/wooden ceiling, and even a floor-to-ceiling wooden beam or two. The front section of Hill Prince is occupied by the long main bar as well as a table with a few chairs. Stairs, off-limits to patrons, are kind of mysterious (I’ve heard that some dude lives up there, unaffiliated with the bar). The next room has a long-ass drink rail, which is a nice perch if you can’t catch a spot on the nearby couch or at the bar. Currently, a DJ sets up shop there starting at 10p on Fridays and Saturdays (don’t worry, it doesn’t turn into a dance club). Back further is a small covered patio that overlooks a super-chill hipstery courtyard (strung lights, sandy surface, tables); in warm times, a mini-bar with separate menu (think a couple canned beers an $9 G&T and Dark & Stormy) has been open weekend nights. In the carriage house on the other side of the courtyard is an under-construction bar (possibly 30 seats and a more permanent DJ set-up); owner Nick Wiseman tells me that it’s on track to open in early 2018.

Hill Prince comes from Nick and his cousin David Wiseman, the folks behind the upscale Jewish deli DGS Delicatessen in Dupont and Whaley’s in Navy Yard/Capitol Riverfront (in fact, I’ve hung out with staff from both spots on multiple occasions at Hill Prince). The bar has a fairly subtle equestrian theme (other than the fake stuffed horse head), as Hill Prince is the name of the horse that won the 1950 Preakness and the building used to house horse stables. Not surprisingly, the bar hosted watch parties for the horse racing Triple Crown series in May-June (I met DC bar extraordinaire Derek Brown there watching the Belmont). During the summer, crab boils were held on select weekends, and recently the bar started serving waffle brunches on weekends (noon-4p).

In full disclosure, one reason I extoll the virtues of Hill Prince to all who I encounter is that it’s less than a twenty-minute walk from my house, but I legit would love this bar even if it was in Park View. Go.

Bar at Hill Prince
Back Room at Hill Prince
View of Bar from back room
Bar at Hill Prince
Hill Prince is named after the 1950 winner of the Preakness
Hipstery Courtyard
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Where to Day Drink on a DC Rooftop During the Week

It was lunchtime on a recent Thursday and I was stumped. A friend visiting from out of town had texted me, asking: “What’s a good place to drink on a rooftop right now?” Completely out of ideas, I instead pointed him to solid patios that I knew were open  like Duke’s Grocery and DC Reynolds. 

Afterwards, using RockTheRoofDC’s near-comprehensive guide to DC rooftops as a starting point, I confirmed that  museum/Mall-weary tourists, conventioneer truants, and local workers with more “flexible” summer schedules had few partake on roofs or similar elevated outdoor drinking areas: out of the 60-odd bars/restaurants in DC with such outdoor spaces, only FOUR are even open before 4p on weekdays, and only two of them, both in Georgetown, are open before 3p. Of course, if one wants to drink alfresco closer to the ground, there are a number of solid patios that are open during the day on weekdays, just not that many roof decks (although the majority are open during the day during the weekend). The short, but sweet, list of places to day drink on a roof during the week:

Georgetown

Old Glory

Old Glory (Credit: Old Glory website)
  • opens at 11a on weekdays
  • 3139 M St. NW
  • casual bbq spot
  • partially-covered deck off rear of 2nd floor, overlooks parking lot & Wisconsin Ave.

il Canale

il Canale (Credit: PoPville http://www.popville.com/2010/05/judging-restaurants-italian-in-georgetown/)
  • opens at 11:30a on weekdays
  • 1063 31st NW (between M and C&O Canal)
  • Italian restaurant
  • 2nd floor patio with large table umbrellas overlooks 31st St. with view of C&O canal

Downtown

P.OV. Rooftop Lounge and Terrace (W Washington Hotel)

P.O.V. atop W Washington (Credit: AFAR http://www.afar.com/highlights/a-good-point-of-view)
  • opens at 3p on weekdays
  • 515 15th St. NW (at F)
  • fancy hotel bar
  • million-dollar view of Washington Monument and White House; fully covered but open-air

Dupont Circle

Rebellion

Rebellion (Credit: Rebellion Facebook page)
  • opens at 3:30p on weekdays
  • 1836 18th St. NW (at T)
  • new whiskey spot
  • spacious 2nd floor spot (beware: not much of a cover) with own outdoor bar overlooking 18th Street

Redline

Redline First Floor Entrance
Redline First Floor Entrance

Redline, websiteFacebookTwitter,  707 G St. NW, opens at 11a everyday except Sun. (10a), HH 4-7p M-F, Distance to Verizon Center: 400 feet (Brought to you by DC Sports Nexus), est. 2010 [Post, WCPZagatIn a DC MinuteYelp]

Overlooking the Verizon Center, Redline satisfies those looking for both a sports bar and a loungey atmosphere. Dubbed a “Gastrolounge/Bar,” this is a solid spot to grab very good food and drinks before or after a game or concert, or if you’re just in the neighborhood. Unlike most of the neighboring establishments, Redline’s second-floor location and large windows provide good views of the throngs below and let in lots of light during the day. The antithesis of Rocket Bar, let us count the ways…

Main Dining Area with Booths
Main Dining Area with Booths

Three main areas make up this second-floor establishment that features much-coveted exposed brick walls: a dining area of tabletops and booths (with table taps-more details below); a cozy bar area to the right of the steps at the entrance (quite popular for Caps fans before games); and another larger bar area beyond the dining room.

Some of Redline's ~50 TVs
Some of Redline’s ~50 TVs

Around 50 TVs are posted throughout Redline, allowing people to watch their favorite games from any angle. A huge 11-foot projection screen and a sports news/scores ticker are prominent and can be checked from a number of tabletops and booths throughout the bar.

Main bar area with ticker and huge projection
Main bar area with ticker and huge projection

Most unique are the aforementioned built-in beer taps installed at several booths in the dining area allowing patrons to self-serve their brew of choice. Redline is only one of two spots in town to feature such table taps (Meridian Pint is the other). But, amateur bartenders, Beware! It’s not as easy as it looks and the electronic meter on the tap tracks how many ounces you pour, so charges can rack up quickly. Also, if multiple booths are open, peruse the beer selections at each station as  some tables have more adventurous beers than others. So, match your mood from Bud Light to Sam Adams.

Pouring own beer! Also, some of the great food served.
Pouring own beer! Also, some of the great food served.

Barred in DC was recently invited by Redline to enjoy drinks and the great, inventive food (gator and a kobe beef hot dog are on the menu) and also previewed its new buffet brunch, which offers an immensely impressive spread from 10a-4p on Sundays ($25 + $10 for bottomless mimosas). As for the drinks, a solid 20+ $6-7 bottle beer list and a serviceable draft list are accompanied by a host of wines, shooters, and cocktails.

Another view of main bar area
Another view of main bar area

Unlike most sports bars, bottle service is available here and a DJ spins tunes weekend nights. In other words, those looking for a traditional sports bar with tons of sports paraphernalia and game broadcast sound routinely on and audible would probably prefer another place. Folks who want a nicer atmosphere or want to enjoy exceptional, not your average, “bar food” and drinks with others non-fanatics should check out Redline.

Barred in DC Rating: 4/5

Cozy secluded bar near entrance
Cozy secluded bar near entrance

Bar Charley

The bar at Bar Charley
The bar at Bar Charley

Bar CharleyFacebookTwitter,  1825 18th St. NW (at Swann/T), opens at 4p on weekdays, 10a on weekends, closes at 11p Sun-Thu, midnight Fri-Sat, HH 4-6:30p M-F, est. 2013 [Post (Sietsma), Post (Hahn), InTheCapital, PoPville, Forking DC, EaterYelp]

A welcome respite from the circus that is the nearby Lauriol Plaza, Bar Charley is one of my favorite places to grab a cocktail in DC. This new spot in the north part of Dupont, from the folks behind the popular Silver Spring establishment Jackie’s and El Chucho in Colombia Heights, is well worth a visit, whether you’re a neighbor or come from afar.

The dining area at Bar Charley
The dining area

The space, previously home to the short-lived Cajun Experience, is a few steps down from street-level but feels comfortable and neighorhoody without being divey. Although there are no TVs, a rarity for DC bars that I like to frequent, the absence contributes positively to the pleasant and casual, yet upscale vibe. To the left of the entrance is the establishment’s cozy bar area where folks can grab a stool or stand up while ordering from one of two bartenders, who often come out from behind the 10-seat bar to take orders and serve drinks. You can usually find me posting up on one of the 5 stools next to the bay window opposite the bar; this is a good spot to have a group consisting of both people who like to stand (me) and those who prefer sitting (most people). The rest of Bar Charley is made up of the main dining area to the right of the entrance: comfortable seating along one of the exposed brick walls; a communal table in the center of the room; and a large, semi-secluded booth in front of another bay window. In warmer months, visitors can enjoy food and drinks out on the back patio.

Back patio at Bar Charley
Back patio

The stars of the show are the cocktails created by co-owner Gordon Banks. The menu includes the quite economical (for DC standards) classic cocktails ($8 for a Sazerac, Jack Rose, Monk Buck, and fantastic Old Fashioned), on-tap Tiki drinks ($7 for a Mai Tai and Suffering Bastard served in tiki-themed ceramic cups), and more standard-priced creative concoctions (such as the Quack-Quack-erac, made with a duck fat wash and the Stepdad which involves a blowtorch). While the pretty solid wine list, both by the bottle and glass, serves as an ample co-star, the beer list, despite nary a macrobrew, is at best a fledgling starlet. Three drafts don’t rotate as often as I would like and many of the bottles on list are $15-25 large format bottles.

Tiki drinks at Bar Charley
Tiki drinks

Although it has only been open since September, Bar Charley has quickly generated a tremendous amount of buzz (both positive and negative). The spot has already appeared in the Post FOUR times (including critiques by bar guru Fritz Hahn and dining expert Tom Sietsma), and Bar Charley’s request to be open normal DC bar hours (2a weekdays, 3a weekends), has quickly become a source of controversy in its hood, as previously documented by this blog here. Many neighbors vehemently oppose the hours extension, though I personally know several proponents of it.

One of the fancier cocktails
One of the fancier cocktails

Since later hours of operation have not yet been approved, when you stop by for a drink (which you must do), make sure you go on the early side, as Bar Charley closes at 11p sharp weekdays and midnight Friday and Saturday nights.

Barred in DC Rating: 4.5/5

View of the bar with dining room in background
View of the bar with dining room in background
The dining room at Bar Charley
another view of Bar Charley dining area
Bartender making an excellent cocktail at Bar Charley
Bartender making an excellent cocktail at Bar Charley
Bar Charley from 18th Street
Bar Charley from 18th Street

Lucky Bar

Awning in front of Lucky Bar
Awning in front of Lucky Bar

Lucky BarwebsiteFacebookTwitter,  1221 Connecticut Ave. NW (at 18th & M), opens at 3p on weekdays (unless soccer event), typically 8a or earlier on weekends , HH 3-8 M-W, 3-close Th, 3-10p F, est. 1997 [Yelp, WaPo, Frommers]

Arguably the best soccer bar in D.C. (though Fado may quibble), Lucky Bar has been treating futbol fans and 23 year olds to good times for nearly two decades. More divey than a true dive, this Joe Englert spot sports nearly 25 TVs on 3 levels in its location in the raucous triangle of 18th/M/Connecticut.

For soccer fans, the bar opens quite early, often on weekends before booze can even be served at 8am and similarly early on weekdays during the World Cup and other big competitions. Every conceivable game around the world is available here, and fans who want to catch the big matches have to show up early or strategically (i.e., right when previous games end) to even get a seat.

First Floor Bar
First Floor Bar

For everyone else, this spot is a less crowded (compared to neighbors Sign of the Whale &  Madhatter) meat market for the younger set (especially popular on Thursdays).  A green awning covering a handful outdoor seating fronts the bar. Behind, the first floor is the most divey of the levels; it is a narrow space mostly taken up by a long bar and some booths.  Located at the rear, up a few steps, is the more expansive main bar area.  Booths, couches, pool tables, lots of tvs, and a smaller bar in the far corner make up this  larger space.  A seemingly impromptu dance floor often (but not always) materializes late at night ; it should be noted that this is definitely a sticky-floor-kind-of-bar.  If you’re hungry for some nuts after dancing, put in a few quarters in a vending machine at the back of this floor, and you’ll be rewarded.

2nd floor main bar area
2nd floor main bar area
Second floor bar
Second floor bar

Leading upstairs near the nut machine is perhaps the most harrowing/steep (at least if you’ve had a few too many Bud Lights) stairs in any DC bar; bargoers making it to the summit will be rewarded with a more private-feeling space and another bar, along with the only bathrooms in all of Lucky Bar. Just be careful walking back down to the 2nd floor.

Legendary stairs to 3rd floor
Legendary stairs to 3rd floor

Although the smell of the adjacent Julia’s Empanadas (Lucky Bar + couple Jamaican empanadas was definitely a common combo of mine in the mid-2000s) permeates the bar, good times can be had . Even if you’re not a soccer fan, the extended happy hour (3-8pm M-W with $2.50-$3.75/pint & $3.50 rail drinks) is cheap, and drafts (even the local craft beers like DC Brau, Chocolate City & Atlas) are $4 until 10p on Fridays.  On Thursdays, the most popular night, happy hour runs all night-usually $3-4 pints & cocktails, $12 pitchers and food specials. Beer and rail drinks are always relatively cheap at all hours too.

Third Floor Bar
Third Floor Bar

Barred in DC Rating: 3/5

Jack Rose Dining Saloon

Jack Rose

Jack Rose Dining Saloon, website, Facebook, Twitter, 2007 18th St. NW, opens at 5p everyday, HH 5-7:30p M-F, est. 2011 [Yelp, WaPo, Washington City Paper, Washingtonian]

Jack Rose, located at the far southern end of Adams Morgan at its border with Dupont and U Street, is my favorite non-dive bar in DC. With frequent events at any of its 5 bars spread over 3 floors, the whiskey-and-beer-centric bar from Bill Thomas (owner of both locations of Bourbon) is a great place to drink all week long.

2nd Floor Open-Air Terrace With Roof Closed
2nd Floor Open-Air Terrace With Roof Closed

My visits to Jack Rose are usually spent at its second-floor Open-Air Terrace bar, reached by the stairwell that greets visitors at the front entrance (the folks who make up the fast-moving line that often forms on weekends are typically waiting to go up here). This expansive rooftop space, carved out of the second floor of a former boxing gym, can be enjoyed all year long; the long bar that occupies one side of the space is covered by a permanent roof, while the other half, with high-top tables, can be covered by removable glass panels when it rains or the temperature goes down.  The wall to the north provides a great view of 18th Street and the rest of the Adams Morgan neighborhood (sometimes clear plastic panels are hung to protect folks from wind and cold) .  A host of craft beers (mostly $7-8) and cocktails can be ordered from the friendly and knowledgeable bartenders, who do a great job of taking orders even when the place gets crowded, as it often does on weekend nights from 10p-1a. The crowd upstairs skews slightly younger than the rest of Jack Rose; but the lack of cheap beer (often only 1 light beer available) and other typical 18th Street specialties (I overheard a bro and his young lady friend lamenting the lack of Red Bull on a recent visit) means that this bar isn’t overrun with 22 year olds like the rest of the hood further north. Tasty bites cooked on the wood-fired grill upstairs can be ordered earlier in the evening if hungry.

Second Floor Open-Air Roof Terrace Bar
Second Floor Open-Air Roof Terrace Bar

Two more smaller bars also make up the second floor. To the front sits the enclosed Balcony Room, which contains a wood-burning fireplace, its own bar and outdoor veranda overlooking 18th Street, and often serves as the location for private events; while in the back, past the restrooms, is the cozier open-air seasonal Tiki Bar (at least during late summer/early fall 2013), with décor and drinks to match, along with an unique view to the east and south .

Seasonal 2nd Floor Back Tiki Bar
Seasonal 2nd Floor Back Tiki Bar

The more sedate Dining Room on the first floor is impressive for the shelves and shelves of booze (mostly bourbon and other types of whiskey) that line its walls, evoking the coolest library ever. Many of the reported 1,600 different kinds (“the largest publicly available collection of whiskey in North America” according to one report) of whiskey that Jack Rose possesses are on these shelves.  Because it’s more relaxed than upstairs, this is a better place to sample some of the amazing spirits on offer. A dining area makes up two-thirds of the room, separated by a railing/partition from the long bar makes up the rest; I could do without this partition, which forces patrons at the bar to squeeze into a smaller space when crowded.

First Floor Dining Room and Walls of Liquor
First Floor Dining Room and Walls of Liquor

Those looking for an even more intimate whiskey experience should check out the recently opened Whiskey Cellar, reached by going down the stairs at the back of the Dining Room. This cozy basement space is only open Thursday-Saturday evenings, but is quickly becoming a favorite spot to sample whiskey (bourbon on tap is offered) and spend time in an even more relaxed environment.

Basement Whiskey Cellar
Basement Whiskey Cellar
Whiskeys on Tap in Whiskey Cellar
Whiskeys on Tap in Whiskey Cellar

If you visit, you’ll frequently spot an older gentleman who looks like Father Christmas with a long hair and beard; this June 2011 Washingtonian profile on this man, Harvey Fry, who supplied around 1/3 of the whiskeys for the bar, is well worth the read. Also, Jack Rose makes great use of social media to advertise its many events; I’m an especially fan of the colorful, informative posters it produces to provide event details.

Although the place (especially upstairs) can get crowded, the lines that often form on weekends are an annoyance, and (most selfishly) it opened up right after I lived less than a football field away (you can spot my house’s old rooftop from the Balcony Room), Jack Rose is well worth a visit.

Barred in DC Rating: 4.5/5

Young lady doing push-ups randomly at Jack Rose's St. Patrick's Day Celebration
Young lady doing push-ups randomly at Jack Rose’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration

Vendetta

Vendetta, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1212 H St. NE, opens at 5p everyday, HH 5-8p daily, est. 2013 [Yelp, WaPo, Washington City Paper, Washingtonian, NPR]

Upstairs bocce court
Upstairs bocce court

Bocce is the group sport du jour in Washington, especially for  forever-young adults graduating from kickball or those too unathletic to play softball. While other bars have dabbled in the Italian lawn bowling game (e.g., Vinoteca, Blackjack, and Penn Social),it was inevitable that a bar fully devoted to bocce would open in DC.

First Floor Bar
First Floor Bar

That place is Vendetta, the new Italian restaurant/bocce bar from bar impresario Joe Englert on H Street. Located in the old Red Palace space (which itself was a combination of two very different bars, The Red and the Black and Palace of Wonders, neither of which I visited), Vendetta is a nicely decorated spot, with red walls accompanying Vespas hanging or embedded in the wall. A nice 25 foot bocce court highlights each of the two floors; it’s free to play and easy to learn if you haven’t played before. There is small, bare bones deck (with chair umbrellas) off the 2nd floor.

Second Floor Bar
Second Floor Bar

Pasta and gnocchi make up the food menu, while the beer list is nothing special, moderately-priced (for DC) cocktails ($8-10) and prosecco on tap are the draws. For the straight guys out there, take note: the clientele was about 75% women on my visit, and friends have confirmed the favorable mix at other times. A nice addition to the H Street landscape.

Barred in DC Rating: 3.5/5

Vespa in the wall
Vespa on the wall
Upstairs 2nd Floor Patio/Deck
Upstairs 2nd Floor Patio/Deck
Another view of the upstairs bocce court
Another view of the upstairs bocce court