On Ambar’s new patio, happy hour brings Balkan bites

When Ambar opened back in January, the Serbian restaurant's owners promised that they'd have a rooftop bar ready when warm weather arrived. Three months later, the sun is finally here and the patio has opened, so a friend and I went to Barracks Row for for happy hour.

Located in the very back of the second floor, it would be easy to miss if you didn't know it was there. The rear wall is just long enough for a wooden bar and eight stools, and wooden counters with room for six stools run down two walls. But its seclusion makes it more quiet than some of its neighbors, and the food and drink deals make it worth a visit.

Ambar Patio

Small and somewhat hidden, Ambar's rooftop bar opened in April 2013. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

Happy hour runs from 4 to 7 p.m. on weeknights, and the menu includes $4 cocktails, beers, wine and small plates – literally, scaled down portions of items on the main menu. The mixed drinks include mojitos, margaritas and mango lemonade, all made with the usual rail liquor, not the exotic Serbian rakia liqueurs used in the restaurant's other cocktails. The margarita was good, thanks to agave nectar, and the mango lemonade was on the sweet side. You can also grab beer (Tecate) or a house red or white wine.

It's worth snacking as well as sipping. Ambar's signature basket of sourdough and cornbread shows up, along with its chili-and-garlic-spiked dips. The Balkan kebab, with peppery sausage links atop chunks of cheese-dusted potatoes in a metal pan, is a winner; the crunchy leek croquettes were a bit dry. But total bill for two, pre-tax and tip, was $20 for two drinks and three appetizers, and we left satisfied.

One odd note: There's not always a bartender at the patio bar. If you don't see anyone, just order at the upstairs bar, and your food and drinks will be brought out to you.

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