Happy hours in DC, closely related to its older sibling known as Sunday brunch, are kind of like everything else in this town: competitive, crowded and more often than not, expensive. That being said, it *is* actually possible to circumvent this money and soul-sucking trifecta by being smart about where you happy hour and picking places that demonstrate good value for money (e.g. strong drinks, food that isn't of the "small bite" variety and could feasibly act as your substitute dinner meal.)
Here are a couple of places that I've either been to many times as tried-and-true staples of my weekday happy hour routine, or have discovered more recently as a way to mix things up a little.
1. Joe's Stone Crab
Joe's Stone Crab - or what is formally known as "Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab" - has all the hallmarks of a DC power lunch spot: a cavernous, marble-lined interior, central downtown location in close proximity to the White House, filled to the brim with suits, all with the corresponding price tag.
Luckily for those of us who are less "power lunch" and more "sad desk lunch", Joe's offers what is, in my opinion, one of the strongest and best value happy hours in town. Known as the "Cocktail Hour(s)", the happy hour menu available includes half price on all cocktails, wine by the glass and draft beers but the most impressive part is actually the sandwich and snack selection, ranging from a delicious Alaskan King crab roll to an oyster po'boy to fried mac n' cheese sticks. None of these are over $5. Repeat: ALL UNDER $5. Throw those back with a half price Pimms' Cup and you are all set for the evening.
Joe's Stone Crab
750 15th Street NW
Cocktail Hour(s) everyday from 2:30pm to 6:30pm
I know some of you are already confused by this. "Carmine's? Isn't that that terrible Italian food chain where you can get five pounds of penne alla vodka for like, sixty bucks?" While that may be true, it turns out that Carmine's does an incredibly affordable happy hour with equally generously sized portions. You have to sit either at the bar or at the tables in the bar area but the food quantity and quality make it totally worth it - because no one is possibly going to have room enough after for actual dinner.
From what I can gather, the happy hour specials menu rotates every so often but you can expect gut-busting and wallet-friendly options like garlic bread parmigiana, zucchini "shoe-string" fries (please note - they do not have ranch sauce at this establishment - I checked), fried calamari and other antipasti options. Most of the happy hour apps as well as house wine and Peroni are under $5.
425 7th St NW
Happy Hour Monday to Friday, 4pm to 7pm
3. Compass Rose
Compass Rose has been dishing out "international" street food varieties in the Logan Circle area for over a year now but everyone knows the main (and possibly only) reason to go is for the insane Georgian-inspired khatchapuri - basically cheese swimming in a bread boat with an egg dropped in for good measure.
The bad news is the khatchapuri is not on their happy hour menu but the rest of the snacks and drinks selection is good enough that you can throw in your order of cheesy breaded goodness on top of happy hour priced bites and call it a night. Don't forget to check out the crispy fry bread and interesting draft beer choices.
1346 T St. NW
Happy Hour Monday to Friday, 5pm to 7pm
4. Del Campo
Arepas are the latest trendy "street food" snack item to hit DC which would normally be an annoying development but I'll put my irritated feelings on hold for now as chef Victor Albisu has now started offering an incredible all-arepas bar menu as part of the happy hour selection at Del Campo.
Basically mini sandwiches made of corn dough and stuffed with various fillings, Del Campo offers a bunch of really interesting combinations for your arepas, from lobster salad to a morcilla and manchego combination to smoked beef tongue and a take on "banh mi". None of the selections are over $7 - throw a couple of arepas in with an order of sliders or crostini and guzzle down your (incredibly smooth) $5 margarita with gusto. Bonus points for Del Campo for also offering happy hour in the outdoor patio area.
777 I St NW
Happy Hour Monday to Friday, 4pm to 7pm
Don't forget to hit me up in the comments section with your favorite happy hour spots in the DC area!
One woman's journey to eat all the food. Or at least, most of it.