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!
I'm a big fan of the New York Times' "36 Hours" travel features where they provide readers with a recommended 36-hour itinerary in a particular global city. In our recent trip to Montreal, I realized that we might have an opportunity to create our own version of a "36 Hours" agenda, seeing as we were driving (yes, driving) up to Canada on a Friday and would be returning on Sunday morning.
Needless to say, we ended up spending most (okay, all) of our time eating and going to the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix, the main reason why we were visiting Montreal in the first place. So while this certainly didn't turn out to be a real 36 Hours feature, here are some of the choice (foodie) bits:
Friday evening, 6:30pm - Joe Beef
For those at all familiar and into meaty, over-the-top protein-based gluttony (who isn't?), the evil geniuses at Joe Beef need no introduction or explanation. Every single person we'd asked beforehand for restaurant recommendations (including the incredibly obliging Canadian sommelier at Del Posto) listed Joe Beef as a must-try. Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, I discovered that tables were completely unavailable even several weeks out, as thousands of tourists streamed into town for F1 race weekend.
Despite the odds, I was determined to give it one more shot when we arrived at our AirBnB in the Little Burgundy neighborhood. I downloaded an app called DINR, which basically uses the HotelTonight concept but except for last-minute tables at hot restaurants in town. Unlike other similar apps here in the US who charge for last-minute bookings, the tables that crop up on DINR are geo-located to your location and using the app itself is free (you do have to put down a credit card so the restaurant is able to charge you a no-show fee, which is fair enough.) Through a complete stroke of luck, I found that two seats had opened up at the bar at Joe Beef and I jumped on the opportunity. Even more fortuitously, we discovered that our AirBnB apartment was three blocks away.
As we squeezed ourselves onto the tiny bar stools, we availed ourselves upon our very friendly (and bi-lingual) server and our carnivorous journey began - hover over for captions.
I wasn't sure Joe Beef was ever going to live up to the enormous (and I mean, endless) hype that surrounds it but I was very very pleasantly surprised and very very full as we rolled back to the apartment. I can't wait to come back.
Saturday afternoon, 1:00pm - The Canadian Grand Prix
After a quick croque monsieur (mais, bien sur) at the local farmer's market, we headed off to the F1 track, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve which is situated on an island. We watched lots of incredibly fast cars go around, got a tan, drank overpriced beers and didn't eat anything.
Saturday evening, 7:00pm - Sparrow, Lawrence
It was time to head over to the Mile End neighborhood for dinner. Mile End, from what we'd heard and read, is kind of the Brooklyn (yeah, I know) comparison neighborhood in Montreal. Parts of it are still up and coming but there are tons of great restaurants and bars and the area has a really cool, eccentric vibe. When I arrived I was actually struck but its similarity to different parts of East London, Hackney and Shoreditch in particular.
I fired up the handy DINR app again and got us a 9:00pm table at Lawrence, a cozy spot which serves up modernized British cuisine from a Brit expat chef. Not wanting to waste any time, we headed over to Mile End earlier to scope out the scene and (mainly) to get some cocktails, which is when we stumbled upon Sparrow, or Le Moineau.
With an ambience that I can really only describe as "hipster-chic" (sorry, sorry), our friendly bartender quickly rustled up some excellent libations, including my now new favorite cocktail, the Bloody Caesar - basically a Canadian version of a Bloody Mary, except with Clamato.
After a great conversation with our bartender about Montreal's industry and culture, we reluctantly peeled ourselves away from the bar and headed down the street to Lawrence. The place was tiny and still absolutely buzzing at 9:00pm. We experienced some pretty iffy service which I'll put down to the busy time of year and the crowded restaurant but enjoyed (mostly) the food, nonetheless.
After a quick pit stop for a souvenir bag of Montreal bagels, we headed back to the apartment for a quick few hours of sleep before hitting the road again.
I'm definitely looking forward to spending more time in this charming city - if the food we packed it in 36 hours is any indication, there certainly is quite a bit more to experience.
Growing up in Hong Kong, it always seemed strange that my grandmother and other members of my family would double down on cooking hot (read: spicy, soupy, brothy) dishes during the warm and humid tropical summers. The cooking in South and Southeast Asian countries also follows the same, slightly counter intuitive concept but it does work: hotter foods make you sweat, thereby cooling you down faster.
It's with this proven approach in mind that I staggered, tired, hungry and slightly hungover, to the brunch at Doi Moi. We'd been to the Asian "fusion" (oh no, the dreaded F word) place on DC's sprawling 14th Street stretch new Logan Circle for dinner a number of times but I was now counting on Chef Karoum's abilities to cure what ailed me with his bold, unexpected and yes, hot flavors.
A relatively new addition to the now tried-and-true dinner menu, brunch at Doi Moi offers a limited selection of Asian-influenced small breakfast plates, ranging from the traditional (three-egg omelette with spicy minced pork) to the obviously-not-Asian-but-still-kind-of-yummy (sesame seed beignets). They also offer a brunch of breakfast cocktails - unfortunately still at dinner prices - in case you're after some hair of the dog.
With my level of suffering however, it had to be the pork belly porridge (congee, jook, or whatever Asian variant you want to use because pretty much every Asian region has its own version) and ice cold water.
This was definitely my mother's congee but it absolutely hit the spot. Garnishing the dish with ginger matchsticks, scallions and cilantro (the Cantonese TRIFECTA) really brought the dish together, which simultaneously calmed my stomach down and woke up me from my stupor at the same time.
To start, we also shared the chive and mushroom dumplings which were absolutely delicious. The black vinegar dipping sauce is a great nod to the traditional dumpling dipping sauces of Taiwan and Northern China - XLB lovers out there don't need any introduction to this concept. However at $11 for three fairly meager dumplings - the dish literally came out to three dollars and 67 cents per dumpling. Where I come from, paying that much for a whole plate of dumplings let alone three tiny ones warrants a serious talking to (or a whack from grandma's cane....which is a story for another day).
Egg lovers out there can relax (and rejoice). The chefs at Doi Moi know how to rock out a soft boiled egg and like to put one on pretty much everything, including their crispy radish cakes. This is not a Benedict dish in any way shape or form that you'll have had before (this one involves a red curry hollandaise...oh yes) but was equally savory and delicious.
Finally awake and satiated, I stumbled back into the Saturday morning sunlight feeling quite a bit happier (and a lot fuller) than we had arrived.
Food: 4/5. Not a traditional Asian breakfast in any way but the chef has really tried to include fun and interesting twists to give diners a break from the traditional brunch offering available in so many restaurants in DC.
Drinks: 3/5. Cool cocktails, good beer selection - very pricey though, especially compared to how the food is priced
Ambiance: Cool, trendy with lots of white - lots of open space and a killer patio if it's not too hot out.
Jasmine says: It's a different way to do brunch if you're tired of the usual. The price point can be kind of prohibitive since the total bill starts to stray into a proper dinner range, but it's worth checking out at least once. Three and a half chomps.
One woman's journey to eat all the food. Or at least, most of it.