The ever-popular Helix Lounge recently closed for a few weeks of renovations, but although the mod, '60s-inspired lounge has shed its all-white look for splashes of color -- funky patterned cushions, shimmering green tables, splashes of blue on the long banquettes -- it's more of a touch-up than a shake-up.
Instead, Hotel Helix's off-street patio, which was untouched by the renovations, is looking like the real draw at the moment. There's a choice of seating, from popular all-weather couches to tall bar tables, and overhead, a canopy of small lights glows like low-hanging stars once the sun goes down. It's a pleasant little spot that draws a good mix of patrons from the neighborhood, with an especially high number of all-female groups.
But wait, there's more. At Friday's happy hour, for example, cooked-to-order hot dogs and smallish hamburgers come off a new Weber grill for $2 a burger and $1 a dog from 5 to 8. All beers are half-price during that time, so you'll spend $3 for a bottle of Sam Adams, Sol or Stella Artois, or $1.75 for a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. (I don't think you'll find a hipster bar offering PBR that cheaply anywhere in the city.) Cocktails are also discounted: The lounge's signature Pajama Party goes for $4.50, while the new Oh Pear!, a sweet, fruity blend of pear vodka and pomegranate juice, is a buck more.
On Wednesdays, the lounge is reviving 2006's popular Dog Days of Summer happy hour, which caters to people and pets equally.
Four-legged patrons can munch on bowls of Mutt Mix (something like canine trail mix) while people sip on $7 cocktails with such names as Pet Peeve and Pooch Hooch. Last summer's events were quite the singles scene, and it's all for a good cause: A portion of the proceeds goes to the Washington Humane Society, which will have an adoptable pet at each happy hour.
Although these are the calendar's highlights, Helix isn't just a two-day-a-week destination. Burgers and beers are half-price daily between 5 and 7, and the burgers are bigger and better during the week, topped with bacon and cheddar and a side of fries for $6.50.
Any day worth spending on the patio also calls for cooling summer cocktails. The standout on Helix's revamped drink list is called "To Peach His Own," and it's worth looking past the cringe-inducing name. Lounge supervisor Angie Mocca, a fan of sweet tea, punched up Helix's iced tea by adding peach-flavored rum, creating something suitable for sipping on the veranda -- or just outdoors after a tough day at the office.
--Fritz Hahn for The Washington Post Weekend Section (June 8, 2007)