Category Archives: Outdoor Space

R.F.D. Washington

R.F.D. Washington, website, Facebook, Twitter810 7th St. NW (7th & H), opens at 11a everyday, HH 3-8p everyday, Distance to Verizon Center: 900 feet (Brought to you by DC Sports Nexus), est. 2003 [Yelp, WaPoTripadvisor, Beeradvocate]

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The front of RFD – Excited bouncer

Although Penn Quarter/Chinatown has a ton of bars, a handful of which are solid, and I live a mile away and work 5 blocks away, I rarely make it over to this neighborhood, for a lot of different reasons that I won’t get into here.  When I do come to the area, it’s to catch a movie or attend a Wizards or Caps game (or some other event or concert) at the venue which made the neighborhood a destination after it opened in 1997, the Verizon Center (formerly MCI Center).

Main area of RFD

Main area of RFD

One of the bars I might check out before or after a game or movie, up on 7th St. just north of H, is R.F.D. Washington.  This bar, which stands for “Regional Food and Drink” (I know, terrible), opened in January 2003 and is owned by the family that brought you the legendary Brickskeller, one of the first and biggest beer bars in the U.S., which was operated in Dupont Circle until 2010 (now the Bier Baron, under different ownership).  R.F.D. itself is a beer-lovers haven-you’ll find a huge beer menu, a ton of beers on tap, and a host of beer events (though usually off the radar compared to others spots like Churchkey, Meridian Pint, or even the nearby Penn Social).

RFD's happy hour menu during the playoffs

RFD’s happy hour menu during the playoffs

I recently stopped by before a Capitals playoff game; happy hour until 7p includes four different $4 craft draft beers-all solid, unique, and new to me-along with a skip-it $5 “Rockin’ Red” shot (Finlandia cranberry flavored vodka, Triple sec, and a splash of cranberry juice) (see above for HH menu and below the Caps shots).  Beers normally are the standard craft-beer price, $6-8. The bar, probably because it is so huge, is full of folks in red jerseys but not too crowded even before a sold-out playoff game.

$5 Rockin' Red Shots - skip em

$5 Rockin’ Red Shots – skip em

R.F.D.’s atmosphere is not really divey or hip, it’s evokes more of a T.G.I. Friday’s vibe (unless you’re in a basement or crappy hotel-it’s hard to be divey in Chinatown). You’re not going here to rage or have a romantic classy cocktail.  Walking in, there are two small seating areas on opposite sides of the entrance which flank 7th Street-they are isolated from the rest of the bar but are exposed to natural light.  A few steps up take you to the main part of R.F.D. A long u-shaped bar is to your left-the bartenders are pretty responsive and there’s usually enough space to stand near the bar, while ordering and drinking. The bulk of the room is devoted to lots of regular tables like a restaurant with waiter service which kind of contributes to the chain restaurant atmosphere; a few more hightops and communal tables would help.

Outdoor covered patio/courtyard area of RFD

Outdoor covered patio/courtyard area of RFD

After you wind your way through the tables, glass doors lead you to the outdoor patio area.  Although covered with absolutely no view (more like a greenhouse courtyard than anything), the patio has its own bar (not always open) and waiter service and lets you drink outside-this is surprisingly hard to do in the neighborhood.  Beyond, there is a whole another large back room (in a different building) with its own bar, tables and more open space than the front bar-if you’re looking for a relatively more party-vibe in R.F.D., this is where you’ll find it.

Back bar of RFD

Back bar of RFD

Although not really a destination of itself, R.F.D. is a solid spot to meet friends and grab great beers before or after a game.

Barred in DC Rating: 3/5

 

Caps game afterwards, just 900 feet away

Caps game afterwards, just 900 feet away

J&G Steakhouse – Wine Bar & Patio

J&G Steakhouse – Wine Bar & Patio, website, Facebook, Twitter, 515 15th St. NW (15th and Pennsylvania near G), open 5-11p (Sun-Thu) 4p-midnight (Fri.-Sat.) + lunch non-Sunday, est. 2009 [Yelp]

View of the Patio and the Treasury Building

View of the Patio and the Treasury Building

[Update 6/22/13: Wine Bar and newly constructed bar upstairs to be renamed Bar 515, opening in mid-September] The W Washington hotel, with a location a block from the White House, is a popular spot for celebrities (I think I saw a Jonas brother one time) and presidential fundraisers.  It also is famous for perhaps the best view in all of the District(of the Monument and the Mall and the White House) in its rooftop P.O.V. Lounge bar; surprisingly, I actually still have not made it there in its current incarnation (I once had an awkward summer associate outing when it was the decidedly less hip Hotel Washington).

J&G Wine Bar

J&G Wine Bar

Down below, you can find one of the best steakhouses in DC, the J&G Steakhouse, where tucked under the dining room, somewhat below the ground level, is one of the more pleasant surprises in downtown DC, the Wine Bar.  It’s a nice, cozy, rarely crowded spot with a small bar with about 6 seats, a long communal table in the middle, a few tables off to the side, and more bar stools along a railing that faces the patio.  Speaking of which, J&G’s Patio (which sort of seems to be claimed by both the J&G Restaurant and its Wine Bar), is one of the nicest non-roofdeck patios in the city.

Umbrellas and tables on the patio

Umbrellas and tables on the patio

Facing both 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, this expansive space has several tables with umbrellas along with small firepits surrounded by brown couches.  Owing to its location right in tourist central, there are often more tourists here than the typical DC spot, as the patio is hard to resist, but it’s rarely crowded (these pictures are misleading as they were taken at the Spring Patio Launch Party) and the Patio often hosts barbecues and parties to coincide with big events like July 4th.

Another view of the Patio

Another view of the Patio

Not really a late night spot (good for happy hour or early evening), the Patio and Wine Bar are solid, nicer choices downtown with solid cocktails and wines (though the beers are the standard Stella/Amstel/Heineken bottled kind of crap).

Barred in DC Rating: 3.5/5

 

The Big Hunt

The Big Hunt, website, FacebookTwitter, 1345 Connecticut Ave. NW (b/t Dupont Circle & N St, near 18th and N), opens at 4p (weekdays) 5p (weekends), HH 4-7p weekdays, est. 1992 [Yelp, WaPo, Beeradvocate, Tripadvisor]

The Big Hunt

The Big Hunt

Perhaps the most polarizing bar in all of the District, the Big Hunt (one of prolific-bar owner Joe Englert’s first bars, it opened in 1992) evokes strong reactions from everyone who have had the fortune (or misfortune) of frequenting this establishment.  To wit: this is probably my favorite bar in DC. My girlfriend, on the other hand, refuses to step foot in this establishment any more, despite being about a third a mile from our home (this opinion is shared by many of my friends).

Decor at Big Hunt

Decor at Big Hunt

I think it’s a great dive bar with one of the best beer lists in the city, friendly bartenders, a neighborhood feel on weekdays, 15-cent wing night on Tuesdays, and a somewhat-hidden-secret of a back patio deck.  Others feel that the décor is sketchy/weird as hell, too divey/dusty, too much wood-paneling and taxidermy and weird-safari themes, too meat markety-young on weekends, and even the name is problematic (the unfortunate obituary typo involving Larry David’s beloved aunt in Curb Your Enthusiasm comes to mind). I concede that some of these are true, but I think they are much  outweighed by the positives of the Hunt.

Main first floor bar at The Big Hunt

You first walk into this bar, which is located on the east side of Connecticut Ave. on the block just south of the actual Dupont Circle, using the right door under the circus-like entrance awning.  Although I’ve been to the Hunt countless times, I finally realized on a recent weekend visit how big this bar really is.  There are 4 different bars to order drinks from and about 8 different seating areas, though oftentimes on weekdays only one bar is open, and the rest of the establishment is off-limits.

Second room first floor bar at The Big Hunt

Second room first floor bar at The Big Hunt

After you enter, there is a table or two just off the front window and a fairly long bar on the left; low-slung red booths line the right side of the bar.  More tables are in a back area that feels somewhat separate.Just beyond the bar there is an entryway to the other side of the first floor of Big Hunt. Here, another bar basically mirrors the first bar, and more tables, a couple of booths, and a similar back seating area comprise the rest of the room.

Basement bar at Big Hunt

Basement bar at Big Hunt

Down the stairs leads to a basement bar that I seriously did not know was actually still open until recently as I hadn’t been down there in probably 5-6 years; lots of red, a vaguely devilish theme along with a stage for recent burlesque and comedy make up this space.

Upstairs at Big Hunt - Skee ball tables

Upstairs at Big Hunt – Skee ball tables

Head back to the first floor, where you can take two separate sets of stairs (one on each half of the bar) that lead you to the second floor.  One room contains a couple skee ball machines and seating, while the other room contains a very small bar along with barstools and railings to put your drink.

Upstairs bar at Big Hunt

Upstairs bar at Big Hunt

Behind the 2nd floor bar, a door and a few steps lead you to the hidden gem of the Big Hunt: a nice, secluded patio deck that fits maybe 25 people that is open during nice weather; even haters find it hard to dislike this aspect of Big Hunt.  The view isn’t spectacular but better than one would expect for a second floor patio deck surrounded by office buildings (feels like a courtyard).  Often there is a server who takes drink/food orders, and if not, the 2nd floor bar is just a few feet away.

Back patio deck at The Big Hunt

Back patio deck at The Big Hunt

As mentioned earlier, the drink du jour everyday here is beer, and be sure to try wide variety of beers and check out their frequent beer events.  This isn’t a sports bar, so the place isn’t crawling with TVs, but there are few nice HD flat screens on the first floor so you’ll be able to keep up with any big events. Pro tip: most bars that have “house” beers, are just macrobrews from A-B or MillerCoors (or maybe PBR or Natty Boh) with the bar’s brand name tacked on; the ones at Big Hunt, Light Ass and Bad Ass Amber Bock are actually Michelob Light & Michelob Amber Bock).

Decor at Big Hunt

Decor at Big Hunt

Despite its imperfections and antipathy held by many in DC, this remains one of my favorite DC bars.

Barred in DC Rating: 4.5/5

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

Smith Point

Smith PointwebsiteFacebookTwitter1338 Wisconsin Ave. NW (at O St. NW), 202-333-9003, open 10:30a-3p Fri-Sat, est. 2000 [Yelp, Complex City Guide, Washington City Paper]

Possibly the most infamous bar in DC (surpassing even McFadden’s), Smith Point is the closest thing to a UVa frat party in DC.  Opened way up Wisconsin Ave. in Georgetown back in 2000, Smith Point had its heyday during the Bush years, but still serves as a fun, yet douchey late night spot in Georgetown (I’ve never been there before 1am, and I don’t think it opens before 10:30p).  Technically, Smith Point is a club with members, so I’ve only been able to get in as a guest of a friend who was a member when he lived nearby (with a steep $10-20 cover due to the many guests he would bring in). Guests (maybe everyone) must enter on an unmarked gate (usually with a line, see picture below) on O Street, which leads into an long, narrowish patio area.  Once you’ve gone through the patio area, you’ll enter onto the dark, sticky frat party dance floor, with the bar in the back.

The entertaining, drunk, and exceedingly preppy crowd drinks vodka tonics and Jack/cokes and bottles of Bud Light (don’t think there’s anything on raft); even the Bush twins and other famous Republicans were apparently frequent guests back in the 2000s, but no longer.  My friend no longer lives in Georgetown so not sure if I’ll ever make it back here, but you can’t consider yourself a DC bar expert without spending 1:30-3am on a Saturday night (followed by the Five Guys catty corner across Wisconsin Ave.) at Smith Point.

Barred in DC Rating: 2.5/5

Darlington House – Cantina Pub

Darlington House – Cantina Pub, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1610 20th St. NW (20th and Q), 202-332-3722, opens at 4p (weekdays) 11:30a (weekends), HH 4-7p weekdays, est. 2009 [Yelp]
Darlington House - Cantina Pub

Just north of the Dupont Circle North/Q Street entrance, this basement bar-known as Cantina Pub, though I’ve never heard anyone call it anything except Darlington House-opened up in the old Childe Harold space (which apparently the Boss Bruce Springsteen played at in the 70s) in spring 2009.  This fairly small, low-ceiling’d bar below the much nicer restaurant upstairs, isn’t quite a dive, but is a decent, fun spot to stop by for happy hour and can be surprisingly lively late (though never crowded) on a weekend if you’re in north Dupont.

Front area of bar

Front area of bar

Once you walk in the entrance a few steps down from 20th Street, you’re right in the bar, with the sole, long bar to the left with a few table tops and bar stools on the right.  The place opens up slightly in the back with a few tables for sitting maybe 20 people.  Throughout the inside is one of my opposite-pet-peeves, exposed brick.

Back area of bar

Back area of bar

The beers on tap are nothing to write home/prison about, but there is a decent cocktail and TV situation slong with a covered patio upfront can also fit around 20 people that is good for people watching. Because of the layout, you have to actually walk on the sidewalk to get to the patio; it feels weird to take a beer from the bar (or vice versa), but no one has seemed to mind-yet.

Barred in DC Rating: 3.5/5

 

BlackFinn

BlackFinn, website, Facebook, Twitter, 1620 I St. NW, 202-429-4350, opens at 11a everyday, HH 4-7p weekdays, est. 2009 [Yelp, WaPo, Tripadvisor]
Blackfinn

Unlike most non-lounge/club bars in downtown DC (which really doesn’t exist as a neighborhood, but it’s roughly between 11th and 21st streets between E and L Streets for the purposes of Barredindc), BlackFinn draws a solid crowd for both weekday happy hour and on weekend nights. This faintly upscale standard spot, which has other locations in Bethesda and elsewhere around the country, opened in fall 2009.

Decent-sized patio (see pic above) fronts the traffic of I Street, though you can spot the greenery of Farragut Square catty-corner. Somewhat bizarre revolving doors allows you entry into the bar, which splits into three areas: one long bar on the right with high table tops and several booths (see below pic), a fairly small dining area on the left which is inevitably empty on weekends and late nights, and another bar in the back where tables are often pushed to the side for a dance floor on weekends (see pic further below).  Lots of brown wood in this spot.

Front bar area at Blackfinn

Front bar area at Blackfinn

With a number of tvs, this is a decent spot to get away from the office to watch a mid-day soccer match or conference basketball game, though not the best place on weekends, (despite being my alma mater UVa’s DC watch location) especially late evenings when they switch to the DJ and clear out tables for dancing and meat marketing. The bargoers on weekends are decidedly different than the rest of the week, a surprisingly attractive rowdyish crowd (with your fair share of VA folks since it’s so close to the Orange/Blue Line) that makes the place feel like a less-crowded SOTW or Madhatter.

Back bar area at BlackFinn

Back bar area at BlackFinn

There’s nothing particularly unique (remember it’s part of a chain) about this bar itself, but I do give them points for having Dogfish Head and DC Brau on tap.

Barred in DC Rating: 3/5

 

My Brother’s Place

My Brother’s PlacewebsiteFacebookTwitter237 2nd St. NW (2nd & C), 202-347-1350, opens at 11a (weekdays) noon (weekends), HH 4-8p (M-F) 10p-close (Th-Fri) 12-9p (Sat) $15 all you can drink 9p-1a (Sat), est. 1980 [Yelp, WaPoTripadvisor]

This hilarious dive on a random dead-endish block near the Capitol off Constitution Ave.  (right behind the Department of Labor), MBP is legendary (“FAMOUS & DANGEROUS” according to its Twitter page) for its $15 all-you-can-drink Saturday nights (rails from 9p-midnight, and beers & wines from 9p-1a).  This has been often the site of DC Sports Nexus’s birthday party (I stole these pics on this post from his 2011 birthday party Facebook album), even though we’ve been at least 5 years older than the normal clientele, which appears to be mostly Catholic U undergrads and other cheapskates.  The first floor of this spot has a room with a bar and a decent amount of space; in the front there is an enclosed patio where folks often set up beer pong or flip-cup (there are a few tables out front if the weather is nice). I haven’t spent much time upstairs, but they’ve had a random Latino dance party when I’ve gone.

As you can see, women dancing on the bar

As you can see, women dancing on the bar

We’ve always gotten good service because, unlike most of the people who frequent this place, we actually tip for each drink we get.  There are usually a few girls dancing on the bar (photo above) here as the night goes on.  Opened back in 1980, MBP is worth going at least once with a big group on a Saturday if you want to get drunk for cheap in a real collegey dive bar in the middle of relatively nowhere in NW DC.

The bar at MBP - remember to tip

The bar at MBP – remember to tip

Barred in DC rating: 3/5

 

Madam’s Organ Blues Bar

Madam’s Organ Blues Bar, web siteFacebookTwitter2461 18th St. NW, 202-667-5370, opens at 5p everyday, HH 5-8p everyday, est. 1997 (current location) [YelpWaPo, TripAdvisor, Frommer’s, Lonely Planet]

Kind of a neighborhood landmark (look for the topless redhead mural and the other random mystifying murals along the block), this sprawling bar is known for its nightly live music, including regular blues.  There’s a stage and a dance/listening floor right when you walk in, along with a couple other floors (one with pool tables) including a tiny fire escapeish front balcony (awesome for checking out the 18th street crowd) along with another roof deck wayyy at the top that feels like a crows nest on a ship that is usually enclosed (it might open up during the summer, never been there when it is has (3/7 Update: Reader says that it opens up in summer).  Fun spot with a relatively older crowd in its current location since 1997, though beware that there usually is a cover on weekends due to the live music. One of my friends likes  the soul food.  Supposedly redheads drink beer for ½ off, but as I am not a redhead, I can’t confirm. The owner is not a fan of Adams Morgan Day.

Barred in DC Rating: 4/5