Ever since the Residence Act was first passed in 1790, Washington DC has been both the nation’s capital and a city home to some of the best bars, pubs, and other drinking establishments. With more than 2,600 bars within the district’s limits, residents of Washington DC are certainly not without options.
In a city as diverse as Washington DC, there are many different types of bars to choose from. Some nights, you might want a strong whiskey drink at an establishment like TAKODA or play games and eat traditional carnival snacks at places like The Boardwalk (one of DC’s newest drinking establishments). Of course, a bar crawl combining multiple locations into a single evening is certainly never out of the question.
Exploring the DC bar scene not only allows you to have a great time with friends but also provides an opportunity to discover some of Washington’s many eclectic and colorful neighborhoods. In this article, we’ll suggest 10 of the best bars in Washington DC. If you can’t decide which of these joints sound most appealing to you, don’t worry—there will always be plenty of time to try them all.
TAKODA has established itself as one of the most popular beer gardens, whiskey bars, and rooftop restaurants in Washington DC.
Located in the cultured Shaw neighborhood, TAKODA’s rehabilitation of the former Federal Life Insurance Building blends traditional DC brickwork with a modern industrial appeal. TAKODA’s fantastic food and drink selections make it the perfect location for an evening with friends.
If it’s your first time visiting TAKODA, we recommend trying one of their many stiff whiskey drinks—the bar graces nearly every list of DC’s best whiskey bars, and its acclaim is well-earned.
2. Hank’s Cocktail Bar
Hank’s Cocktail Bar offers a swanky selection of carefully crafted cocktails, oysters, and other small bites. The bar describes itself as a “true neighborhood watering hole,” and from the moment you grace Hank’s, you’ll understand why.
Even with Hank’s clear commitment to elegance, the staff and atmosphere still create a welcoming and homey atmosphere. We recommend visiting Hank’s for a “Trash Gimlet” or one of their classic Old Fashioned.
3. Columbia Room
Created by the legendary Derek Brown and located directly on Blagden Alley NW, Columbia Room offers one of the most extensive drink selections in the area. The space itself is divided into three distinct sections: the tasting room, the spirits library, and the punch garden.
While these rooms are united by the commitment to quality that Columbia Room is known for, they each offer a unique experience of their own (the Tasting Room requires tickets).
4. Off the Record
Located in the highly reviewed Hay-Adams Hotel, Off the Record was recently named by Forbes as one of the “World’s Best Hotel Bars.”
Complete with a tasteful red and gold color scheme along with tasteful caricatures of Washington’s political class, Off the Record is an incredible spot for food and drink, whether you are staying in The Hay-Adams or not.
Take a look at their well-selected wine menu, or try one of the delightful crab cake sliders.
Cortez DC is a colorful, quirky, and always friendly cocktail spot with some of the best margaritas in town. Whether you are looking for a fresh take on traditional Mexican cuisine, a wide variety of tequila selections, or a fun and friendly rooftop bar, Cortez DC is precisely where you need to be.
On weekends, the bottomless mimosas and Baja-inspired brunch menu attract hip individuals from across the region. Next time you’re hanging around 9th Street, be sure to give Cortez DC a try.
6. The Dubliner
Rather than sitting through the seven-hour flight to Dublin, consider taking a trip to Dubliner and discover some of one of the most authentic Irish drinking establishments in the region.
The décor, both inside and out, will make you feel as if you are sitting in the emerald isle itself. And if, for some reason, you aren’t entirely sold on the Dubliner’s authentic appeal, a tall pint of Guinness and a couple of whiskey drinks are likely to change your mind.
7. Jack Rose
As a dining saloon, Jack Rose has established itself as one of the best-known names in the greater Washington area.
Complete with slick aesthetics, an open-air terrace, and pretty excellent food options (we enjoyed the fried chicken and cornbread), Jack Rose is the perfect place for DC residents who are looking for a home away from home.
8. Dacha Beer Garden
Even if you don’t have any lederhosen, Dacha Beer Garden makes it easy to feel as if you’re in Munich enjoying Germany’s world-famous Oktoberfest.
Dacha’s tremendous German, Belgian, and otherwise worldly beer menu makes it easy to catch the Bavarian spirit and splurge on beer by the boot. Prost!
Located right on 14th St NW, ChurchKey offers excellent food and drink from morning to dinner (and after dinner too, of course).
The hip little joint has been widely praised for its broad range of craft beer options (many of which are made in the DC area), its tasty chicken and waffles, and its memorably cool aesthetic.
Be sure to go upstairs and check out the lobster, softshell crab, and other tasty seafood options.
10. The Boardwalk DC
Established in 2019, The Boardwalk DC is one of the newest drinking establishments in Washington, but from the moment you walk in, you’ll be transported to a different place and time.
Inspired by the iconic boardwalks of Santa Monica (California) and Atlantic City (New Jersey), The Boardwalk blends drinks, carnival food, and carnival games into a truly unforgettable experience.
Located in Penn Quarter, just a few blocks north of the National Mall, The Boardwalk DC has already become a hit with both visitors and DC locals alike.
Instead of getting dragged down by the political doom and gloom, grab a drink of your choice and celebrate all that DC has to offer. While these 10 bars and restaurants are just a fraction of the many excellent options in the area, they are certainly all worth giving a try.