Editors' pick

Happy Hour at Vinoteca

Happy hour
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Editorial Review

The deals: Fifteen wines by the glass for $5; $5 Peroni drafts; sandwiches, soups and snacks $5-$7.

When: Daily from 5 to 7.

A flood of wine bars has opened in the Washington area in the past few years, but sunny Vinoteca has an advantage over all the places competing for your syrah-sipping budget: happy hour. Every day, including weekends, 15 wines by the glass are just $5, while the accompanying happy hour menu includes a quiche of the day, a filling panini-and-soup combo and a selection of upscale sliders (think venison topped with brie and roasted poblano chilies or lamb with feta and eggplant).

"This is the best happy hour in the U Street corridor," says Lance Marine, who works in commercial real estate and lives nearby.

The bar's ever-changing wine selection is interesting. On a recent visit, I found the 2005 Jean Luc Columbo La Violette Syrah, Loimer's 2006 Grner Veltliner and the 2003 Chateau Greysac Medoc, a Bordeaux wine I've seen for much higher prices at other restaurants.

"The wine list is extensive, which I appreciate," says Lance's wife, Stephanie, a teacher at Georgetown Day School. "I've found that happy hour [at other bars] is mostly some house wine or beer. Here, I had a South African pinotage and a malbec."

The only problem can be finding a seat at the marble bar or the long island table down the center of the room. (I'd stake out the cozy group of window seats looking onto 11th Street.) Arrive early or at the tail end of happy hour for the best chance to score seats.

-- Fritz Hahn (April 11, 2008)